Chef Judy 1If it’s anyone who understands how to balance the dueling demands of convenience and quality — a shared concern of both parents and chefs — it’s Judy Han. The Executive Chef of Mendocino Farms develops the ever-growing L.A. restaurant group’s menu of seasonal sandwiches and other multiculti, California-inflected lunch specialties. Mother to a nine year-old daughter and five year-old son, the Chicago native, Northwestern grad, and self-described “law school dropout” traded one potentially stressful, rewarding career for another. Her current position and schedule are intense, but she makes it all work, and Chef Judy is also super fun to talk to.

Why is working in the fast casual restaurant world a good fit for you?   

At the time [when I started], we only had 300 South Grand, and we were only open for four hours. [Owner] Mario [Del Pero] was doing breakfast catering, so I started my days 4:00 a.m. I did production and started the kitchen, and I stayed until after we closed our doors at 3:00, so from 3 to 5:00 I did more production for the next day. I did all the cooking at the store. With that said, I got all my weekends off, and all my holidays off, because we were on Bunker Hill and there’s no business during the holidays. I could take Christmas off, and have extended weekdays. Things like that are worth the trade off.

Although now I work evenings and weekends as well, because we’ve grown into a seven-day, lunch and dinner concept. It wasn’t what it was when I first started. It’s a different thing now. The role has changed.

How did you get started?

Suzanne’s [Goin's Lucques] was my first restaurant. I had actually met her through a chef friend of mine, who had met her in Aspen. At the time she wasn’t taking any interns, because it’s an investment to take on an intern, but somehow he convinced her to take me on. I was on the line at Lucques for about a year and a half. I dabbled a bit at other restaurants to see what style fit my style. I spent some time at Sona, which was really great. Then I landed at Literati II, and did that for another year and a half.

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