Influences and Inspiration


The summer of 2000, when I was 20 years old (the summer before my last year in college), I stayed in Los Angeles to be closer to my sisters, and I landed a job as an Executive Assistant to one of the busiest people I’ve ever met.  I don’t know if he’d appreciate me stating his name, so I’ll keep referring to him as “he”…  I helped him with all his businesses, on the phone, tracking bills and doing a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff.  He is the owner/president of Beverly Hills Porsche and Audi, and he also owned a yacht manufacturing company,  an amplifier company, and a few properties around the country.  He wanted to own businesses that tailored to all age groups and he did.  He was able to start his businesses by saving up capital from his former career as a former junior partner at the top New York law firm in his time, then he was David Bowie’s manager for some time.  He was the busiest person I knew at that time in my life, very charismatic, at times a big a–hole, and a great business person.  I was enthrawled by him and I wanted some of his ways and habits to rub off on me.  Although he was about 20 years older than me, he and I became great friends and we remained friends while I went back to Santa Cruz for school, up until I found a boyfriend up there and lost touch… but we still chat every other year or so now.

It was from him that I  learned so much about life, people, myself, delicious food, art, wine, and culture.  He was raised in Bloomsfield, Michigan, went to the exclusive Cranbook School.  He claims to have once been a modern dancer.  In high school, during soccer practice, a group of girls in the dance group asked if any of the guys wanted to join their group, since they needed the strength of males to dance.  He decided to join them.  I believe in college, he was in a band and not sure if he was kidding with me or not, he said he started college majoring in dance.  He went to some university in Colorado for undergrad, then moved to Hawaii to surf while making a living working at a pineapple canning plant.  After about a year of surfing, he got his act together, went to Emory University for law school, moved to New York, made junior partner at the top law firm there, then moved to Los Angeles to be David Bowie’s manager.  He was with Jack Lemmon’s daughter for many years, and during that time would have Sunday dinners with the Lemmon family.  He asked Jack’s chef how to prepare some of his favorite foods, then he passed the recipes on to me.  The origins of the swordfish and asparagus and peppers recipes come from Jack’s kitchen.  It was through this friend of mine that I learned about and tasted the different wines around the world.  I also learned where the best restaurants in California were because his step-mother, who he was close with, had a brother that was an acclaimed food writer.  Other interesting tid bits- his mother’s husband was the guy that invented the pasteurizing of eggs and his father was the judge/attorney that wrote the law on making right turns at a red light.  Because of his father, we can all make right turns once we stop and yield on red lights.

I bring up my friend because without him, I wouldn’t have been introduced to the food that has changed my life.  Because of him, I ate lunch during that summer at Lucques and at Geoffreys in Malibu.  Because of chefs like Suzanne Goin, the owner/chef of Lucques, I experienced the sensations of delicious food.  This is why I love to cook, make discoveries in the kitchen, and am in culinary school.  I want to make delicious food and effect others similarly.  To me, eating delicious yet simple food is a big part of living.

Nonfood-related, another thing I learned from my friend was, if you purchase art for your walls, you’d might as well purchase art that will be worth something someday.  Growing up, hanging in his room, was a Van Gogh painting.  His parents probably retired from the sale of the painting.  This is where I get my inspiration for pieces I chose for my home.  This is why I am so eclectic but not in a pack-rat kind of way.

On Sundays, during my last year of college, I attended church and then would walk from my beach house to Downtown Santa Cruz’s antique and thrift shops.  Taking a peaceful walk along the ocean by myself did wonders for me.  During this time I’d meditate, pray and be thankful and grateful for all the good in my life.  By the time I reached Downtown Santa Cruz, I’d stop into a bookstore to read the antique, vintage furniture, houseware p books and magazines, then I’d make my way into the antique and thrift shops.  First I’d stop at the antique shops, see what they considered to be valuable and find out how valuable, then I’d walk over to the thrift stores to rummage.  Upon walking up to a thrift store one fine day, I spotted a beautiful green armchair and matching ottoman being lifted out from a truck and in front of the store.  I fell in love immediately and wanted to purchase it but only if I could get a deal out of it.  At the same time, an owner at a neighboring antique store saw it and ran back to her store to grab some cash to buy it.  I wanted it so bad that I convinced the delivery guy to sell it to me for $85.  I then I called my best friend, Susan, and asked her to help me pick it up in her Ford Explorer and bring it home- thank God for good friends that I can always count on..  After inspecting the piece, it was imported from Denmark and was in good condition.    The chair became my reading chair for many years, and it remains a conversational piece a decade later.  During my time in Santa Cruz, I collected milk glass pieces, and ceramics that were mostly made in England.   I purchased a few at $5 a piece, on average, that were retailing for $25-$45 at the local antique shops. I hope to have a book someday and to feature my eclectic taste in food, houseware, and furnishing.

