The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Mano Lujan
owner of Red House BBQ and The Shed restaurants 

Love of my craft


Food and its preparation, is something that I hold very dear and the love of my craft, well; it pumps through me like the lifeblood of my soul. I have a deep respect for my profession. Food plays such an important role in our lives and in our culture. In fact, food is how most of us get introduced to different cultures and it is almost always the single common trait that we share when we meet new people that we want to introduce to our family. I have been very fortunate to travel a lot and I was always amazed that people who didn’t know me or didn’t speak the same language as me, would welcome me into their home and feed me with excitement and pride. Food is so much more than just that burger in your hand. It is an extension of us, our families and our lives.

I went to a Japanese culinary school and one thing that I really took away from my training was to always remain a student. As a chef, I push to obtain that which I cannot, perfection. Let’s take a look at the word “chef”. It simply means “chief” or the leader of the kitchen. As the leader, the chef not only is responsible for the recipes, but it is common for the chef to also handle ordering, scheduling, training, and any other duty needed to successfully run the kitchen. All this while making sure the kitchen staff completes their tasks efficiently and overseeing/preparing all the food that leaves the pass. It can be daunting to say the least. And, it doesn’t matter if that person is running the kitchen of a burger stand or a fine dining establishment, they are the chef.

I really get no better feeling than watching a room full of people laughing and enjoying themselves, all while eating my food. It is the fruit of my labor. My hopes and dreams actually are in every bite. It is in no way a one-man show, though. My staff makes me look so much better than what I am. They are the shoulders that hoist me up and without them I would crash to the ground.

I have no time nor respect for those that bastardize or fake my craft though. It irritates me to no end to go out to eat only to have someone place a plate of frozen commercial crap in front of me and then have the nerve to look at me and say “enjoy”. “Enjoy what?” The fact that I have to pay for food that I could have bought in the frozen food section of any market in the U.S. It is unfortunate that we have many so called “ding” chefs (the sound the microwave makes when your frozen food is done) out there. I love what I do and I am passionate and protective of it. Many times people think I am arrogant or a so called “Food Nazi”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am focused and passionate. I am scared to death and driven. I am moving fast and stumbling. I am always questioning and I’m assertive. I am all these things all at once when I’m running my kitchen.

I have watched the culinary scene in Tehachapi develop so much in the last few years. I am happy and excited by what the future holds. There are a bunch of places in this town that are doing it right. I can’t believe how many people think there aren’t enough restaurants in Tehachapi. I have never seen such a small town with so many places to eat. You could go over a month of eating out nightly and never eat at the same place twice. This is a fact. We have so much diversity too. Japanese, Mexican, American BBQ, Chinese, Thai, Burgers, Pizza, Italian, Mediterranean, Latin Fusion, German, Steak House, Vietnamese, Fast Food, American Café and probably more that I am leaving out!

I am sorry if this article was a bit sporadic or if it seemed jumbled. It is how I get when I start talking about my passion.


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