An interview & Farewell with Chef Paula
Emily: Hi, Paula.
Emily: Thank you for joining me.
Paula: You're welcome.
Emily:So today is your last day…
Paula: No, it’s next Friday
Emily: Oh that’s amazing. I was not emotionally prepared for it to be today. I'm very happy to hear that. Okay. That's great news for me, professionally, personally…
Emily: Haha, yes. Amazing. Okay, so off to a great start.
Emily: What is your first Luke's memory that you can think of? When you think of like, first joining the company, what's your first Luke's Local memory?
Paula: The first memory I have is coming in to stage. It was on my birthday, and–
Emily: What a gift!
Paula: What a gift it was, I should have known right then and there that I was going to be here forever…or not forever you know, seven years..
Emily: Seven years is the new forever.
Paula: Yes. Um, so that, that, was the first thing that happened for me with Luke’s.. And then right when I started, I was thrown into Thanksgiving. So that was special.
Emily: Oh yes, that makes sense. Because you’re a Libra! So your birthday is at the end of October, and yep, that’s the ramp up into turkey madness.
Paula: Correct. And we didn’t even do split turkeys the way we do now, you know? We did whole turkeys then. So they were big and heavy and just everywhere..
Emily: And you came in as the lead butcher, right? So you must've been fully in charge of butchering and cooking all those birds.
Paula: Yep. But I did not have a lot of butcher experience. I just kind of walked in and learned a lot on the job, along the way.
Emily: Gosh yeah I can imagine you would learn a lot starting a job during that time, our busiest time,
Paula: It certainly felt like being thrown into the deep end for sure. But it definitely set me up well, I’ve found that whenever people start on Thanksgiving, they do well here. Because everything afterwards is a lot easier.
Emily: Got it. That makes sense.
Emily: Okay, so you mentioned, you know, handling those turkeys as like a big thing that stands out…. what are some other things that you did while you were here in terms of food specifically that are favorites of yours or that you really loved?
I'm guessing kimchi will be one of them…
Paula: So I am really proud of all the deli meats. The recipes for the deli meats that I made back in the day when we had a smaller scale and I could play around with like, pastrami recipes and the roast beef and the bacon and the ham that we used to make.
Paula: So that was all really fun. I got to experiment a lot and was very happy with the end result after all of that experimenting… kimchi is another thing. After I got back from my trip from Korea, I had tasted all the kimchi out there. I was just like, you know what? I think I can do this.
Paula: ‘Cause I was always a little intimidated by the whole process, especially having a Korean mom. And she's always got something to say about my kimchi. But I did get a stamp of approval eventually. Eventually. So that was very gratifying.
Emily: Love the kimchi so much. Ok, so moving along. Um, do you have any other standout Luke's memories, like maybe related more to the people, not necessarily like products or food that you made?
Paula: Well, I just think of all the people that I worked with for a long time, like Kayleigh and Luke, obviously. Patricia and Antonio and Sam and Dustin in the kitchen. The team who has been here since before the Cole Valley store opened.
Emily: The old timers!
Paula: Yes exactly, the old timers. The seniors.
Emily: What’s your most embarrassing Luke’s moment?
Paula: Uh, my most embarrassing moment, yes. My most embarrassing moment came this Thanksgiving.
Paula: I was rolling five deep lexans of bread and three of them toppled over onto the floor. There was torn bread everywhere. Sam helped me shovel them off the ground. I think he blocked the whole thing out.
Emily: Okay final question – what’s something you’ve learned during your time here at Luke’s?
Paula: Well, I've learned a lot. You have to constantly be learning in a small business like this. You have to wear a lot of hats. You have to be ready to jump all over, from the kitchen to driving meal kits and going to the deli and occasionally working the register. It’s deeply gratifying.
Emily: Yeah, that’s really sweet. And I lied, actually, I do have one more question. What are you most looking forward to, that is coming up? What are you most looking forward to about the future?
Paula: Well, I think just going back to the East Coast and being close to family and having that support system around is going to be really great. And just, you know, ideas of things that I want to do in Virginia, using all of my experience from San Francisco and New York and bringing it back home. The possibility with that is very exciting.
Emily: So we haven't seen the last of Chef Paula!
Paula: No, certainly not.
Emily: Great. Well, I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I can't wait to see what's to come for you. Thanks Paula!
Paula: Thank you!