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Fruit Tart

Fruit Tart I made in class

Fruit Tart I made in class

Since today was a Staff Development day at school, I didn’t have class, which means I didn’t wake up at 4:20am to get ready for school.  Instead, I was able to wake up at a normal hour.  Before  Peyman walked to work, he and I shared a delicious cup of coffee and a slice of the fruit tart.  I made a huge dinner last night that left no room for a sweet dessert, so we had it this morning.  I was a bit surprised by the flavor and texture.  The crust wasn’t as sweet as I like and I didn’t love the filling either.  It’s a vanilla bean custard.

I had planned to spend the day with my mom and sister’s family, and they were expecting a delicious fruit tart.  I know they’re definition of a delicious fruit tart and if I had delivered the remaining tart that we sliced into already, they wouldn’t be satisfied.  In my family, we like crisp and sweet tart crust and rich and creamy filling…

The slice I had this morning

The slice I had this morning

I decided to make another fruit tart for the family, using my go-to recipe.  It’s a recipe that I will not share because I may sell these one day.  One thing I’ll let you in on is, it’s a spin off of a famous person’s recipe.  I call it MY recipe since I add my special love to it and a special ingredient, sour cream.  In the filling is cream cheese, sour cream, and a few other ingredients.. yum!  I try to make it like the folks do at The Farm in Santa Cruz.  They have one of the best tarts I’ve tasted and I know they put sour cream in their fruit tart filling.  I made a very mini version of my tart for Riva’s baby shower, and this is the biggest tart I ever made, at about 14 inches in diameter…. I think I still need to work on my selection and placement of fruit.  In time, I will figure it out.



Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party

Riva's Baby Shower Tea Party


The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

The only pictures I have of my mini fruit tarts are pictures from a distance.

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Baking 110

Going into culinary school, I didn’t expect to enjoy the baking aspect much since baking requires a lot of waiting around.  I’ve baked before, using family recipes, cookbooks and online recipes from the Food Network, and whenever yeast was involved, I dreaded waiting around for dough to rise and sitting in a hot kitchen.  Many, many moons ago, Grandma Rosita (my dad’s mom’s twin) taught my mom how to make her husband’s, Grandpa Floyd’s, great grandma’s Southern pecan rolls.  My mom busts out the recipe every year during the holidays, so they’re something to always look forward to.  Southern, old school recipes require a lot of love and care, which means a lot of time, so they usually taste better than the baking powder/soda quick-bake, no butter, kind of recipe.  It’s a yearly tradition for me to watch my mom make pecan rolls, and I have never been a fan of waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, as we waited for the dough to proof (rise), not just once but twice.  And one thing I don’t look forward to is the scrubbing and scraping of the sticky pans.  Because of this, I’d been drawn to quick, easy, no fuss baking recipes.

In high school and in college, I loved to entertain friends with food.  Some of my parties would be pure dessert parties.  In high school, my sisters and I would bake up a variety of sweet treats and our friends would come over to enjoy them along with conversation.

In college, along with the many dinner parties I threw, were cookie-baking parties where, surprisingly, more males showed up than females.  When a friend would walk through the door, I’d hand them a recipe, show them the ingredients and tools used for baking, everyone would bake, and we’d have a ton of cookies to enjoy with our coffee klasche.  Baking and cooking with friends is such a blast, especially since my friends always offered to do the dishes!

In school, we do things the old-school way – we bake bread using fresh yeast, we mix ingredients with a whisk and bowl scraper, and we knead the dough with our hands.  To my surprise, I love my baking class!  Especially since we have a proofer which rises the dough in no time, we get very creative with the aethetics of some of the baked goods, and there are less dishes I have to wash since I use plastic wrap to hold my ingredients.  There’s always something to work on.  Again, I am in an accelerated culinary program and we have much to cover within a short period of time, so there is no time for me to stand around and pick my nose, much less to use the restroom.

