Clare Molla

Location: Sausalito, CA
Current job(s): Private Estate Culinary Director / Marketing Consultant, Cibo / Demo Chef for Fisher & Paykel
Years in the industry: 5 years
Notable awards / employers: San Francisco Chronicle Test Kitchen, assistant to Michael Bauer, Official team member of Team Tilt 2013 Redbull Youth America’s Cup

Tell us how you knew you wanted to become a chef?
I knew at age 12 that I wanted to be a chef because being in the kitchen or at the BBQ knowing you get to say “Yes I made that” when people look at you with twinkling eyes and total gratitude. Every time this happened it made me feel alive and valued in a way that remains unmatched today. It was a very long time later that I finally listened to my heart and pursued a career in culinary arts.

What is your inspiration and motivation in your day-to-day routine?
My community of Marin County is what inspires me daily. The people, natural open spaces, and having first pick of locally produced delicacies, and access to the bounty of premium organic ingredients available year around at our farmers markets is any chef’s dream. With a constant supply of premium seasonal harvests and a rich culture influenced by art, music, and food from all over the world the entire Bay Area is my classroom. San Francisco, less than 10 miles from me, is home to one of the world’s most talented technology communities who have influenced my culinary expression, entrepreneurship, and relationship to technology in formative ways. Being centrally located in Sausalito has been ideal for me to have easy access to the wealth of iconic landmarks, natural landscapes, beautiful weather, and inspiring restaurants. On the surface, my motivation on a daily basis comes from many visual and interpersonal experiences. The root of my inspiration stems from gratitude for the countless privileges I enjoy, starting with simply being able to do exactly what I love most, making food people want to eat. Living in such a beautiful place motivates me to make the most of every opportunity I’m afforded here.

What is the most difficult part of your day as a chef?
To be honest I don’t have much I can call difficult about my job or life as a culinary artist and chef. At times I feel embarrassed to admit publicly how much fun I get to have while receiving wages. However something that is very important to me is helping people make nutritional and delicious meals at home. When I read shocking food headlines and see people eating foods made without love and little or no nutritional value it hurts me as a chef. Wellness, and philanthropy are close to my heart. Marin County has invited me to hold workshops and lectures at local community centers this summer on effective shopping and cooking for busy professionals, young adults, and multi-diet families.

What is your most unusual source of inspiration for cooking?
I get inspired by “food resurrection” opportunities. I really enjoy helping people reintroduce nutritious and wonderful fruits and vegetables previously banished from their diets. This situation doesn’t happen very often, but the first time was with a client contracting me to help recreate his favorite meals without the ingredients appropriately banned or drastically limited by his doctor such as white rice, potatoes, salt, oil and sugar. His doctor wanted him eating more berries, but on our first appointment he explained his extreme distaste for all berries of any kind in any presentation or cooking method. This information left me dumbfounded and fascinated. I had genuine infatuation with his hatred for one of my favorite delicacies. I relentlessly asked friendly questions about his food experiences and his disdain for berries until finally the real reason surfaced. As a young man he was the least popular lifeguard in his division and as a result he often had to pull his sandwiches out of the sand and dust them off in vain before eating them for lunch. This information inspired me to make juice out of the berries to remove the seeds which casued the texture he found unappetizing. With no seeds he was willing to try berries again after I turned them into a fat free and sugar free buttermilk sherbet. Seedless berries remain a staple in his diet today and his culinary discovery shaped my perspective on food and eating in a profound way.
When someone tells me they “hate” a food I always ask them, what the food “did to them” because it’s almost never the food’s fault, in my opinion. The primary reason people “hate” a particular food usually comes down to texture more than flavor. Texture is something that can be easily changed and manipulated with proper technique. I’m not exactly on a crusade to get people eating foods they don’t like. It’s just a really great feeling to shorten people’s lists of “exiled foods”. Usually it boils down to giving people a new technique that changes their entire expectation for that ingredient. I like helping people see past the food and into the emotional attachments/resentments they have towards specific foods. Once they start focusing more on quality selection, preparation, seasoning, cooking technique, and presentation of each meal, ingredients take on a new life for people. New possibilities are created and hopefully life long wonderful kitchen experiences set into motion.

