What’s Behind the Smile and Chef’s Apron?

By Ogichi Staff

You might know her best as a cheerful presence in the Ogichi kitchen, but Erica Roodhouse is many things: an avid traveler, a studious Buddhist, a textile artist, a tireless volunteer, a mother of five.

Born in San Francisco but raised in the Far East, Erica lived in Burma, Taiwan and Hong Kong before returning to Washington, D.C. and then California’s Napa Valley, where she graduated from high school. After a gap year in Europe, she attended seven different universities.

Since then, Erica and her husband Steve—an Air Force veteran and commercial pilot—have traveled the world together. They lived in D.C., Germany, Georgia and Kentucky before settling in Cincinnati. Their two sons and three daughters were homeschooled through grade school.

“We called ourselves the Roodhouse Academy of Wild Young Things,” Erica says. “When the boys aged out, we changed it to the Roodhouse Academy of Wild Young Women. Then they directed their own learning: either stayed home, started university classes early or went to brick-and-mortar high schools.” (Erica’s daughter Leah will be an LDAC this summer; her daughters Hannah and Isabel are staff alums.)

Introduced to Tibetan Buddhist traditions at a young age, Erica continues to walk that path. She works, studies and cooks at the Gar Drolma, a Buddhist learning and meditation center in Dayton. “The meditations and contemplations bring me peace and great joy!” she says.

In Cincinnati, Erica volunteers with La Soupe, a charity that “rescues” unsellable food from restaurants, grocery stores and farms and delivers it to those in need. She also works with the Cincinnati Nature Center and serves on the board of Cincinnati’s sister city partnership with Liuzhou, China, which brings a group of Chinese teachers to the US every two years. 

In her free time—how does she have any?—Erica dabbles in the textile arts including crocheting, knitting, felting, weaving, quilting, hooking and needlepoint. She commits “random acts of art” with local women and recently built a gardening shed out of upcycled materials with Steve. Other hobbies include swimming, hiking, biking, paddling, camping, reading and tai chi.

And cooking! Having worked and trained in various restaurants— mostly in Napa—Erica has always loved to feed people. “We are blessed at Ogichi to have such a wonderful kitchen staff who all also love to play with food!”

This article originally appeared in Spring 2019 issue of Songs of the Paddle.

Alumni, Staff, OgichiBen Woods