Chef Claudette Zepeda Sparks Passion Through Mentorship
“What I love to see as a mentor and a leader is a spark. I'm talking about a spark, like in Transformers, the Allspark. As a leader, I see that when I start to talk about my passions, I get a little spark in my eyes and people see that. To see that spark in someone's eyes is the best." – Chef Claudette Zepeda on Buenlimón Radio This fall, Diego Senior and Mariana Velasquez welcomed acclaimed chef Claudette Zepeda to Buenlimón Radio for a special episode focusing on her work within the #FairKitchens movement. #FairKitchens has identified systematic problems facing restaurant workers. They believe that a positive kitchen culture will make for a healthier business, so they’re providing free information, tools, and resources to chefs and restaurateurs take action towards creating a ‘”fairer” kitchen. Zepeda fully embodies this mission. Coming from a restaurant family, she grew up surrounded by flavors and foods that most children aren’t exposed to. Since then, she has become a fixture in the San Diego restaurant scene, working for and helping open some of the most heralded establishments. When Zepeda began work on her restaurant, she wanted to establish the culture from the start. She put her core team together long before the restaurant’s doors opened, to build relationships and lock down a training process that would set the rest of her staff up for success. She knew she had to go even further, though. As Zepeda explains, “One of the biggest problems the restaurant industry currently has is our turnover rate. When people stop being motivated, they will look for another job. So I had to find out a different approach." Zepeda developed a grant program where each employee of the month has the chance to travel to Mexico and explore its restaurants. This keeps staff motivated, inspired, and striving to learn more about the culture and cuisine that is central to her philosophy. Her approach pays off. By establishing a foundation of well-being and an all-encompassing culture of positivity, Zepeda’s team has the ability and desire for constant culinary discovery. “To be able to train someone on a technique that is pretty much only done in one part of Mexico, it’s super special for me. And I feel like they really get inspired by it." Hear more from Chef Claudette Zepeda on Buenlimón Radio episode 32 (sections of the podcast are in Spanish).