Cooking has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember—watching my parents prepare dinner or following YouTube recipe tutorials. My mom enrolled me in a culinary summer program when I was around 13. It was a two-week crash course in a restaurant rotating stations—pantry, hotline, pastry, dining room, and dish—working 2-3 days each. It’s where I first fell in love with the kitchen.

I attended every summer after that, and a full-year program was offered in my junior/senior years. My school days were split between the restaurant and regular classes. I secured my first restaurant job at 16 as a prep cook at Ivar’s Acres of Clams on the Downtown Seattle waterfront.
I went to culinary school in South Seattle, advancing from prep to line, lead, and sous chef. I never looked back. Then, I pursued my BAS in Hospitality Management, juggling early mornings for school and late nights for work. I often found myself sleeping in my car and drinking a lot of caffeine. I’m not sure how I managed it all!

My coworkers are family; they’re all struggling with you in moments of struggle. Learning to work as a team, asking for help, and relying on each other are invaluable lessons the kitchen has taught me. Many aspects of my life have changed from Seattle to San Diego, but the one constant is kitchen culture. I can always rely on my team even when I’m away from home.
When I worked at my first fine dining restaurant, I thought I knew it all at 19 and was quickly humbled. The hours were long, the pay was low, and the job was mentally taxing with a borderline insane chef. This 10-seat restaurant with an 18-course tasting menu and 7-person staff became my life. It’s where I learned what I was truly capable of and experienced the intensity of restaurant life.

In this male-dominated field, I’ve worked twice as hard, even for free, to prove myself. Despite a decade into my career, I still find myself second to a louder man in the room, being labeled “young” and just a “girl.” It never gets easier, but I’ve learned to navigate better. I stay for the love of food and restaurants, but I hope it gets easier for women like me.

What is your favorite street food?

Seattle dog

Which restaurant or food stand do you recommend? (Different from yours) (Add its Instagram handle if possible)

@colimas_northpark Chile relleno burrito!!

What is your guilty pleasure?

Doritos locos, tacos from Taco Bell.

What ingredient do you find overrated?

Anything gold

What ingredient do you think is underrated?

I think vegetables in general are underrated. I had a chef once tell me “its easy to get people excited for meat. Its difficult to get people excited about vegetables” and I find that to be very true. I was vegan for 2 years to force myself to get creative with cooking vegetables. To find a way to get myself excited about vegetables and to think outside to box of what cooking is aside from animal protein.

What is your favorite kitchen tool?

Mini mandolin! Perfect for slicing garlic.

What is your worst kitchen nightmare?

Setting off the ansul system mid service.

Is there someone you would like to nominate for an interview? (Add Instagram handle)


Interviewed & 📸 by @mwatsonnyc