Q. Why did you decide to become a chef?
A. I was actually born in my grandfather’s bakery in the Philippines. I was around a family that always cooked. I was raised in the kitchen and when my family would play outside, I would be in the kitchen with my grandparents cooking. I became a chef because I love the feeling of making food and seeing people’s happiness when they taste it. My kids would look up at me and say, “Mom, you didn’t go to school,” and I responded with “I know, but I’m living my career now and doing what I love to do.” I did a lot of private catering, baking for non-profit organizations for free, and cooked for my kid’s school. I donated all my services and fought with every single male chef to show them I have what it takes to be a successful chef. Yamashiro gave me the opportunity to show what I got. I’ve been lucky enough for them to support everything that I do and give me the tools to get to where I am. The 5 chefs before me were all male. I was the last chef to be hired before COVID and the last chef to be here. I ran the kitchen while we were closed. It’s not about the title for me, it’s the fact that I get to wake up every day and have the excitement of going into the kitchen to cook.
Q. Did you go to culinary school? What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies? If not, how did you learn?
A. I did go to culinary school, but before that, I actually learned from YouTube and watching Food Network as well as my grandparents. I went to culinary school in my mid-40’s and I got both my Culinary and Pastry Degree.
Q. What is your management style? What management style do you prefer for your supervisor to have?
A. For me, it’s about working together as a team. I’m not so much into the title. If you can create a very humble environment and you work together as a team, it will work well. I like people to give their input, it’s not just about what the chef says. I like it when everyone collaborates and works together as a team. I like chefs that give their input and make their own dishes. Without a team, there wouldn’t be a title for me, I wouldn’t be an Executive Chef. So it’s not just working for me. We are all working together to create an experience for our customers. My management style is basically a friendly environment where everyone is treated equal with room for growth.
Q. What were your inspirations to open this restaurant and what are some challenges you faced?
A. 20 years ago, my husband and I came here on our first date to have dessert. I got hired as an executive pastry chef when I started in September. I started my relationship here. I came here on a day for dessert and my husband ordered everything on the menu for me because I’ve gone to fine dining. I’ve never had a spectacular view like this. When I started as a pastry chef, my inspiration was to create something romantic for the guests. When I got hired, it brought back memories of driving up and walking into the beautiful view. I want customers to remember their first experience and to always remember when they came to Yamashiro. I aspire to make their first impression the best impression and a memory that will last a lifetime. The challenge is being a woman executive chef. When I first started as a pastry chef, they didn’t think that I could cook. As a woman trying to put my foot in the door, I had a difficult time. Every pastry chef/cook chef is a man. It’s a little hard to get that out of people’s heads. So that’s one of the biggest challenges I face. Everything else as far as getting the menu done and changing the menu, it’s part of the job. It’s exciting to do and a challenge I accept. I am able to lead such an amazing restaurant. I hope people are more open to accepting women as executive chefs, especially representing big restaurants like this.
Q. Describe the relationship between back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations.
A. It has to be both FOH & BOH working together. A lot of the chefs like to stay in the back with the staff, they don’t like to go outside and interact with the staff or the guests. I like to go outside, see people, and greet everyone. I’m trying to create a culture where FOH & BOH can work together as a team because they are both equally as important. It needs to be a team atmosphere. The culture of that mindset isn’t going to change unless the manager and executive chef work together as a team. I am very strict in the kitchen. My main goal is 100% satisfactory customer service. I don’t allow servers to come to the back. They should be spending that time with the customer. They want to be checked up on, even when it feels annoying. They want to be paid attention to and taken care of. I am strict when it comes to following the procedures. The main goal is to get the food expedited properly, making sure the servers know what’s in the dishes. I always encourage the server to come back to taste the food, whether you like it or not. That way you can describe it to your customers since it’s hard to sell something you’ve never tasted.
Q. Is there a chef that you admire the most? Who and why?
A. Julia Child. I remember when I was young, my mom would turn on the TV and I would watch her every day. I always thought that as a chef you would have to drink wine or get drunk all the time. I just love the fact that she spoke her mind and the fact that she’s a woman cause all the chefs I knew as a child were always male. I admire her because of her style and her story. She didn’t get into her career until she got older, which really inspired me to be who I am today.