Javier and I met and became friends while working at a rather dumpy barbeque restaurant in Los Angeles. I was half way done with my Masters degree in psychology and needed part-time work, and Javier needed an easy job while he was also in school. I had very little waitressing experience, and Javier with 20 years of chef experience worked at prestigious restaurants or was a high level restaurant trainer. Needless to say, it was not the usual workplace either of us was used to.
We became fast work-friends and soon discovered we lived close to each other which is rare in LA. Easy access to a great friend, meant that in no time at all Javier became my best friend. I realized we were more emotionally connected, and he knew me better then my boyfriend at the time. Not long after this realization, my boyfriend and I broke up. The breakup was a bit ugly and I had sworn off dating men completely at least for a while.
About 3 months after the breakup something shifted with our friendship. I realized my heart was calling for him. I was no longer able to be just his friend. When I got the courage to tell him, he smiled and said he felt the same way. That was the first time we kissed, and four years later we were married.
In 2012 as I was wrapping up my Masters degree I discovered that I qualified for Italian citizenship through my paternal ancestry, and began that process with a distant cousin. After four years of an emotionally turbulent bureaucratic roller-coaster ride, I walked out of the Italian Consulate in Los, Angeles with my fresh Italian passport in September 2016.
Italy and the entire European Union, and all of the many benefits were now open to me and Javier. After a harrowing ordeal with health issues, we were ready to enjoy free health care and I could look into furthering my education without drowning in debt.
In January 2017, three days before the current president was sworn into office we moved to Italy.
Read more about our journey to establish our lives in Florence, Italy here.
Read more about our personal histories below:
I was born and raised in Oakland, California and lived all over the Bay Area. My parents were almost complete opposites, but somehow managed to raise me to be a spiritual health conscious individual that is environmentally friendly, and generally open minded. Their food preferences exist in different dimensions, but I have come to appreciate both of their influences in my life.
My dad has been vegan, pescatarian or vegetarian as long as I can remember, and always kept a great deal of fresh fruits and vegetables in our house. Pesto is the foundation of his existence, and I’ve watched him create incredible flavors out of the strangest ingredients. Growing up around my dad meant 2 important things: he always spent a lot of time in the kitchen, and I had to try anything he made no questions asked. Lets just say I didn’t always appreciate everything he made, or the various ethnic restaurants he would bring me to. As a teenager I have memories of being a complete jerk when my dad tried to take me to one of the best Indian Restaurants in the Bay Area (at Adjanta on Solano Ave, Berkeley which is now one of my favorites).
He would and still can talk to me for hours about food, what the healthiest way to prepare something, foods to avoid, and how awfully all the meats, fats, sugars and starches treat our bodies. The education that I have received from him drives the decisions that I make on an everyday basis. Although as you can imagine, things were not always this way.
My mother on the other hand is allergic to shellfish, and prefers more simple American style home cooked meals. The greatest influence on my mother’s cooking was my grandmother. My grandmother was famous for her amazing Thanksgiving dinners, meatballs, sauerkraut (for my German grandfather), spaghetti and anything that resembles good old comfort food. A dab of extra butter never hurt anyone after all, right? Mashed potatoes became and remains one of my favorite foods in this world, and it is all thanks to both of those amazing women. The education she gave me on food involved more of the safety concerns when handling one’s self in the kitchen, with meats or knives for example.
I don’t think I ever truly discovered my own personal passion and obsession with food until I was in high school, and started to cook for myself. Over the years I began to expose myself to tastes and flavors that I didn’t even know existed, and a true hunger for new experiences began to grow inside of me.
In college I began to educate myself on the American food system, and how broken and toxic it has become (and most of the American systems period). I began to evaluate beauty products and everything that was going in or on my body, and what I found was extremely disturbing. Over the years my attention to the various toxic substances or people that we are exposed to on a daily basis have lead me on a very unique path of discovery.
I have set out to live the healthiest and happiest lifestyle that is available to me through food, new experiences, and learning how to follow my dreams.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles California. There are many traits , characteristics and idiosyncrasies that make up who I am but, for the exception of my wife, they all revolve around food.
My passion for cooking started at an early age watching my mom prepare delicious meals for the family. She is one of my first teachers and the one who taught me the joy of cooking. It sounds cheesy but being able to transform ingredients into something that makes others happy has been the great joy of my life.
My first solo shift cooking cemented my decision to become a chef. It was in an open kitchen so I saw everyone who entered and left that evening. The look of satisfaction on guest faces transported me to my childhood and the excitement of going out to eat with loved ones. For the first time I was able to be on the other side of this experience and I helped manifest those feelings in others through my food.
I could have followed many career paths, and though kitchens are not the most lucrative avenue or glamorous (don’t believe food network hype), cooking fulfills me. Its has never been a rat race for me , I do it because I love it. I’m a confident chef but arrogance and pretentiousness definitely are not my bag.
Simple, delicious food is what I strive to put on a plate. I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by skilled chefs who instilled the mantra of “keep it simple”. Anyone who knows I’m a chef, always ask “what is your specialty”. I like to change it up and try new things, so I do a little bit of everything. I don’t believe in limiting myself with one specific food style. Its not uncommon for me to prepare Thom Ka, Chicken Cacccitore, Cerviche, Palak moong dal, Massaman Curry or Etoufee within the same week or two, I like variety.
I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and amazing new opportunities. I have always dreamed of living in Italy to further my knowledge of some of my favorite foods but not until I met Briana did these dreams come to fruition. I have a clear vision of the future that I’m actively pursuing but at the heart of my motivation is my evolution as a chef and as a person. I don’t want accolades or awards, I simply want to elicit joy in others through my artistic medium which is cooking.
This journey would not be possible without the love and support we’ve received from Family and friends. To our parents, we thank you enough for helping shape who we are and believing in us. To all loved ones, we thank you and invite you to continue this journey with us via our ramblings.