Traci Des Jardins

Chef

A two-time James Beard winner, Traci owns six different restaurants across California. Many of her eateries feature Mexican soul food including San Francisco’s Mijita (“little one”) taqueria as well as School Night, a Mexican-Peruvian inspired cocktail bar. Chef Traci relishes a good challenge, having competed in a variety of cooking competitions from Top Chef to beating the legendary Mario Batali on Iron Chef America. She’s also an avid philanthropist whose greatest source of pride is giving back to the community.

Born to farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Traci’s family encouraged her to forage and hunt at an early age, inspiring a lifelong devotion to sustainable, locally sourced produce. The child of French Acadian and Mexican parents, Traci’s unique cultural roots informed her culinary passions. Here’s a chef who waxed poetic about how to knead cookie dough at 4, a woman whose earliest memories include making flour tortillas from scratch with her grandmother. Today, her achievements and her passions are rooted in where she came from.

Why We Love Traci Des Jardins

Traci’s ambition knows no bounds. She’s on a mission to elevate culinary excellence in the U.S., and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

“I’m a chef but I’m also a lot of other things. I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister. I’m a member of my community, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a boss.”

“I identified with the Mexican community. I grew up with it. It’s my soul food. My family loved food; everyone cooked, hunted and foraged together; all of our gatherings were around food.”

6 Questions with Traci Des Jardins

  1. How did life on a farm influence your approach to cooking?

    I think it's important that people have a connection to the life given for the steak that's on your plate. One of my favorite questions is, if you had to kill what you eat, what would you eat? Could you kill a cow? A pig? It's not easy and I don't think it should be easy. I think people should really think about that.

  2. Tell us a little about your favorite things to eat.

    I'm an American, trained in French cooking, and half-Mexican by descent. Mexican food is my soul food, plus I'm a California native and the history of the Spanish here is undeniable. I just love Spanish cuisine. I like to grill on live fire when I’m at home. I like little birds. I’m probably obsessed with the quails that we get, the Wolf Ranch quails. My favorite is probably grilled quails and some kind of salad.

  3. Is there a certain recipe that has a special place in your heart?

    My grandmother would put bacon fat in a tub in the sink. She’d use that to make tortillas every day. I started making them with her when I was five. My grandfather made me a rolling pin from a broomstick that fit my hands. We used to eat them with just butter and salt. Eating one still brings me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen in a heartbeat.

  4. What are some of your favorite places in the Bay Area?

    In terms of neighborhoods, I love the Mission. I’m kind of an offbeat location kind of person. It’s my favorite neighborhood by far. I love going to eat at Saison. I love Foreign Cinema. I love lofty, warehouse spaces like that. I’d also just love to do something there because I love the community, and I love the idea of supporting industry there.

  5. What keeps you motivated?

    It’s always the people. Those people can be your guests or those people can be your staff. It’s a people business and when everything is singing, you have happy people around you.

  6. What causes are near and dear to you?

    The thing I love most is the ability to leverage my so-called celebrity for greater good and philanthropy, and to be able to raise money for causes I believe in. That’s really meaningful to me. That’s my silver lining.

Oaxaca with Traci Des Jardins

One Departure Only | November 18 - 24, 2019

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Colombia with Dandelion Chocolate & Traci Des Jardins

One Departure Only | April 13 - 19, 2020

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Explore Upcoming Trips with our Tastemakers

Oaxaca with Justin Bazdarich

From thriving food markets and farm-to-table hands-on cooking experiences to standing atop Zapotec pyramids and immersion into the local arts, this is a Mexican serenade for the senses.

Vietnam with Jason Neroni

Street markets by scooter, the best street foods, modern art and ancient temples, we'll experience Vietnam from every angle with Chef Jason Neroni.

Portugal with Jamie Malone

We'll go deep into Portuguese culture and cuisine: azulejo tiles, Fado music, sparkling wines and vintage ports. Explore taverns and markets, vineyards and farms, and sail through the world’s most gorgeous wine country.