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Giannina Gavaldn

My father worked in publicity and me and my sisters would pose as models for the campaigns. My mother cooked for us when we were little at home and my father took us out for meals in fancy restaurants where we learned a little about wine culture. When I was sixteen, I began to help out more in the kitchen. My mother studied cooking and when she came home all inspired so I would ask her to show me what she learned. They had all these really wonderful and exotic recipes but my mother told me that it would be in my best interest to learn the fundamentals of making tortillas and beans and salsas before I learned how to make duck a l'orange.

As I got older, on Sundays, I would get a budget to buy food magazines. My grandfather would send me the American food magazines as well. Even though I was interested in food, I was pushed into getting a business degree and so it cost a lot of effort with my parents to convince them that I wanted to study gastronomy. Eventually, I began sneaking off to Pasadena to study at the Cordon Bleu and then eventually, I settled and graduated from the school. It was a great school and I came back to learn in the kitchens of Ensenada in 2009.

I got a job at Manzanilla and Muelle Tres and learned the art of preparing fresh seafood. I was fascinated with the experience of learning to source ingredients. It was priceless. This influenced me greatly because the fresh ingredient does the majority of the work and my job is to not spoil it.

I didn't visualize myself with my own restaurant but my father suffered a cancer scare and the doctor told us to pray and prepare for the worst. When he beat the cancer, he built this cabin in Valle de Guadalupe and he asked me to open my restaurant, Olivia. I'm lucky in that I had the good fortune to open Olivia at a very young age. I knew that I wanted a family restaurant as opposed to fine dining. I wanted the portions to be large instead of small. That was a common complaint early on in Valle de Guadalupe that the food was expensive and the portions were small and that people would have to go eat tacos after having a fancy meal at a luxurious restaurant. I didn't want Olivia to be that way. I have a small, varied, uncomplicated menu with natural ingredients.

I like to work. I'm not married and even though I have a great partner, I haven't reached that point where I want to have a family. I'd like to have children some day and when I was young, I wanted a lot of children and a lot of animals. Now, I think I've scaled back my expectations. I don't think I'd want to decide between my job and my family, I'd like to have a nice balance.