Jackie Rothong '10
Living with Crohn’s Disease isn’t easy, especially for a child. “I couldn’t have dairy, pizza, pasta with sauce, macaroni with cheese…basically all the things a kid loves to eat,” says Jackie Rothong ’10, who, now at age 23 has been in remission from the disease for more than ten years. “I lived on my mom’s homemade chicken soup for years.” Looking back, Rothong credits the experience as the driving force behind her love for food, putting her on the path that led her to becoming a food stylist on ABC-TV’s The Chew.
As one of three food stylists on the newest food show in daytime television, Rothong prepares the food that will be featured on each segment, styling it for presentation and photography. Despite 15-hour workdays and cooking enough food to feed hundreds of people each week, Rothong said she loves everything about it.
“It’s ironic that I got into the food industry considering I couldn’t eat so many things for so long,” she said. “As I got older I realized the important role food played in my life and how I can really touch people through what I create.”
Rothong’s heart was set on attending culinary school after graduating from DePaul High School (Wayne, NJ). Her parents encouraged her to pursue a business degree. Her mother, Diane Komarowski ’80, suggested she look into Montclair State’s Hospitality Management program.
Rothong said the Business Administration program at Montclair State gave her the knowledge and skills to succeed in the food/TV industry, and hopefully one day open her own restaurant. She says professor Li-Chun Lin of the Department of Management was an inspiration. “She taught with so much passion that it made me realize that you have to love what you do, and I really appreciated that,” Rothong says.
It was Professor Lin, Rothong explained, who encouraged her to pursue an internship as a production assistant at the Rachael Ray Show even after many rejections. “I applied 15 or 16 times until I finally got it,” she said, “and Professor Lin was so proud of me.”
After graduating from Montclair State, Rothong enrolled in the Institute for Culinary Education, graduating in May 2011. She has developed and tested recipes, and styled food for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. She also was a finalist on the Food Network’s competition show, Sweet Genius, where she competed against veteran pastry chefs. She was one of two finalists who vied for the $10,000 grand prize. “I would have won if I didn’t mess up my caramel,” she jokes.
In the end, Rothong says this is her passion. “I love creating new and innovative things that allow people to enjoy food and discover new flavors.”
Rothong encourages others to follow their passions as well. “If you have a dream, you need to go after it,” she says. “Plan a strategy to get to your goal and love what you do every day.”