Tag Archives: 2011

Julie & Robbie Frans | Environmental Chefs

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Julie & Robbie Frans | Environmental Chefs

I was photographing a Grand Opening Event for a local restaurant and in come many of the chefs I typically work with.  I was overjoyed to see familiar faces and by now the crowd was large and loud but I worked my way over to greet them with my camera in hand.  I was introduced to a new person,  Julie Frans.  We immediately hit it off and it was one of those occasions where you just bounce from one topic to another so quickly, while excited that you have so much to talk about to this person you just met.

We quickly discovered that we were both going to Hawaii in the next couple of weeks and it was shocking to realize we were going to the same Island of Oahu…. And the exact same dates… Get Out!  How can this be?   Well we immediately decided we would get together while we was there, they would prepare a meal, I’d photograph it along with family.   Oh and did I mention, Julie’s husband is a Chef too?

They have two adorable small kids, a boy John about 2 ½ and a little girl just a crawling age ….and her name is “Cassie”…

OMG, it just was amazing the things that continued to pop up in the conversation that made you think the universe sometimes does just bring people together for a reason, a season, or a lifetime…. We just never know.

Over the next few weeks, Julie and I corresponded to make sure we had all the information, dates and arrangements made before we left for our trip so it would go smoothly while we were all on vacation.   Early Thursday June morning, I left for the airport to catch a direct flight to Hawaii; my husband had gone earlier and was already on his way there.  I had dropped off the pups and now waiting patiently, relaxed with plenty of time to spare.  I hate travel, so feeling relaxed was a good thing, I was a bit worried about my gear cause I took lots since I had two working jobs there and the airlines are no longer the friendly skies of days gone by.   While I was rocking and playing with my ipad, I see a couple with two small kids … yep, it was Robbie & Julie with John and Cassie.   We were on the same flight.

Once in Hawaii, vacation started mixed in with some prior work commitments so while it’s a laid back tropical Island, we did keep a rather hectic pace.  I was out photographing early before sunrise each day and then I’d meet up with Marty for Breakfast somewhere.   Saturday was my photo shoot at the Frans home and we were going over for dinner and sunset.

It was a lovely drive to get there and on a part of the Island I had not yet been to.   They had such a lovely home with a fabulous view, Julie’s parents were there as well, along with other siblings, and it was a Wedding event that brought the whole family to the Island.

It was so fun to see two chefs work together while also managing little ones, a balancing act you could see they had managed to get under control quite well…of course the Grandparents were also there picking up any slack with the kids. Julie’s parents, Kathy & Jim were equally nice and fun to visit with.

I begin to learn more about how they met and backgrounds.  Robbie was super friendly, it was my first time meeting him and they were so hospitable.   Robbie was from Grand Rapids, Michigan and I had been to Mackinac Island and it was fun to chat about that cute place.   Robbie told us he went to school in Denver, Colorado… Well that’s where I had my USAF technical training, so we chatted about Denver, which I also dearly loved.

They made us drinks and we proceeded to get acquainted.  My senses were in overload!

There were views, beautiful family, adorable kids, and glorious foods being prepared…. And great stories being shared.  It was amazing!   We also learned we were at the Hawaii beautiful Farmers Market at exactly the same time that Sunday morning!

Robbie landed a job as a private Chef aboard a 110’ yacht for a US Ambassador.    He traveled all over the world with this family as well as studying foods throughout Europe, specializing in healthy, low fat but delicious tasting and gorgeous presentations.

He met Julie at the produce stand at Chino Farms.  He proposed to her with the diamond tied to a purple mustard green, if that doesn’t say “creative” wait till you see some of the foods!

Julie got her culinary education at UC Santa Barbara in 2000 and then worked as a private Chef traveling aboard private and charter yachts for several years.

She returned to San Diego, her hometown, in 2005 to realize her dream was providing luxury gourmet dining experience for people in their homes. She started her own business, Dining Details, a catering business that provides quality Chefs to homes and businesses throughout San Diego.

Clients can choose from Seasonal Menus and Dining Details provides the recipes so the guest can make their own meals later as well.    She also created newsletters and cooking clubs to teach the importance of organics, whole foods, healthy lifestyles and the business continues to grow and sprout up new services such as Chickpeas | Healthy Kid Food.

Chickpeas provides Mom Cooking classes, cooking for kids with allergies and baby food making to name a few.   Julie and Robbie work with local schools for school lunch catering and consulting services.   They have an on line ordering system so the parents can click and order special menus for each child.  They work with the parents for cooking demos for the kids and summer camp programs.     Julie has request for several book projects and so far she has not had the time to do them but has the ideas clicking in the back of her head.

With two small children and owning their own busy catering business, they rely heavily on family to help with the kids and juggle schedules.  Julie was back at work 4 days after Cassie was born.   She was telling me how sometimes it would break her heart to hear John cry and say “Mommy go work now” and they started to re-evaluate what they wanted and how they would go about getting that so that their new family life could become their priority and not take the back seat to the business daily demands.

Robbie will be returning to work as a private chef for a family in Miami that he worked for previously.   He will begin working with them late July early August and Julie will join him in October with the kids.  This will give them time to sell their home belonging, arrange for relocation housing in Miami and tidy up the business ends.   The 1750 square foot Dining Details rental kitchen in El Cajon, has been picked up by Chef Julie Darling of “Just Call Us – Catering, Volunteers and Kitchen Rentals”.   Julie Frans will continue to create recipes, write newsletters, develop her blog and start those books that she has so many requests for.