In your opinion, name the world’s best culinary place to learn and experience.
I would dare to say my community is one of the world’s best places to learn and experience every facet of our food supply chain, processing systems, and culinary art. We have a rich farming community supplying us year around with fresh seasonal ingredients, wine country is less than an hour away and backyard to some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants. The opportunities are endless in the Bay Area for food related professions. The tech community appreciates great food and supports many food entrepreneurs. If a chef wants to learn more about food manufacturing processes the Bay Area is a mecca of artisan small batch food manufacturers. Entrepreneurial and education opportunities are endless with even a Master Sommelier and the Wine School of San Francisco offering classes to the public. I’m sure many places in the world are ideal to learn and experience cuisine, but I feel very lucky to call northern California my learning grounds.

Is there anything you refuse to eat or anything you only eat if you cook it yourself?
I refuse to eat bologna because the smell evokes long unhappy car rides as a child. I avoid GMO foods, and strive to eat only organic products. I will only eat waffles I have cooked myself because I expect a lot out of a waffle and don’t enjoy complaining.

If you could change one thing about the food industry, what would it be?
I would change the culture that allows the constant waste of edible foods.

What is on your kitchen tool / machinery wish list?
I would like a dehydrator and a lots of time to geek out with it during harvest season with my favorite crops like stone fruits, persimmons, tomatoes, and berries, to name just a few.

If you could give every home cook one technique, skill, or piece of advice to create more delicious meals, what would it be?
I would give every home cook great knife skills. In my opinion, poor knife skills hold people back the most in the kitchen because they get tired after it takes so long to prep the raw foods before cooking them. My advice to all cooks is: trust your instincts, don’t be afraid to fail, be present in mind and body in the kitchen, use all five senses, ask for help, share your successes, clean as you go, and make food you really want to eat!

What are some local famers & purveyors in your area that you recommend?
Pork: Prather Ranch
Beef: Estancia
Chicken and Eggs: Mary’s Chicken
Milk and Cream: Organic Pastures
Coffee: Cibo Sausalito

If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
I would tell myself to take every possible opportunity to work in open kitchens owned and operated by chefs. They have a very unique and particular culture I think new chefs learn the most in.

What are some of your favorite food driven print/web publications?
Bohemian,  Luck Peach Magazine, America’s Test KitchenPBS Food BlogNPR The Salt, What’s on your plate?, Edible MarinHipster Food KitchenNadia G, Bitchin KitchenGMO Free USA

What is your culinary career “best case scenario”?
America’s Test Kitchen invites me to work with them.

Name one chef we should be on the lookout for in the future.
Benjamin Balesteri, Executive Chef of Poggio, Sausalito, CA

How did you find Chef’s Roll and what urged you to join?
Chef’s Roll co-founder Thomas Keslinke reached out on Linkedin and invited me to join before I even understood how much technology can influence a chef’s career. I checked out the platform and enjoyed answering the thoughtful questions about how I chose my career and how I got where I am today. It was the first time I ever sat down and really even thought about my own story as a new chef. I had an epiphany after the process. I realized looking back on what influenced me to become a chef helped me see more clearly what I wanted to accomplish as a chef.

Since joining Chef’s Roll new and exciting opportunities have been possible in my career because of the exposure. Chef’s Roll is creating a new online community of chefs all over the world. The new community is a huge source of inspiration and encouragement  and it has empowered me to think outside the standard career paths of restaurant chef, caterer, or personal chef and blaze my own trail in this competitive industry.

Chefs Roll is revolutionizing my industry by creating brand new new opportunities and giving us a platform to share their unique and personal stories with each other and the world. Before Chef’s Roll I used to own a website to promote my work because other business platforms don’t give room to describe what a chef does. Chef’s Roll has a fresh looking layout with intuitive user-friendly features and lots of room for videos and pictures. The Chef’s Roll team work around the clock and dedicate their careers to creating new opportunities for chefs. They put everything on the line for us behind the scenes and have amazing vision for future generations of chefs. I am so honored to be associated with Chef’s Roll and thankful for what they are doing for my industry worldwide.

Learn more about Chef Clare on her Chef’s Roll profile.

Photograph by Elena Kulikova

Are you a food photographer, writer, chef, or other culinary professional? Join our global culinary community today.