by Jennifer Bustamante
Executive Chef Flor Franco was hard at work as a single mom at an event in the prestigious retail store Neiman Marcus when her nine year old son walked by a beautiful pair of Christian Louboutin stiletto shoes and asked her mom to buy them for herself. Her reply was “no, we can’t afford that”, but her son insisted on by asking that she should buy them with the money she made at this event because she deserved them. This pair of shoes are Flor’s favorite, not just because they are in fact beautiful, but because they represent how much all her work and sacrifice was valued in the eyes of a young nine-year-old boy with the words “you deserve them”. Indeed Flor Franco’s feet have walked the path less traveled as a renowned chef in the middle of a competitive and intense industry.
Her humble beginnings in the kitchen began when nobody knew her name, she moved to San Diego and had no family here, with the challenges of being an immigrant, yet her desire for her children to have a better life, good schooling, good clothes, and good food was her driving motivation. Not once did she consider getting financial assistance, she relied on her hard work and determination.
With 11-12 hour work days up to six days a week, picking up her children from school in between and taking them with her to the office was just a fraction of the sacrifices made in her journey. When she began to be invited to food events with the best local chefs, she was hugely intimidated by award-winning men who held all the credentials from the best international schools, it was this fear that forced her to take it upon herself to learn everything that professional chefs studied in culinary art schools, she did all this on her own, after working hours- making every second count. She moved fast in her business thanks to her decision to have strict self-discipline, creating routines and sticking to them; this meant no social life, no parties, total commitment to her children and to her studies. One of her greatest satisfaction was when a well renowned, award-winning chef in San Diego texted her and said “I need your help”, overwhelmed by the request she followed up, he had never prepared a whole animal and, as he told her, everyone pointed to her for guidance. Over the phone she guided him step by step- and was very grateful to her for the assistance without which he would not have succeeded.
Flor Franco’s journey was not handed to her in a silver platter, she earned it. Her inspiration to us as she puts it “You can do anything if you have your feet firmly planted, and your shoes ready to run”.