This month, we are so proud to feature Santa Cruz's very own young entrepreneurial chef, Rachel Hughes! Cooking since the age of 8 and starting her own cake business at only 12, Rachel has made her mark in the Santa Cruz food scene through her work in some of the best local restaurants and her own specialty menu items that she created with her business Tanglewood! Check out her interview below:
1) When did you discover your passion for food?
My passion for food started when I was about 8 years old. When most kids were waking up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons I was ready with my notebook and VHS tape to watch and record my favorite food network shows.
2) How did you get your start in the food business?
I started my own specialty cake business when I was 12 years old. After that I worked an assortment of different jobs ranging from catering to baking jobs. A few years later I settled into the Head Baker and Assistant Production Manager positions at a Gluten Free Bakery. After the bakery I worked as Head Froster at Buttercup Cakes. Later, I moved to Europe for 8 months traveling and cooking. When I returned to the states I got jobs at Soif, Mortal Dumpling and Ty’s Eatery. I also spent some time working for Ocean2Table.
3) Tell us more about Tanglewood and what motivated you to start your OWN business as an entrepreneur/ chef extraordinaire?
Tanglewood is a catering business that also services the Bar at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge. I was propelled into starting my own business very unexpectedly. The two companies I was working for at the time both decided to stop their business to pursue work out of Santa Cruz. I was left with a big decision, find a new job or start my own business. I was 25 years old and decided, it was time to take a leap and run my own business.
4) What would your advice be to other young professionals that are considering a career with the food industry?
SLEEP NOW! Be well rested and do any adventuring or activities that fall on the weekend. Chances are your weekends will be booked, (if you’re lucky) once you own your own business. The food industry is harder then it looks, it takes an immense amount of work and determination; if you don’t absolutely love food, you may not make it. You have to be okay with working 12-20 hour days and still bring passion to your craft. Always stay informed, look at what other chefs are creating and watch the farmers markets closely to see what they are growing. This industry is exhausting at times, but it’s also creative, interactive and a ton of fun! I cannot imagine doing anything else.
5) What is your signature dish and where can I go to try it!
One of my signature dishes are Savory Churros. I created this recipe whilst planning my first Tanglewood menu. The original dish was Blue Cheese Churros topped with an Apple, Onion and Serrano Chutney. Throughout the months the dish has changes and seen many variations, such as Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Churros drizzled with Friends in Cheeses Spicy Tomato Jam. You can find my cooking at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge On Monday nights 5-8, Tuesday nights 4-7, for Two-fer Tuesday, two menu items and a drink on tap for $10. Thursday nights, starting at 6 and some Fridays. I also do Pop-Ups around town at places like MJA Vineyards and New Bohemia Brewing. You can keep up with Tanglewood on Instagram at Tanglewood.sc or Tanglewood’s Facebook page.
6) Where can we find you hanging out at?
You can find me by the ocean, usually with my favorite coffee or chai in hand. Some nights playing darts at the Poet and Patriot or the West Side drinking wine or ciders.