Eat the rainbow
You are a Leucadia local. What are some of your favorite things about our hometown?
Leucadia will always be my home. I have so many memories of my mom and me walking through our neighborhood and stuffing our bags with oranges, lemons, and macadamia nut pods. Before it started getting highly built out, my mom's favorite part of this town was the number of flower farms and dirt roads. I love the secret walkways and all the tropical plants, the nurseries, and the closeness of it all.
A backyard dinner party in Maya's Leucadia home
Tell us about your professional and educational journey to get where you are?
I recently graduated from UCSD in their new Climate Change and Human Solutions program. The program focuses on Climate Justice and the social implications of climate change. I loved this program for teaching me the intersections of how class, economy, race, and gender are affected by climate change. Climate change has many contributors, but I quickly became passionate about food systems and industrial agriculture. This led me to live and work on farms, start a non-profit with friends around creating access to local produce, and the desire to become a chef.
A few of Maya's dishes from past dinner events
You just started culinary school. Tell us about how you decided to embark on this journey?
Working and living on a farm made me fall in love with cooking. After watching others cook simple papaya salads, pasta, and bread, I learned how to make family meals for farm staff. Cooking gave me a new language to say, "I love you." Since then, I've been religiously hosting dinner parties, working under various chefs, and finally committed to culinary school to refine my skills and become proficient in the language of food.
Some of Maya's insanely gorgeous table set ups
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability, to me, is about deconstructing the insatiable, capitalistic appetite for more. Sustainability ensures a state of abundance and resourcefulness where we can use what we already have and no longer need to consume obsessively but rather can embody non-monetary desires such as rest, community building, and supporting others.
Combining sustainability with art through food
Favorite restaurants and places in San Diego area to visit?
I have so many, but my favorites are Mabels Gone Fishing for dinner and brunch, Vino Carta's Chef Pop-ups, the Wise Ox for lunch, Juan Jasper for dinner and wine, and Secret Sister for breakfast.
From Maya's 4/20 Backyard Dinner Event
You are passionate about natural wine, where does this passion originate and can you point us in the direction of your favorite local wine shops?
Similarly to cooking, my background and roots will always be in supporting local farmers who regenerate the land. I was never big on alcohol, but natural wine became a passion when I learned about the unethical mass production of wine in the United States. The U.S. allows over 60 additives in wine, and winemakers aren't legally obligated to disclose whether they've used them. I was captivated by this counter-culture of supporting small-scale vineyards and producers who make wine traditionally and honorably. The bond between food and wine is inseparable, and for me, there was no way I could be this passionate about food without including its other half.
We were speaking recently about social justice in agriculture and food service. Can you give us a few of your observations of being a Brown woman in the food industry?
I'm so glad you asked this question. Most food and farm workers are people of color, and usually, white people benefit from this fine dining culture and "farm to table" movement. I think about the racial divide between cooks and guests often. I'm personally trying to see how I can make my food and events accessible for everyone while still honoring farmers, my staff, myself, etc., because the truth is that everyone deserves delicious, fresh food and to experience the joy of gathering.
Maya wearing the Agata Romper
Top resources for food issues in social justice?
A Growing Culture, The New Farmer's Almanac, and Civil Eats are great resources.
Current sustainable favorites from the shop?
I love so many things from Thread Spun: KYP handmade linen robes, Thinking Mu clothing, anything from Virginia Sin, and Curious Clay mugs are my favorite!
Top 5 favorite songs at the moment?
Ooo, it's hard to narrow down to songs, but I will do my favorite artists now: Nai Palm, Cleo Sol, Yaya Bey, and Alabaster DePlume.