An Interview with Domenique Garcia
Private Chef & Genius behind the brand, "Mama Knows Grub"
LIR: So Domenique, how would you describe yourself?
DG: I am an emotional chef who believes that comfort food surpasses the boundaries of states, regions, and countries. I love pushing myself as an individual, but even more as a chef. Feel-good food is what I do!
LIR: Where did you get your influence? Who was the cook in your family?
DG: I smile when I get asked this... who wasn't! Both of my grandmothers, both of my parents, as well as most of my aunts and uncles who are not only hunters and fishermen, but amazing cooks. Competitive cooking and kitchen banter were learned before I was even able to reach the stove.
LIR: So its in the blood! How did you make the transition to cooking professionally?
DG: I didn't go to a fancy culinary institute... it really is just what we do. After moving out to San Francisco from the midwest, I was able to tap into one of the most creative and diverse outlets in the nation. I started in the fine dining scene before getting into consulting, which led me to "Mama Knows".
LIR: Tell me about "Mama Knows". What's the inspiration behind that?
DG: I acquire the nickname "mama" almost everywhere I go. I think it's because it's just my nature. I'm the oldest of 5 girls (now young women), and I'm a protecter and a nurturer who genuinely loves catering to people. So I chose to start branding "Mama Knows" because it offered me a huge umbrella to build under. It's a vision that evolves as I change as an individual, and provides me the opportunity to take the business in many directions. Pop-Up Restaurants, product-turn-retail, blogs and writing. The name just feels right. And I mean, what doesn't mama know?
LIR: I love it! Where do you get your drive?
DG: I'm passionate about what I do, and love the fact that no matter how many years you spend cooking or experimenting, there will always be more to learn. Creative freedom is what pushes me more than anything. I push myself as an individual, and am well rounded when it comes to styles and regional cooking.
LIR: What challenges do you face by being a woman in your field?
DG: Being a chef is not just a career, it's a lifestyle. And I believe that's why it's such a male-dominated industry. What television shows don't capture is the true grittiness, grunt work, and crazy hours that go into restaurants, catering, and all things hospitality. As a young woman coming to San Francisco, I took so much pride in being part of the "boy's club", working hard and partying side-by-side, basically doing everything my male counterparts were doing. However, once I hit thirty, I took a step back and realized that it wasn't a lifestyle that I wanted or was willing to sustain for the rest of my life. Many male chefs are in their 50s, on their second or third marriage, never see their kids because of the crazy hours, but are partying with their staff and being considered acclaimed chefs. As a woman, I realized that wasn't even an option for me, so I got into consulting, and ventured out to find my own way.
LIR: You raised some good points. So what does the future of "Mama Knows" hold?
DG: I started the Pop-Up a few years back, and have gotten into catering as well as private chef gigs along the way. Currently, I'm working on being my own success story and fulfilling my desire to build something greater than myself. I want to teach kids and at-risk youth about nutrition and dieting, and learn more about the healing properties of food. I believe as we grow into our womanhood, there is something magical that takes place. Some might call it their "biological clock", but I think of it as more of a hyperawareness of ourselves and our surroundings. Looking forward I would like to get into culinary medicine, and maybe a cookbook.