Preparations is half the battle: Spend the time to make sure you are 100% prepared for an event. Every detail needs to be checked off and accounted for prior to leaving the house. I have learned the hard way many times by cutting corners and the result has been horrible. The event doesn’t go smoothly, the stress level increases, and people can tell.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gina Clarke — Malibu Seaside Chef.
Gina Clarke is a private chef, TV personality and founder of Malibu Seaside Chef, one of the most sought-after private chef and catering companies in California. Since 2005, her clients have included the likes of U2, Ted Baker, Seal, Kid Rock, Justin Bieber, Caitlyn Jenner, Barbra Streisand, Josh Brolin, Thomas Keller, Joe Montana, Anthony Kiedis and Lamar Odom; and corporations such as Red Bull, Neutrogena and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. She has appeared on numerous television shows including “Extreme Chef,” “Million Dollar Listings,” and “Beverly Hills Housewives,” and has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Malibu Magazine and Huffington Post.
A former professional model who was featured on the covers of publications such as Cosmopolitan and Shape, Gina’s passion for farm-to-table food began when she was a young girl roaming the farmer’s markets of her hometown San Luis Obispo, and was further fueled by her travels throughout France and Italy, during which time she discovered exciting new flavors and textures through authentic locally sourced ingredients. Observing how much food and entertaining truly unites us, how it breaks down boundaries and is ultimately healing, Gina was inspired to pursue a career as a professional chef. She returned to the states to attend the French Epicurean School in Los Angeles, later apprenticing with the world-renowned Giuliano Bugialli in Florence before working for Wolfgang Puck at Granita in Malibu, California.
In 2005, Gina founded Malibu Seaside Chef, a private chef and catering company, immediately making a splash with dishes such as salmon cornets and smashed potatoes with truffles, and attracting high-powered clientele within the entertainment, music, sports and tech world.
Classically trained in a wide range of cuisines, Gina is known for her custom menus that showcase California’s seasonal bounty and which incorporate global flavors discovered through her extensive travels. A native Californian, Gina grew up on the beach in San Luis Obispo. She lives in Malibu with her husband and three-year-old daughter.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I grew up on the central coast of California in a town called San Luis Obispo surrounded by amazing farms and vineyards. I can remember being a kid going to our amazing downtown farmers market and getting the best farm to table local produce. These memories carried over to when I left home at 16 years old to model in Europe. I lived in Paris, Italy, German, Australia and was very fortunate to sample incredible food around the world, which expanded my love of food, culture and flavor to the next level. After a successful career of modeling, I wanted to transition into something I really loved and food satisfied my creative side, my senses and my palate. So I dove headfirst into culinary school, took classes in Italy and the US to hone my skills. It was a lot of hard work, training and learning from some incredible chefs which propelled me into this career choice. One of my first jobs was at Wolfgang Puck’s prestigious eatery in Malibu, Granita. It wasn’t long that I discovered that I wanted to give the guests more than the restaurant experience and be engaged in creating a memorable dining experience. Thus, I decided to go off on my own and start “Malibu Seaside Chef.” As a private chef, I can work individually with people to create incredible dining experiences for themselves and their guests. Being a private chef, allows me to have control over creating custom menus, collaboration of event space and working with the clients to give them the dining experience they envision. For me, being a private chef and event planner allows me to creative, innovative, stay in touch with me artistic style and most of all engage with the guests on a deeper level. It been an incredible experience.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I love the word “disruptive” because it can take on a meaning in several ways. The think the biggest thing that I’m doing at Malibu Seaside Chef, is taking the ordinary and making it feel exceptional, look incredible and be memorable. People are entrusting me to create memories for them and when you dine out, sometimes it’s hard to get that lasting experience. So, when you book my services, I am totally disrupting the normal of what someone would expect from dining. After a client books my services and has an incredible dining experience, it totally changes how they look at dining out and enjoying a meal. Its disruptive because it changes their viewpoint on what a first-class meal should be. They see what top notch service looks like, what individual attention to detail feels like, and how incredible food should look, taste and feel. Its disruptive to what they are normally used to in good way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
OMG…. There are so many to choose from when you’re just learning the trade of becoming a chef and even more crazy mistakes when trying to start a business. I think one of the funniest things looking back now when I started out was a job where I showed up to the house and nothing worked in the kitchen. The stove, the oven and even the microwave was broken. Yet I had 20 guests wanting to eat and all of this incredible food to cook. I ended up improvising and cooking the entire meal on the BBQ. I’d say they were pretty good about the whole situation. It was a rental house, and no one had previewed the space prior to us getting there. So, looking back it was funny, but now I have a detailed check list that I use with every event and every client to make sure we cover all the bases.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
It wasn’t one individual, but a host of individuals teaching little things along the way. It was being open to learning something new from everyone who made incredible food.
