From an early age, chef Kim Floresca has been fascinated by the shows on the Food Network. As a child she pretended to whip up a “gourmet” cake for her imaginary audience, as she narrated each step to the make-believe cameras in her kitchen.
Floresca is a sous-chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, which has earned three Michelin stars. She completed her culinary program at American River College in the fall 2002. Her résumé is impressive; with two years spent at Per Se, one of the top restaurants in New York City and a year-and-a- half at an award winning restaurant in Chicago, Tru. However, her seven-month apprenticeship in Spain, at the restaurant elBulli, granted her the opportunity to work alongside some of the best chefs in the industry.
“The expectations at a restaurant like elBulli are enormously high,” Chris Macias, a Sacramento Bee reporter who interviewed Floresca as well, said. “And again (it) speaks to Kim’s work ethic and the solid foundation of culinary skills that she received at ARC.”
Floresca’s accomplishments, as well as many others including Chef Ferran Adrià, are documented in a book titled “The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli” by Lisa Abend. The book gives a detailed account of the time and dedication needed to make a restaurant, such as elBulli, rank number one in the world. According to Abend, many of the chefs respected Floresca immensely, likening her work ability to a machine.
“It was like fulfilling a dream to know that there are places out there that exist like this,” Floresca said.
Spain is not the only country Floresca has called home; she lived in Germany as a young child and has lived throughout the United States. She comes from a military family and her parents met in a military base hospital. Her mother had been working as a nurse in the hospital and her father worked with computers in the U.S. Air Force. No one in her family has ever been particularly interested in food the way Floresca has.
Although she intended to sign up for the military after high school, Floresca changed her mind after the family moved to Grass Valley, Calif.
“When I realized I could eat and travel at the same time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Floresca said. “Why would I want to do anything else?”
She graduated Wheatland High School and eventually signed up for classes at a culinary school at Golden State University in Roseville. During her summer break from school, she took an externship in Florida at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. During this time, Floresca received news that her culinary school had shut down because of financial issues. She needed to attend another school before she lost her credits and that’s when she found the culinary program at ARC.
After completing the program, Floresca “wanted out” of California. She earned an externship at the Broadmoor restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she met her boyfriend Daniel Ryan. Floresca had never known anyone who felt the way she felt about food before and their relationship soon progressed. Later, both of them would be accepted to the apprenticeship program at elBulli, where they would spend seven months together in Spain.
When the apprenticeship had been completed, they decided to set their sights on acquiring jobs in the same city. Luckily, they both found jobs within the same proximity. Floresca accepted a job at Meadowood and Ryan settled in at the French Laundry hotel; both of which are in Napa Valley.
Floresca has worked at Meadowood for about two years and said the hardest part of her job is not the 15-hours-a-day-six-days-a-week schedule, but the fact that she has to yell at people. “Especially for a woman, it’s kind of hard. But I gain respect from all of the people that I work with over time,” she said.
Floresca’s advice for aspiring culinary students is to have the passion and drive to do the job every single day and not to go into the industry hoping to become rich and famous. She sees the industry as a catch-22; there aren’t many days off and the job requires an extreme amount of dedication, but at the end of the day she’s happy with her career choice.
“In the end it’s just food to you, but for us it’s our life, our passion,” she said. “It’s what we do. It’s what we think about, dream about, study and eat.”
Above all else, Floresca hasn’t let her résumé sway her personality or influence her food choices. “My favorite food is still mashed potatoes and pickles,” she said. For the past ten years she has worked at some of the best restaurants in the world, but still accredits her schooling for giving her the passion and drive to become more.
“The school will offer you the foundation, but it’s about what you put into it.” She became very serious and said, “It’s not about whether you come from a community college; it’s all about perseverance.”