Where did you grow up? I grew up in Santa Barbara, with four older brothers. My mom was a single mom, who managed to raise all five of us herself, somehow. I grew up watching her make amazing food for me and my brothers. There was always food in the house! It was super empowering seeing her raise all of us by herself, and now that I have kids I can’t believe my mom was able to do it all. My brothers also helped raise me, especially my oldest brother. They were very protective of me, but also toughened me up. Because of them, I’m not as sensitive to teasing, which helps me in the kitchen.
Why were you drawn to culinary as a career path? All of my life, all I ever wanted to do was cook. I couldn’t see myself sitting in an office, so when I graduated high school I went right into culinary school, and immediately loved it. There were some pretty tough teachers, and one of them told me that he thought I should choose a different career path, but I didn’t let him get to me. I kept pushing through, even when I became pregnant with my daughter, Azul, at age 19. I didn’t want to quit school just because of my pregnancy. I continued to attend school through the pregnancy, but I did take a break after Azul was born. My partner at the time was supporting us, and I felt so unaccomplished, and stuck being at home and not being able to be out working. In a way, it was a good experience for me, because I realized that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom, as much as I love my kids. That path just wasn’t for me.
Where else have you cooked? One day I was walking down Milpas with my baby, and saw a hiring sign at The Shop. I stepped in to apply, and started working there almost immediately. The owner, Dudley, was so supportive of me having a family, and gave me such an opportunity to grow in his business. I went from a line cook to their kitchen manager in five years. That’s where my career really started, and where I got all of my opportunities.
After years there, I felt like I needed to expand my knowledge and experience, as much as I didn’t want to leave the supportive community at The Shop. I worked at Teddy’s in Carpinteria for a while, and then I started work at the Rosewood right after they opened, and worked there for two years as a chef de partie. At the Rosewood I gained that additional knowledge that I was hoping for. I learned so much about different vegetables, cuisines, and styles of cooking. My chef there, Massimo, was a wonderful guide for me. He is a chef who really loves food and is so passionate, and that was contagious.
I was a single mom for five or six years before I met my husband, Mauro. It was a struggle, but all of life’s obstacles brought me to where I am now. I met my husband working at the Rosewood. He was a cook and we worked the line together (I worked the cold line, and he worked the hot line). It took us a bit to get together after being just coworkers for a while, but we have been married for almost two years now!
How did you start working at Pure Joy? I started working at PJC after having my second child, my son Mauro (named after my husband, of course). I was going to go back to the Rosewood after my maternity leave, but then I heard about this opportunity at Pure Joy and I couldn’t turn it down.
Describe your role at Pure Joy. My coworkers and I run both our prep kitchen, and our kitchens at events. It’s such a team effort and we all work so well together. Working in catering has been a big change from working in restaurants. They say cooking is cooking, but catering and restaurant work are completely different. At restaurants it’s an adrenaline rush with constant tickets, while here it’s hurry up and wait, and a little more calculated. As much as I loved working in restaurants and fine dining, it gets repetitive. Many cooks jump around between different restaurants because they get bored with cooking the same food in the same environment every day. Here, it would be hard to get bored! Every event is new and exciting.
What is your favorite part of working at Pure Joy? I love catering. It’s such a different experience, and I am grateful that Lynette gave me the opportunity to run my own events. It has been a huge step in my career. I really love going out to events, seeing new people and new places, and helping create someone’s best day of their life. When you work so much it’s hard to go out and explore, but I’m lucky enough to get to do that through my work.
For events where I am the event chef, I really love doing the pack-out, so that I’m ready to go and know where everything is when I get on site. I even love driving to an event and plotting out my plan of attack for when I arrive and start to set up. It’s more strategic and ever-changing. It’s exciting because you’re always doing new menu items, new plating, and working in new venues.
How do you stay motivated while working such long hours during events season? I really love food and the culinary process, from starting prep to seeing the finished product on the plate. That passion is very motivating for me. Also, my kids really motivate me during those last hours when I am exhausted. I know I’ll get through it, go home, see my kids, and wake up ready to go again the next day.
Also, my co-workers are awesome and keep me going. We make each other laugh (and drive each other crazy, but that’s part of the fun).
If you were a cocktail, what would you be and why? I would be a reposado tequila. I’m in a stage of my life where I have age, but I still need experience and time before I become a more mature tequila Añejo. I’ve gained so much over the past 10 years working in culinary, so I’m a good-tasting tequila, but I still have time to mature into something incredible.
What do you do on your days off? I like to go on walks with my baby, and take my kids to the park. When I’m not being a mom, I really enjoy hiking. Before I got pregnant again, I was really trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I was hiking and going to the gym, and it was really good for my mental and physical health. I really want to get back to that, and have been trying to make more time for it. I can’t be the best mother if I’m not being the best to myself. And of course, I also love going out and drinking tequila and hazy IPAs with my friends when I can get away for a few hours!
A NOTE FROM THE EXECUTIVE CHEF
I'm so proud of Adriana!! She has gobbled the opportunities I've given her, and it's a JOY to employ such a refreshingly ambitious, delightfully talented chef. So few women apply for kitchen roles, it is disappointing to work so hard my whole life to climb here only to find no woman to pass the whisk to. But that has changed with the new post-covid team and God I love it and so do our guests! Adriana was just voted MVP by the Pure Joy Core Team. She is loved & respected and continues to impress our lucky clients.