Foodie meets demand, pursues lifelong love with culinary career

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Chef Lucia Robles says she prefers the client interaction of catering to the restrictions of working in restaurant kitchens.

By Rachael Rifkin
Staff Writer

Food has always played a role in shaping Lucia Robles’s life. Her catering business Lucia and Company emerged as a culmination of her lifelong love affair with the culinary arts.
In Robles’s family, everything revolved around food. She began cooking at the age of two.
“As soon as I was old enough to stand up on a chair and stir something on the stove, I was cooking. My mom wanted me to feel included, and my dad always wanted to try out new and creative things in the kitchen,” said Robles. “Great food has always been important to us. It has a way of bringing people together.”
Following a stream of food-related jobs– including stints at Mrs. Fields and a grocery company– she decided to pursue her dream career. She graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts– Le Cordon Bleu Program in Pasadena with aspirations to become a pastry chef.
After graduation, Robles worked for restaurants and hotels. As a hobby, she began selling coffees, teas and layered dry cookie mixes at farmers markets. In 2004, she founded Lucia and Company.
“After a while, I decided to expand. I didn’t just want to be known as the coffee or tea lady because I do more than that. Then people started to hear that I was a chef and would ask me if I catered. So I started catering,” she said.
Robles enjoyed writing her own menus and working closely with customers. Eventually, she made the switch to full-time catering.
“I have a good time with it. I like cooking for large groups of people. I get to interact with the clients a lot more than I did when I was working at restaurants. Interacting with people is part of the reward for me because I’m a people person,” said Robles.
Lucia and Company specializes in simple, fresh food made from local ingredients. Her dishes are often influenced by the Spanish and Andorran cuisine she fell in love with while traveling there some years back. Robles likes coming up with new recipes and menu ideas and is currently working in partnership with Bravo television network’s Top Chef Season One contestant Brian Hill.
Above all, she listens to her customers, often incorporating their suggestions and feedback into the business.
“I truly love cooking for other people. It’s important to me that my customers enjoy the food I make as much as I enjoy cooking it for them,” said Robles.
Lucia and Company offers customized gourmet catering, private chef and beverage services. Premium coffee, tea and tumblers with infusers are also available for purchase and can be found online at her website www.luciaandcompany.com. Robles is one of the featured chefs in Chefs’ Specials of California: Signature Dishes and Favorite Recipes from Celebrated Chefs and Restaurants cookbook. She recently appeared with Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio in a Diet Coke commercial. For more information on Lucia and Company, call (562) 397-4249.

Cilantro Citrus Catfish
(courtesy of Chef Lucia of Lucia and Company)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 13 minutes
Serves 3 or 4

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You will need:
1 small cast-iron skillet
Chef’s knife
Chopping board
1 large bowl
1 platter or large plate to season fish

Ingredients:
1 pound catfish fillets
½ grapefruit
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp of finely chopped fresh ginger
6 tbsp butter or 6 pats of butter in addition to butter for sautéing
1 orange cut into segments and then into bite-size pieces
4 pineapple rings cut into bite size pieces, reserving the juice from the can
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 cup finely chopped red onion
1 celery rib chopped finely

For the Cilantro Citrus Relish
1. In a large bowl, mix the orange, pineapple, cilantro, onion and celery together
2. Set aside.

For the Fish
1. Rinse fish with cold water. Place the fish on a large platter or plate and squeeze the juice of the grapefruit over all the fillets.
2. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
3. Sauté the ginger in cast-iron skillet with butter. Then add in the fish and continue to sauté with the ginger and butter– you may need to add a little butter to continue the sauté. Don’t forget to also add in all the good stuff left behind on the platter the fish was just on.
4. Add in ½ cup of the pineapple juice and top the fillets with two pieces of butter each.
5. Finish in the oven for 13 minutes at 350 degrees F.
6. Remove from the oven.
7. Serve with some of the cooking juices, and with a generous spoonful of the relish on top.
8. Enjoy!

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