This change in their lifestyle will allow Julie to be Mommy first, continue in her school lunch programs and remain active in the food industry.  Since her family lives in San Diego, she will come back to visit frequently and keep the catering business and staff running thru their website on line business.  She can manage these activities from anywhere and she said little 2-year-old John said “Mommy stay home?… Yea!” and that brought such relief and a smile to her face to think she will have the opportunity to raise her own children, spending quality time with them while being able stay active and connected to her passion which is to participate in the local food movement and it’s impact on children.  She has many ideas on how she will follow that dream.

While I think this is such a wonderful thing and a very smart thing, I will surely miss my new friends.  We enjoyed them so very much and had a delightful visit in Hawaii.

I was fortunate and had both my parent with me on the farm 7×24, and I have fond memories when little knowing they were always there.  I guess I never really understood why have kids if  you just had someone else raise them and miss all those special moments? In a wink …then they are gone…  It really is the parent’s who are ultimately responsible for their own children I believe and the best way to do that is to spend quality time learning what it takes to be a parent to each little unique creatures you’ve created… Some say it’s the most prestegious job on the planet…a gift per se. I always admire people that cherish the position of parent,  teach them how to make and keep friends…but “Mom” “Dad” that’s a pretty special role if done right.. and it take wisdom, time, and unselfishness to sometimes be strong enough. Not an easy task but rewarding if early stages are firm and consistent… I always thought a good test to see if you could do it was raise a dog… with their short lifespan, you get to see the fruits of your labor.

I know on a much smaller scale with my Dobie’s, each one is so unique and different, I have to learn what works and what doesn’t with each personality and take the time and patience to develop the best qualities in them so they are pleasant to be around… so I think this is definitely “A Good Thing”!

I will miss you guys and will always remember fondly that beautiful Hawaii day.


Greek yogurt marinated lamb slowly roasted on the grill topped with an herbe salsa verde

Aloha! Enjoy and share a note.  Many Thanks  as I do my best to “capture the moments, freeze a little time…it’s what I do!”

Figs the Forbidden Fruit

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Figs have become a fascination with  me.  While l I don’t recall ever having them as a kid, my husband, who grew up in Southern CA, will get them when they are in season.   I remember as a kid having Fig Newton bars and then during the years when I bicycled a lot,  I’d get the whole wheat fig bars and have them for my quick energy snack.  But as a raw fruit, it’s a little bit new to me.   It’s not un-common to have a fig tree here in Southern CA.  So might as well figure out what to do with them I suppose.

I’ve come to realize that the fig is an ancient fruit, many believed forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  According to the California Fig Association, figs are an incredible versatile dish that can be made into chutney, jams, jellies, spreads, salsa, baking, appetizers or just slice ’em and dice ’em.  I guess I had no idea they went much beyond fig newtons… ha!  Got to love sometimes living a sheltered life on a farm.  You eat what you grow and we did not grow figs.  We didn’t buy much food from the store and Fig Newton were one of the things we did get store-bought.

I found several recipes that interest me while these magically little fruits are in season,  some of my favorites are the ones that blend salty taste with the sweet such as prosciutto or bacon  wrapped figs, another is in an Arugula Salad with a vinaigrette dressing.    Cheeses I found have a nice flavor with Figs.  I love cheese and it seems you can eat them cold with an appetizer plate of variety of cheese or melted and slightly baked with the figs and served hot.

My iStock image

My iStockPhoto image

A fruit and cheese platter with some herbs would pair well with white wines,  but then I enjoy a light refreshing white wine in the summertime.

My iStock image

My iStockPhoto image

Some red wines are good  choices such as zinfandel for these bold flavor combinations of blue cheese or stronger flavored cheese and figs.   I generally have a supply of  Raincoast Crisp crackers on hand and one of the flavors even has fig in it.

My iStock image

iStockPhoto image

Another thing I learned, is figs just don’t last long.  So what ever you plan to do with them,  better have all your ingredients and be ready to whip it up cause you only have a couple of days tops and that seems to be a stretch from what I’ve found, maybe I’m just busy and time slips away but seriously,  I need to get a platter ready to serve for a nice sunset.

This is just a short little teaser for things to come with figs while they are in supply here in Southern California,  I will be trying a couple of recipes … here is one that sounds like I will try soon:


  • 4 to 6 regular smoked bacon slices (2 1/4 to 3 1/2 ounces uncooked)
  • 12 small fresh ripe figs, such as white or Calimyrna, halved lengthwise
  • About 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) crumbled mild herbed goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium heavy skillet, place the bacon slices in a single layer and cook over low to medium-low heat, turning as needed until just beginning to brown. Transfer to a paper towel to drain. Cut each bacon slice into 4 or 6 pieces.
Arrange the figs on a baking sheet, cut sides up. Brush the cut surfaces with balsamic vinegar. Place a piece of bacon on each cut side. Top with a small crumble of cheese. Bake until the figs are warmed, about 8 minutes. The cheese will not melt but may toast a bit. Serve immediately.
Let me know if you try this before I get to it and tell me what you think!  Enjoy!

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