We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Gress and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, why did you pursue a creative career?
I have always had an artistic spirit but struggled to find my medium. Growing up with ADHD, I had a tough time in school and found it nearly impossible to stick to anything long enough to master it. I went to university for nursing and was miserable. As I discovered my passion for food and found out that I was a kinesthetic learner, things started to click and I took what felt like a bold step. I left my college, moved to a new city and committed to the culinary arts, getting a degree from the Seattle Culinary Academy. It wasn’t easy, things still aren’t easy, but sometimes you have to go for it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Today I provide a boutique, individually tailored and diet specific meal delivery service for select clients. What I provide you cannot get at a restaurant and would require lots of research, time and practice to produce at home. In my work, I see food as medicine. I love helping my clients live healthy while also stimulating their palettes with creative menus that incorporate specialized techniques, exotic ingredients and beautiful presentation.
I arrived here after working some intense line cook jobs, managing a kitchen, spending time in culinary purchasing for an MLB stadium and filling in as the executive chef at a biohacking retreat. Some of these experiences have built the skills that I have today and given me exposure and opportunities while others have been a grind that made it clear I could not continue to work a traditional restaurant job. As a female in the culinary world, I’ve clashed with some of my male peers who would not respect me when I was in a position of authority. I’ve rolled all these experiences and lessons into my own business where I feel empowered to choose my future, working for myself and mostly by myself. However, I also use the business to serve my local community when possible, sourcing ingredients from farmer’s markets and female owned small businesses. I’m proud of where I’m at today and have been inspired to keep growing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Funny you ask… My best friend was just visiting from Seattle to celebrate her 30th birthday and I was responsible for the itinerary. Her only requests were to have a lot of fun and eat Mexican food. I picked her up from the airport in my 90s Cadillac convertible with the top down and beelined it to Ocean Beach.
Since she was in the mood for fish, we ended up at Blue Water Seafood. It’s always so fresh and you can even bring home your favorite catch of the day from their cold case. I’d also suggest La Dona for a few perfectly balanced spicy mezcal margaritas or OB Noodle House for their spicy garlic wings and sizzling fish (ask for a side of nuoc cham). If you’re there on a Wednesday, check out the Ocean Beach farmers market for an eclectic mix of art, hand crafted goods, local produce and great hot bites. Later that night, after a siesta and some time spent catching up, I had to take her to Tacos El Gordo, my favorite spot for Al Pastor.
The next day was her 30th birthday so I wanted to choose something a bit more elevated. It was tough deciding between Tahona Bar in Old Town or Cocina de Barrio in Hillcrest. Old Town is so charming and makes me appreciate the cultural roots of San Diego but the people of Hillcrest make it come alive at night. We ended up at Cocina de Barrio enoying some smoky esquites con cameron and the most tender short ribs in mole negro. Be sure to order a fun popsicle drink too!
As I final send off, we went to Black’s Beach (yea, the nude beach). Surrounded by sandy cheeks and other bits, hang gliders launch off the cliffs in Torrey Pines and drift overhead. After some time rotating between lounging naked in the sun and cooling off in the waves with my bestie, I realized that this was the recipe for a perfect weekend.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It has to be my family. If it wasn’t for my sister pushing me to follow my gut and literally signing me up for culinary school tours, I probably wouldn’t be here. My stepfather is a major foodie and played a big role in expanding my horizons by introducing me to new cuisines, dining styles, customs and cooking techniques complete with bite sized culinary history lessons. He and I struggled to find common ground early in our relationship and our love of a perfectly executed meal has bonded us through the years. My fiancé is my constant sounding board, thoughtfully working through my ambitious business ideas. He is my sous chef and my soul mate.
Other: Tiktok: Chef_laurengress E-mail: Cheflaurengress@gmail.com