Even though I may have a weaker bladder, I really appreciate baking now.  I consider myself to be more of an artistic manual laborer, and baking (and cooking) is a perfect outlet for me.  Today I finally learned how to waterproof or moistureproof a fruit tart shell.  I sort of figured it out when I made the mini fruit tarts for Riva’s baby shower.  I thought back to Marie’s wedding – the dessert was excellent… it was a fruit tart with chocolate brushed inside the pastry shell.  When making the tarts for the baby shower I thought, the Hyatt chefs must have done something to keep from getting the tart soggy from the pastry cream and fruit – they have to make and keep 200 tarts from getting soggy… I thought the chocolate was the barrier and I was so right.  About 3 years ago, Marie and I catered a tea party, and our fruit tarts came out soggy… wish we knew how to moisture proof the shell back then.  Thank God for school – I am aware of much more food science.  Here are secrets to keeping the fruit tart crust crisp and not soggy.

1) Before completely browing the pie crust/tart shell, brush a coating of egg whites inside the shell (not too thick of a don’t want scrambled eggs).  Place back in the oven to finish (lightly) browning the sides of the crust.  Cool completely before placing the pastry cream into the crust.  Place in refrigerator for quick cooling.

2) Once pie crust/tart shell is browned (lightly), cool completely.  You can put it in the refrigerator or freezer for quick cooling.  Brush a light coating of melted chocolate inside the crust.  Cool completely before adding the pastry cream.

If you ever have any questions about this or other baking questions, please do not hesistate to ask.  I may know the answer.  If not, I have the resources to figure it out.

In this posting, I have pictures of the many baked goods I made this week only.  I made my own laminated dough, a danish dough, which was very time consuming but very rewarding.  So as to not morph into a butterball, I share my goodies.  I dropped off all my baked goods to my family and they are very happy that I chose a career in culinary – they are benefiting greatly from my education already.  If you want any of my recipes that you see on my blog, simply ask!

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Chicken Katsu (fried Panko coated chicken cutlet) and Tonkatsu Sauce


I must say that Japanese cuisine is one of my most favorite ethnic foods.  Good sushi is so refreshing, ramen is a nice and soothing treat, and Japanese fried food just hits the spot.  I love Japanese fried foods – they are crisp on the outside, and tender and juicy inside.

Fried chicken cutlet, or as Japanese menus read, Chicken Katsu, is something Peyman and I enjoy on occasion.  We used to go to Curry House and order chicken katsu curry spaghetti – it’s really heavy but so good.  I once made it at home and realized how fattening curry was after reading the nutrition facts on the label, so we haven’t eaten the combination since.

At home, to coat my chicken, I use Panko flakes, Japanese-style breadcrumbs.  I make the dinner extra special by also coating and pan-frying some Panko coated onion rings, broccoli, and sweet potatoes (usually whatever veggies I have in the fridge).  Along with the chicken, I serve a dipping sauce, steamed jasmine rice, a salad, and sometimes corn.

If you’d like to try it, follow the recipe below.  It’s really simple and oh, so good!

Fried Panko Chicken Cutlet / Chicken Katsu

Serving Size 2 to 3


2 Chicken Breasts

Panko flakes

Flour for dredging

1 Egg

2-3 Tablespoons of water

Salt and Pepper

Oil for frying. I fry in 1/2 Canola and 1/2 Olive oil mixture. Canola oil alone is fine.


1. Chicken will need to be pounded very thin (with a mallet or meat tenderizer) so that it cooks evenly and quickly.  This cooking technique is called paillard.  Chicken breasts are pretty thick.  Increase the surface area by pounding the chicken thin and by sort of butterflying the breast.  Some chicken breasts have a flap where you can just pull, cut into, and it looks butterflied, or you can cut the breast in half, thinning it…but don’t cut it too much that it falls apart.  If you’re afraid to cut it, score the breast with 3 slashes and pound away.  Between two sheets of plastic wrap, pound the chicken until thin, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into desired-sized pieces, or don’t cut at all.

2. You will need to create a station where you have 3 plates or wide bowls.  From left to right, have 1) a plate of flour to dredge the chicken, 2) a bowl or plate with 2-3 tablespoons of water, scrambled with one egg, and 3) a plate of panko flakes.

3. Season chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper on both sides.

4. Dredge, lightly coat, the chicken breast with flour on all sides and dust off excess flour.

5. Dip/coat chicken breast in the egg mixture

6. Coat the chicken with panko bread crumbs.

7.  Pan fry immediately after breaded (as they will stay crisp. If resting in bread crumb mixture, the coating may fall off or get lumpy). Before adding chicken into the oil, heat the oil.  See next step.

8. Heat a large saute pan, add enough oil to come up half way or even more up the chicken (about 1/4 inch), then heat oil over medium-high heat.  Test if oil is heated by throwing some panko crumbs in.  If it sizzles, it’s ready.  Add the chicken into the oil.  Do not overcrowd the pan, as overcrowding will drop down the temperature.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  We want an even sizzle/bubbling of the chicken so adjust the heat appropriately.

