I was born and raised in beautiful Del Mar. I was very privileged and always looked forward to my birthday when my loving parents let me choose the restaurant where the whole family would go and enjoy together. I would anticipate, even months in advance and clearly remember dishes I had decades ago, Jake’s mano de leon scallops and hula pie with a candle. A cozy bread bowl of clam chowder from the Fish Market. Tamales & Chile Relleno at Fidels and live Mariachi. The remarkable show and succulent sushi at Samurai. It was all so new, exciting and freaking delicious. I wanted to try everything, everywhere. To put it lightly I was obsessed.
Inspired by local cuisine I began to cook when I was very young. My parents were supportive. Most of my free time was spent in the kitchen, or next to the fireplace reading cookbooks.
I would look forward to the annual family trip to Indiana where we would make pirogies with grandma, and eat so many I couldn’t move! I loved Grandmas garden, chasing chickens, fishing on the dike. You couldn’t even begin to compare Grandma’s vegetables and pickles to what is purchased at the store. Even as a child this was obvious. More okra and corn, please! Man, that farm was really wonderful. I always thought how great it would be to live on a farm one day!
Knowing food was a part of me (we all are what we eat, I just take it too far!) I went to culinary school at Grossmont and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this local Community College Culinary Program. Baking was always a weakness for me. I couldn’t get leveled bread or eclairs make you say WOW yet somehow Chef James coaxed it out of me. Nearly everything we made in Chef Joe’s class had Jalapeño, and who knew a little picante to open up the taste buds made just about everything better. Even Key Lime pie! Jalapeño or Anaheim pepper has always since been a part of my mirepoix.
I worked as a private chef for many years and even cooked on a Yacht. That was a wonderful job which I enjoyed very much. The family I cooked for in Rancho Santa Fe was always very supportive and were never afraid to offer kind, constructive feedback that help continue to develop and improve my culinary abilities.
That job ended and when they moved. The family gave me The Flavor Bible. A perfect companion to match my “California Fusion” style of cooking. Not a cookbook, rather a glossary of compatible ingredients (as determined my a number of chefs) it has been an indispensable tool in helping to inspire and create new, unusual and exciting dishes. I would encourage any creative chef to obtain a copy.
I had recently turned 21 at the beginning of San Diego’s developing micro brew culture. What a treat! Stone brewery had recently moved out of a humble garage in a San Marcos business park into their gorgeous new restaurant and garden perched on a hilltop. I remember how empty they were the first few years. Having a quiet drink and fresh salad next to flowering hop vines. Their greens were good. Good enough to ask about them. The chef said they had a farm nearby growing produce for the restaurant. No wonder they were better!
Walking on Grand in Escondido I discovered a newsstand with free Edible San Diego magazines. The very first issue I picked up I learned about Catalina Offshore Products. That same day I called and after a quick chat headed south to see what they had to offer.
What an amazing place. Whole Tuna, harvested that very morning were being cut, fresh uni being prepared and packed, tanks swarming with live sweet shrimp. It is hard not to share Tommy’s excitement for such outstanding seafood.
Maybe ten years ago after meeting Jon I wanted to do a big sushi dinner for us. Despite being in Yorba Linda we made the trip down to San Diego. I was happy to see Tommy there and it had been a while since I quit catering and chefing. I am so glad he remembered me! With a smile he led us back to the Sweet Shrimp tanks, reached in and plucked out a lively female plump with grey-black eggs. He carefully pulled out the eggs and held out his hand with a twinkle in his eye. I have never had such buttery, salty perfection in a single bite and probably never will again! I scored major points with my foodies date that day. Although the COP warehouse has changed a lot over the years I can still rely on them for fresh, quality seafood.
I had always dreamed of a farm and after a lot of time, hard work & money grandma set aide at birth… we finally had enough for a down payment on a 5- acre ranch. Ever since I have been workin my ass off living the dream!