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Conversations with Amara Enciso

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amara Enciso.   

Hi Amara, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
My name is Amara Enciso, I am the chef and owner of Brava Food. I was born in San Diego, CA, and was raised in Escondido, CA. I attended the Culinary Arts ROP program through Palomar College in 2010. After completing my studies there, I worked around the San Diego area in front of house and back of house positions.  

I moved to Juneau Alaska in the Spring of 2017, my fiancé Wes Young and I packed up our lives into a small VW GTI and drove from San Diego to Skagway Alaska then took a 7-hour ferry ride with our vehicle to Juneau. When I arrived to Juneau, I worked for SALT restaurant. After a year of employment, I decided to start my own private chef business, Brava Food. I self-funded my business by bartending at the infamous Alaskan Hotel and Bar for the first three years I started up.  

I specialize in luxury personal chef services for intimate and large groups as well as teach cooking demos and classes. I am exclusively partnered with Juneau’s top Luxury Bed and Breakfast, The Jorgenson House. The Jorgenson House’s proprietor, Renda Heimbigner, has curated a luxurious world-class experience for all of the guests, and am proud to be her executive chef. I have been extremely fortunate to meet, cook for and work with some incredible teams and chefs that have traveled through Juneau. We have hosted Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri, Oprah, and the Top Chef show to name a few.  

I spend my summers preparing wild game and seafood, as well as foraged vegetables and fungi. In addition to preparing meals, my hobbies I love most are fishing, gardening, and foraging. During the winter months I snowbird in San Diego and offer my services in San Diego County. While snowboarding in San Diego, I have access to wild line-caught Salmon and other fish native to southeast Alaska via my partnership with Shoreline Wild Salmon, who are based out of Pelican, Alaska. I am able to offer this incredible product to my clients in San Diego County.  

Like many others, I have worked tirelessly to achieve my dream of being a business owner, and am proud that a Latina San Diegan like myself was able to come to the last frontier and overcome numerous obstacles and make it in the culinary scene. This was all made possible not only by my hard work but the support from the countless members of the community, my fiancé Wes Young and my family that have all supported my passion.  

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The most difficult challenge that I have faced has been starting up a business and self-funding my dream. In order to avoid loans, I took up bartending at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar in Juneau Alaska, and worked nights in order for me to purchase ingredients and fund my private chef business.  

In addition to being self-funded, it was also extremely difficult to move from San Diego where my entire family is, and moving to the last frontier and immersing myself into a new community and new aspect of American culture, Alaska is different world.  

Owning a business and working in both Alaska and California has its challenges as well. I am called up and flown to Juneau during the winter months to cook for very important clients. The winters in Juneau are challenging due to the extreme weather and lack of sunlight.  

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a private chef; I specialize in cooking Wild Seafood and Game meat. I am known for having intricate, bold, and flavorful dishes which are influenced by my Mexican culture.  

I am most proud my ability to be resilient in an industry and location (Juneau, AK and San Diego, CA) that is very difficult to succeed in.  

I am known for the uniqueness of my dishes and the incorporation of my culture’s flavors to traditional recipes.  

I set myself apart from others in the industry by my life experience and the way I am able to connect with people I meet by my story and my food.  

What do you think about happiness?
Watching people enjoy my food fills me with the utmost happiness. When I cook, I source local ingredients and highlight them in my dishes, I am able to tell a story through one of the most beautiful sensory experiences, and tastes, and share that with everyone I cook for. Food is universal, everyone eats regardless of race/gender/ethnicity/religious background, etc. food is beautiful, nourishing can bring back nostalgic memories. The smells, textures, and tastes they all come together to exude happiness in people, as Julia Child said, ” People who love to eat are always the best people” which is something I truly believe. 

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Image Credits

Cheffy Thomas

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