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Private Chef and Entrepreneur, Chef Grecia Parra

March 26, 2024


"The desert found me, and it was natural to launch my business here". Chef Grecia is a culinary-trained private chef focused on healthy, seasonal eating in Joshua Tree, CA.

Inspired by the bold flavors of her Mexican heritage and the precision of French cuisine, her approach to cooking is personal and always intentional, sourcing ingredients that are grass-fed, wild, organic, and seed oil-free.  

Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a chef?

From a young age, I was entranced by the culinary world, often glued to PBS cooking shows, especially Julia Childs. Despite frequent failures in recreating her French dishes, I relentlessly pestered my mother for ingredients not found in a Mexican household.

After completing high school, my passion for food remained steadfast, leading me to pursue formal culinary education despite numerous obstacles. Culinary school became my training ground, where I honed my skills and deepened my understanding of the culinary arts. Despite initially finding employment in various restaurants after graduation, it became evident that this path needed to align with my aspirations.

Food has been a constant theme throughout my life, so once I moved to the desert, it felt perfect timing to pursue this passion.

How do you describe your own cooking philosophy and how that integrates with your private chef work/cooking?

My cooking philosophy is simple: cook fresh seasonal food with REAL ingredients. Simple, most of the time, is best. In many ways, living in the desert has strengthened this belief. Thankfully, I'm fortunate to have access to a fantastic farmers market in Joshua Tree every Saturday. It's my go-to spot for sourcing items like produce and cheese. 

If I can't find something at the farmers market, I usually make the trip to Whole Foods, Gelson's, or Bristol Farms, about 1 hour away. Additionally, I've been lucky to build relationships with fantastic producers, such as Grassroots Coop, which supplies most of my meats. They're a cooperative of regenerative farmers committed to "pasture and forest-raised animals without hormones or antibiotics." For sushi-grade seafood, I turn to Seatopia, which is also fantastic. 

Another important aspect of my cooking philosophy is my avoidance of seed oils. While these oils might be expected in many kitchens, I prefer healthier alternatives like avocado and olive oil, duck, pork, chicken, beef fat, and my new favorite, Zero Acre. 

My customers are cool about letting me take the lead with the menu. We collaborate closely, but they're laid-back and usually want the menu to reflect their fun vibe.

Any culinary heroes, favorite restaurants, or food inspiration?

The first chef that comes to mind is Julia Child. She has been a part of my life since the beginning. I love her strength and confidence, which was very apparent to me even at a young age. I also greatly respect Enrique Olvera, Gabriela Camara, and, of course, Thomas Keller. My go-to restaurant in Los Angeles is BESTIA. I love that place!

What excites you about the future of your industry?

What excites me most is the movement I see of people becoming more aware of ingredients and their correlation to our health. We are becoming empowered and asking questions about what is and isn't in our food and the effects this can have on our well-being. I'm excited to participate in this movement and can't wait to see how far we can take it. 

Any advice for female chefs starting their culinary journey?

Start, don't overthink it, and get out of your own way. Experience is gained by taking the first step. Let go of perfectionism.

How has your background influenced your cuisine and dishes that you make?

My Mexican heritage and admiration for Julia Child have significantly shaped my cooking style and identity as a chef. I find myself drawn to French cuisine's precision and elegance while embracing Mexican gastronomy's vibrant and bold flavors. This blend of influences fuels my passion for creating technically refined and richly flavored dishes that mirror the best of both culinary worlds.

How has Zero Acre played a pivotal role in the recipes you cook? What's your favorite recipe that incorporates Zero Acre oil and why?

I was thrilled to discover Zero Acre, an innovative neutral oil derived from cane sugar! Its flavorless profile makes it incredibly versatile and ideal for countless recipes. It has reignited my love for crispy wings, something I had avoided for a while due to health concerns. It's also perfect for specific cake recipes whose neutrality complements the delicate flavors. Sharing this discovery with my clients has been equally rewarding; they're always excited to learn about a healthier alternative.

What inspired you to start your own business? 

Before relocating to the desert, I had dipped my toes into the culinary world through a few restaurant stints. These experiences were eye-opening, offering me a firsthand look at the bustling, often chaotic environment of the culinary industry. However

Having always harbored a spirit of entrepreneurship, the idea of starting my venture resonated deeply with me. It wasn't just about being my boss or escaping the 9-to-5 grind; it was about creating something of value. The transition from being an employee to embracing the role of an entrepreneur felt incredibly natural, almost as if it was what I was meant to do all along. 

What is one of the biggest lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur? 

One of the biggest lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur is the importance of adaptability. Understanding that plans and circumstances can change rapidly and adjusting on the fly has been crucial for meeting my client's needs while also managing the unpredictable nature of sourcing ingredients and balancing meal preparation's creative and practical aspects. This skill has not only helped me navigate the challenges of the culinary world but has also been invaluable in growing my business and maintaining a high level of service.

What sets your business apart from others?

What distinguishes my business may not necessarily be unique. Still, it's profoundly personal and intentional: my approach to ingredient sourcing and my deliberate choices about what I avoid in my cooking. I am committed to grass-fed, wild, organic, and seed oil-free ingredients. My guiding principle is simple: I would only serve what I would eat. 

What inspired your decision to cater to the community in Joshua Tree?

The desert found me, and it was natural to launch my business here. The area's steady flow of guests has allowed me to cultivate a diverse clientele more smoothly than it might have been in a larger city. I love rural living and the peace and tranquility it offers. 

Visit and follow @saltandleisure.

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