9. Cook chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes on each side.

10.  Drain on paper towels.

11. Serve with sauce, see recipe below,  steamed Jasmine rice and salad or steamed vegetables.

Dipping Sauces – 2-3 sauces to choose from.  See below.

The Japanese traditionally eat Chicken Katsu with Tonkatsu sauce

Tonkatsu Sauce


1/4 Cup Worstershire Sauce

2 Tablespoons Sugar

2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

2 Tablespoons of Ketchup

1/2 Teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 Teaspoon of Ground Allspice (optional)


In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, whisk in worstershire sauce, sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, and ground all spice.  Let it reduce to about 1/2 a cup.  Whisk in dijon mustard and serve alongside chicken katsu.

Easy dipping sauce



Worstershire sauce or soy sauce.

In a small bowl, mix together ketchup with drops of worstershire sauce or Ketchup with drops of soy sauce.  (About 2 tablespoons of ketchup and about 2 tablespoons, more or less, of worstershire or soy sauce. You can even use more or less 1 tablespoon of both)

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Phew! Finals were last Friday! I’m glad to have moved on to the next class!

My second class in culinary school has been the most challenging class I’ve had so far.  Students that have been in the program longer than me say that it is the most challenging class that we will ever have in the program.  I was assigned to a new chef for this class and he was a lot tougher on me, cooking-technique-wise.  He thought, which is true, I depended on my notes too much and that I thought too much about the ingredients and not the technique.  Lemme’ tell you… I am a perfectionist, at times, and I wanted my food to be reproduced just as the instructor produced it.

In class, we watch a demo then we reproduce the food just as the chefs did.  I’m more of a visual learner (I don’t retain everything I just learned right after I learned it)…I have to read it again to refresh my memory and actually go through the motions to start internalizing the technique/methods.  During production I’d read my notes (my other chef instructor in the previous class was okay with it).  My new chef instructor didn’t like my style and my grades went down because of it.  I am a bit disappointed about my grade, but am happy that class is finally over and I’m in baking now which I love so much so far!  What will I take away from this experience?  Grades aren’t everything… Remember what Chef Perez recommended I need to improve on – try to cook and not worry about the ingredients so much… as a chef, I should be able to manipulate food to make it taste great.  I shouldn’t be too obsessed about getting it just right, just like the chef instructor… I am still learning.

Since I am loving baking right now, I’m going to start sharing more of my experiences in school again.  It is purely positive now.  I am having great fun and am happy again :)! Yay!

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Sauteed Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Pan Sauce


My dad was an avid golfer, and on many weekends, while he’d play 18-holes at the Bonita Golf Course, my mom would take my sisters and I for long walks.  There was a track along the perimeter of the golf course that we’d walk along, and we eventually would walk off the track to play at a neighboring park, to watch residents riding horses, to observe wildlife like birds, squirrels, families of possums sleeping upside down, holding onto tree branches with their tails, and, of course, ducks.  One of my favorite activities was feeding the ducks.  This was until I was about 10 years old.

When I was about 10 years old, my family and my parents’ friends’ families frequented a Chinese restaurant (can’t remember the name), where I experienced cooked duck for the very first time.  I remember being a little hesitant to take my first bite.  I loved playing with, being around, and feeding ducks at the golf course.  My dad told me I had to try it, so I sadly picked up a piece with my fork.  As I slowly opened my mouth to take a bite, I envisioned feeding the beautiful ducks at the golf course.  Once I popped the Chinese-style cooked duck in my mouth, I didn’t regret it – I thought it was absolutely delicious and from then on, I never looked at ducks the same way.  Duck is delicious.

Due to my father’s diabetes getting a bit out of control, we stopped going to that restaurant a few years later, and my mom tried cooking more lean dishes consisting mostly of defatted chicken and fish.  For years, I’ve been in a lot of control of my diet and exercise and I try really hard to stay at 130 pounds or lower- it’s a healthy weight for me.

I haven’t checked my weight since I started culinary school, and I haven’t held back on what I eat, so I’m sure I’m beyond my normal weight and am committed to get back down soon.

In order to cook delicious food, I need to taste my food.  Although I have most of my dad’s genes, I don’t want to deprive my taste buds – I’ll just work out more and try to eat in moderation.  I take my dishes home and split the portions with my honey or with my sister and her kids.  For me, I mostly taste the food, not indulge in a full plate of it.  Well, except last Friday night, when Peyman and I split 3 – 1 serving dishes (very small servings) – a filet mignon, a flank steak, and duck.  Peyman grew up with a pet duck, that he named Duckie.  Friday was his very first time to try duck, and it was my first time in 15+ years that I had it too.  We each had about 3 pieces.  The richness of the dish left us both wanting more… it was so good!