You can learn new ways to do things from the top chefs in the world down to someone who is self-taught.
I think if you allow yourself to learn from others and have open eyes, then it puts you in a position to be a better chef.
I’ve taken courses in Italy, Thailand, Mexico, France, and cooked with local chefs which has made a huge impact on my journey. Learning the local ways of doing things from chefs and being open to new cooking techniques has had a greater impact on myself than just one individual mentor. So I say, be open and available to learn regardless of how good a chef you think you are and you will reap the benefits.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
All industries have tradition and legacies born out of tradition. Staying true to an industry tradition or manner of doing things can be good for building a solid foundation within that industry. However, without some form of disruptive change, the industry can’t grow or change with the times. All industries need to stay innovative, creative, and motivated in order to keep producing incredible products that consumers desire. Keeping food traditional to its region and taste is a good thing and consumers desire that tradition; however, there are some incredible chefs doing untraditional things with food. Fusion cuisine is all the rave worldwide and without someone stepping out of industry tradition, we wouldn’t have these incredible food choices. It takes risk and change in order to grow and that’s a positive disruption to an industry.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
As it relates to my industry the best words of advice I have been given are
- Preparations is half the battle: Spend the time to make sure you are 100% prepared for an event. Every detail needs to be checked off and accounted for prior to leaving the house. I have learned the hard way many times by cutting corners and the result has been horrible. The event doesn’t go smoothly, the stress level increases, and people can tell.
- Buy the best quality ingredients and don’t skimp on food. There is nothing worse than cutting corners to save a dime and producing subpar food. Buy high-end quality products and take the time to make incredible food.
- Have fun doing the little things and even the hard things because a great attitude is contagious, and everyone loves being around happy people. The events go smoothly, people are more engaging and its good for business. So be happy Y’all and smile.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I’m just getting started. Businesswise, we are starting to make a solid comeback from COVID and the goal is to keep expanding, creating and making solid connections within the industry. I am working with a company now trying to get a cooking show off the ground. We shot the first pilot episode and it’s being edited now. Hopefully someone will be interested in the concept and jump on board. I’m also interested in trying to get a few of my signature products to market so everyone can enjoy how amazing they are to use.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I think we have so many amazing talented women in all industries that are creating change, producing incredible products and are leading teams of people towards success. However, those changes don’t come easy because disrupting the normal tends to cause others to become uncomfortable. I think women must prepare for an uphill battle to show others that they are to be taken seriously and what we are doing is equal to our male counterparts. We are strong, independent, intelligent forces to be reckoned with and we want the same level playing field in equality. The challenges will continue to exist for women, but we have to remain resilient, creative and stay the course in order to be positive disruptors within our industries.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
There’s not any particular book or podcast that has a deep impact on my thinking, but it’s watching other chefs locally, internationally cook and create incredible meals. It’s me dining out and ordering half the menu just so I can see how chefs are preparing things, it’s having open eyes to what’s being produced and what is changing the landscape of food. I then get inspired to replicate or try new things and that’s a good thing to step out of my comfort zone and learn new things. We recently went to Mexico, and I took a private lesson with a chef to learn how he made different versions of ceviche. I learned several new ways to do the ordinary. It’s these things that have an impact upon me. And yes, I watch the cooking shows and have even ordered a few of Gordan Ramsay’s online video. I found them to be amazing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be for families, friends, or even complete strangers to make one meal together and sit and enjoy the fruits of their labor without cell phones, television or other distractions. Take the time to get into the kitchen together, chop the food, read a recipe, combine the ingredients and plate it. Sit down, enjoy conversation, the food, and allow the worlds distractions to be put on pause. Food brings people together and allows each other to enjoy conversation. Food breaks down barriers regardless of political, social, economic, religious or ethnic barriers. Breaking bread and enjoying a meal with others simply slows down life and allows peace to occur for a moment in time. I say cook a meal together and it changes people and brings you closer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
I love this quote and it has resonated with me ever since I read it. Life takes time to understand, and every day we are learning and experiencing the joys, the hardships and the change. Thus, be good to yourself and don’t be so hard on the things you can’t control. Everyone wants instant gratification, but life takes time and it’s the everyday process and lessons which are the real joy of living.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.