201 S. Market St., San Jose
Hometown: Born in San Luis Obispo; grew up in the Bay Area, mostly in Los Gatos; graduated from Woodside High School.
Experience: Worked in restaurants and catering for 32 years. While in college, she was a waitress at Garden City in San Jose. That job led to catering gigs, which in turn evolved into the Party Helpers, a catering company she co-owned for 12 years. In 1990, she opened Café Primavera in Willow Glen, her first restaurant (she sold it in 2002). The brand has grown to include a catering business and Café Primavera outposts at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and Menlo Park's Allied Arts, the latter of which opened on Sept.
Early inspiration: "My grandmother lived with us. I spent all my summers with her. When I think of her, I think of food. She cooked and cooked. Our family was centered on the next meal."
At home: "I cook at home a lot. My hubby loves his pasta. In the summer, we barbecue almost every night. In the winter, I get my crockpot out."
A love of wine country: "We just bought a house in Napa for the sole purpose of eating in the restaurants.
Favorite holiday: "Probably Easter because I love to do Easter brunch."
Holiday noshing: "What we do at Christmas is 'dinner by the bite.' It's an open house with dishes of one or two bites, tapas-style."
Signature menu item: "We're famous for our crab cakes. We have people from Virginia tell us our crab cakes are the best they've eaten."
Toughest everyday challenge: "Right now, the economy. I've been doing this for 32 years. I know how you have ups and downs. I know how to survive them but it's a challenge."
Word of mouth: "I tell my staff that every job we do is our marketing. We have to hit it 100 percent every time."
Culinary philosophy: "Obsessive. I am always looking for the best. I go to every trade show. I eat in restaurants constantly. I read every cooking magazine I can. I'm always looking for a product that's the best. I try to find the absolute best of the best. If you cut corners, it's going to taste like you cut corners. If I don't eat it, I wouldn't serve it to my clients."