Three very important people in my life impacted my want to get into cooking and to become a chef. Two of them are Angelo and Elvia Linares, the other is my Grandma Janet. Those three showing me their cooking styles at a young age sparked my love for what I do today.
When I was little, around 4 or 5, my parents worked all the time, so I stayed with my grandma. Every morning I would be dropped off at her house bright and early. She would usually be up getting ready to make breakfast, and when I got there, she would put me in charge of the bacon or gravy which I loved doing. She would cook our eggs in the bacon grease, and although rare, would even make pancakes on occasion. It was amazing.
My grandma would always cook dinner with my help for herself, my grandpa, my mother and I. My father wasn’t there very often because he was working all the time (but that’s another story). When my grandmother and I cooked dinner, we would usually make old southern style meals, and living in the south of Virginia meant our meals usually consisted of two veggies and a meat. Often we would have a vegetable stew with cornbread because my grandpa loved his cornbread. Sometimes we would just cook for the hell of it.
My grandmother always made cakes for everyone’s birthday, flavors from Orange dreamsicle for me, to German chocolate for my father, to carrot cake for everyone who didn’t have a preference on what kind of cake she made for them. It was a nice nod since everything was made from scratch right down to the buttercream icing. My grandmother was really the chef of the Doran family, cooking countless meals for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and everything in between. Her influence on me as a child helped shape me into who I am today, and because of that, I’m super thankful to have her in my life.
Switching gears from old southern cooking to a tex-mex style of cuisine, Angelo, and Elvia Linares were like another set of grandparents to me. In 1987, Angelo opened a little hole in the wall eatery in little Vinton, Virginia. This was locals only spot serving fresh ingredients and a happy atmosphere. I started going to Angelo’s when I was 3 or 4. My father would bring me in my little stroller and Angelo watched me grow up. His restaurant probably seated 15 people at maximum, but he worked it like it was a full fledge 100 seated restaurant. He usually did everything from cooking, cleaning, and being the waiter, to everything in between. There was an open kitchen with a bar for people to sit at with two tables for two people each. Everyone loved his food. Personally, I would just sit in the chair and watch Angelo work his magic cooking everything including huevos rancheros, flautas (which he only served on Mondays), and about 10 to 11 other creations. One summer, I worked with him on Saturdays, helping him make some of his items like guacamole and some sauces. It’s one of my favorite summer memories.
In 2013, Angelo brought his wife, Leniras, down from Northern Virginia to run the shop while he cooked. This helped take some of the burden off of him since he was in his 80’s. He still ran around like he was in his 30’s though. This man’s love for food made me love food. He took everything very seriously, from his cooking to the way he cared for each customer. He absolutely loved what he did till the day he died.
As you can see, my love for food is immense because of these three people, and as I’m still starting out in the food industry, my fire and passion for cooking burns like wildfire.
Now Y’all come back ya hear?