Andres Meraz

My journey in the kitchen began when I was 8 in the Bay Area. My father went to prison, and my mom had to raise my brothers and me. She had to be creative with what we had in the kitchen. When she was at work, she left me a note on how to cook and reheat food for my brothers. This is where I gained the confidence to cook.

My mom taught me how to make traditional Mexican dishes from her hometown, Uruapan, Michoacán. She’s the one who taught me how to expand my creativity.

When I was about 12, I worked in my grandparents’ restaurant in Oakland, busing tables, washing dishes, prepping, and working the register. I remember making $4.75 an hour. Working under my uncle taught me to stay focused and to work hard.

I barely finished high school and was uncertain what I wanted to do with my life until I visited a culinary school (CCA in San Francisco). When I stepped into the building, I knew I wanted to cook! I was already comfortable in the kitchen and knew I could handle the hard work.

I graduated in 2004. The kitchen life saved me from getting into trouble and kept me off the streets. I struggled for years to sober up, but once I had a clear mind, I could focus and thrive in my life and career. I’m grateful for the long hours, the busy days, and the commutes because they kept me busy.

I love what I do; it’s been 20 years, and I don’t see myself doing anything else! I’ve worked in San Francisco, Oakland, Miami, and Spain. Currently, I have a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas. Working in the kitchen has allowed me to travel the world, work alongside amazing, hardworking people, and have an open mind about new cultures.

In the kitchen, we create memories. I hope more independent restaurants open in the future, and we cut back on all the fast food options. Cook real food, not food cut out of a frozen bag!