I told my mom about it and she wants me to cook it for her too.  She’s sees it as a delicacy.  I’ll just have to be on a look out for duck meat at markets like Whole Foods or Bristol Farms.  Duck meat, unlike chicken, is cooked medium to medium rare.  If you’ve never tried it, I recommend it.  I can’t wait to make it again.  

Here’s the recipe.  I know you’ll enjoy it!

Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Pan Sauce

Serving size : 1


1 Duck breast, skin on

1 Shallot, diced

1/4 cup Dried cherries

1/4 cup Red wine

1 cup of Veal stock

1 tablespoon butter, cut into squares – very cold

Salt and Pepper, to taste


Dried Cherry Pan Sauce

1) In a small saucepot, take a small piece of meat and fat from the duck (about 1 tbsp that you can get from cleaning/cutting off the duck breast). Create suc (browned bits of flavor at the bottom of the pan) by adding little oil and duck pieces to the pan. Saute’ over medium heat until browned.

2) if excessively fatty, defat pan.  Use about 1 tbsp of fat to sweat shallots.

3) Add shallots and little salt until the shallots have a little color on them.

4) Stir in dried cherries.

5) Off heat, add red wine. Then let it reduce on low heat until it is almost evaporated.

6) Add about veal stock.  Reduce slowly on low heat until you get a sauce consistency (coats back of a spoon).  Set aside until ready to serve.

7) Don’t strain sauce until ready to strain.  Want the flavors in the sauce to meld in with one another.

9) Once ready to serve, strain through a chinois or sieve into another small saucepot.

10) Over heat, add salt and pepper.  Adjust consistency, if too thick.  If too thick, add more stock.  If too loose, adjust by reduction (heat).

11) Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.

12) When consistency coats the back of a spoon, add butter off heat.

Sauteed Duck Breast

1) Clean/cut off veins on duck breast

2) Scour the breast, fat side up, lightly at an angle, creating 3 small x’s.

3) Season both sides with salt and pepper

4) In a saute’ pan, add 3-4 tablespoons of cold water.  Skin side down, add the duck breast and place on range top on low to medium heat, slowly raising the temperature. The skin should be a bit crisp and browned.  Cook the breast 75% of the way through. Remove excess fat.  Flip breast and take off heat.  Set aside.  Rest the breast in the pan for 5-7 minutes, then rest on a rack for 20 minutes.  The breast will be ready to serve in 20 minutes.  Do not cut the breast until it has rested for 20 minutes, or the juices will leave the meat and it won’t be as nice and tender as it should.  When ready to serve, quickly place in the oven to warm. 350 degrees for about a minute.  Remove immediately from the oven.

With a sharp knife (I use a Chef’s knife), cut the duck breast on a bias and serve the duck and the sauce with Herb Roasted Potatoes, recipe found in my site.

I hope you enjoy this as much as Peyman and I have!  Bon Appetite!

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Herb Roasted Potatoes



My favorite way to prepare potatoes is to roast them with garlic and herbs. I love their flavor and how they are a bit crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.   I usually serve them with a side of mixed vegetables, with “meat”loaf, or even with stir-fry sans rice. Herb roasted potatoes are also super easy to make and make a lovely side dish.

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Servings: 2

Time: 45 minutes

Brief: Red bliss potatoes roasted with garlic and herbs are a bit crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.




6 red bliss potatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ tsp rosemary, minced

¼ tsp Italian parsley, minced

¼ tsp thyme, minced

2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil

sea salt, as needed

cayenne pepper, as needed



1) Heat an unlined half sheet pan in a 400 F degree oven.

2) Cut the potatoes into quarters. In a large bowl, mix together garlic, herbs, 1Tbsp olive oil. Season with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Add the potatoes to the bowl and coat the potatoes with the garlic herb mixture.

3) Once the pan in the oven is hot, open the oven, and carefully pull out the oven rack where the hot pan is set, quickly spray the pan with cooking spray and pour the potatoes onto the pan. You should hear a sizzle. The hot pan should give the potatoes a nice browning. Spread the potatoes into an even layer so that each piece is touching the pan.

4) Make sure to flip the potatoes a few times in the oven to prevent burning and to brown each side.

4) After 30-40 minutes, once the potatoes are browned and tender, remove the pan from the oven. Serve.




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