Naomi and the two strings
Addiction, Ink and the BOH w chef Naomi Kubo
Sitting in one of my favorite caffeine joints, I met up w chef Naomi Kubo of Juniper and Ivy. She is one a few chefs I know that has more ink than I do. So, I know we are about to have a great conversation over cigarettes and coffee.
How did you get involved with food?
“So my mom has a sea urchin processing plant in Ensenada. And my older brother has a business in LA doing distributing fish to local restaurants. I helped doing deliveries to all the restaurants in LA like Roy’s and sushi restaurants. We would start our day at 4AM every day going to all the fish markets in LA and then after that we would drive to San Diego. While down here he would help his friends sushi restaurant in Solana Beach and I would also help out. And after while I ended up staying down here to work at the sushi restaurant doing all the prep work. So that’s how I got involved in doing sushi and did it for 10 and 1/2 years. After that I moved into Roy’s doing sushi and that lasted about 4 and 1/2 years before coming to Juniper and Ivy.”
I know in your past you struggle with addiction. Can we talk about that and how it shaped you as a person?
“Ya I don’t mind. I think I started using when I was about 13 years old. I first started using ecstasy a lot. I didn’t have a lot of guidance because my mom worked in another country. My two older brothers weren't around a lot and my sister was very into school activities. So I kinda wanted to belong to a group so I started into meth. I fucked around a lot with friends, went to parties. Eventually my little sister found some of my stuff and called my mom. My mom came straight up from Mexico, gave me a good beating and put me into rehab, which lasted 18 months. It was a narly experience but I have been drug free for almost 15 years now! I ended up working for that program for a couple years before I started helping my brothers company. In a way that experience has helped me in the kitchen as far as my relationships go. There is a reason why my nickname is “homie”. I want to do whatever I can to help others succeed, so I think there definitely is a team focus at J&I.
How has your experiences been while working with Richard Blais and the team at Juniper and Ivy?
“It’s been awesome. Unfortunately his isn't there a lot but when he is there he definitely is getting involved and teaching. I've been at Juniper since day 1 and almost 3 years now. It’s definitely been a great experience”.
What are your thoughts about being a female chef in a typically dominated male industry?
“I dont have a problem with it. It kind of takes me back to my sushi times at Roy’s because the sushi world is male dominated. So it’s time, we need (females) put ourselves out there because we are just as capable as guys. And this also has been kind of my motivation too.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
“Probably street wear clothing, fashion. I’ve always been intrigued in that since I was a kid”.
What inspires you?
“Defintely the people I work with. I admire them and getting to know where they came from inspires me to get better every day and work harder. My mother inspires me. As a single mother, foreigner in Mexico she has done so well.”
And finally, What would your last dish be if you could have anything?
“Spaghetti! I love spaghetti”
With the last name Kubo, I am reminded of a quote from the animated movie with the same name Kubo: “If you must blink, do it now”. Which is somewhat ironic since I do not see this her blinking anytime soon. She has come very far and is just reaching her full potential. Cheers to you “Homie”.