Restaurateurs offer recipes for success, motherhood 

These are not your average super-moms. Not only do they slave away in the kitchen for their children — they also work day-in-and-day-out at some of San Francisco’s best-known — and most high-volume — eateries.

But somehow, the bevy of mothers who double as chefs or restaurateurs in San Francisco have been able to strike the seemingly impossible balance of raising a family while maintaining culinary excellence.

And while their children may have to share their career moms with thousands of ravenous foodies, they certainly can’t complain about being able to hang out and eat at some of The City’s finest establishments.

For this Mother’s Day, The Examiner decided to track down some of these busy moms in the hopes of finding out their recipes for success. We discovered that their talents are not all that different from most mothers across the globe: hard-working, selfless and deserving of the world’s praise on more than just one day every year. Happy Mother’s Day.


Anne Stoll, Delfina

Months before her 8-year-old daughter, Lucy Rose Stoll, was born, Delfina co-owner Anne Stoll learned all-too-quickly that the dual roles of mom and restaurateur would not be a simple task.

While pregnant, the restaurateur was forced into emergency bed rest for two months.

“Delfina wasn’t prepared for me being gone,” Stoll said.

Stoll remembers lying in bed and reading Internet reviews that were none-too-happy about Delfina’s declining service. However, it wasn’t long before she identified someone on staff that could right the ship at the nationally acclaimed Italian restaurant in the Mission district.

Since then, Stoll said she and her husband, acclaimed Delfina chef and fellow owner Craig Stoll, have found the right balance in managing family and a successful business.

“We make it work because I think Craig and I are such a good team,” Stoll said. “We understand each other’s job.”

So when Craig is exhausted from an arduous work shift, Stoll said she will prepare a home-cooked meal. And their daughter likes some of her mother’s dishes better than those prepared by her top-chef father. “I am not the best cook, but [Lucy] actually likes my pork chops better than Craig’s,” she said, adding that her daughter likes how she tends to overcook the meat.

Age: 46
Occupation: Owner, Delfina
Children: Lucy Rose, 8
Favorite book or movie to enjoy with your daughter: “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” “Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events"
Favorite park or playground: Golden Gate Park
Favorite restaurant in The City: Why, Delfina, of course!
Favorite cheap eat in The City: Mission taco trucks
Guilty pleasure: I never feel guilty about anything I eat
Meal you served your daughter that she didn’t like: Hamburgers
Meal you served your kids that you wouldn’t want others to know about: Scrambled eggs for dinner when we don’t have any food in the house
Your best Mother’s Day to date: Homemade cards, family dinner and a nap every year


Elisabeth Prueitt, Tartine

How can a pair of superstar chefs who run award-winning eateries in The City raise a daughter while continuing to shine in their careers?

“Write a cookbook,” said Elisabeth Prueitt, who owns Tartine Bakery and Café and Bar Tartine with fellow pastry chef wizard Chad Robertson.

The couple had wanted to start a family for some time but always looked toward the next business venture, Prueitt said.
“We decided that I had to get into a position where I could take myself out of production for a while,” she said.

Working on the cookbook, and finding the right people — and enough people — to fill her spot on staff helped make having daughter Archer Prueitt-Robertson, now age 3, possible, Prueitt said.

Then again, balancing raising a daughter while staying on top of the food game hasn’t been easy, she said.

“You sort of fling from one thing to the other,” Prueitt said. “There is no way to do every single thing 100 percent.”

But Archer certainly benefits from the whole deal.

“The front of the house staff is made up of many artists and musicians and the back-of-the-house staff are very talented bakers and cooks,” Prueitt said. “She’s always listening to wonderful music and eating wonderful food.”

And the staff just loves Archer, she added.

Age: Declined comment
Occupation: Owner-chef Tartine
Children: Archer, 3
Favorite book or movie to enjoy with your daughter: “Pelle’s New Suit” by Elsa Maartman Beskow
Favorite playground: Day Street playground, Presidio
Favorite restaurant in The City: OTD on Pine, Boulette’s Larder, the cafeteria at the Academy of Sciences
Favorite cheap eat in The City: Turtle Tower
Guilty pleasure: Mariposa sour cream coffee cake
Meal you served your kids that they didn’t like: Duck legs braised in Sauternes
Meal you served your kids that you wouldn’t want others to know about: Hooter’s chicken wings. “I was stuck in Grand Rapids, Mich. You asked.”
Your best Mother’s Day to date: The day Archer was born

Brenda Buenviaje, Brenda’s French Soul Food

The large crowds waiting daily outside Brenda’s French Soul Food near the Civic Center may indicate that chef Brenda Buenviaje has little time on her schedule for anyone but her guests.

But there is a method to Buenviaje’s culinary madness.

The New Orleans-born mom, whose restaurant seems to be every Franciscan’s worst-kept secret, said she actually opened the eatery with one thing in mind: to have a life.

While the chef started out in fine dining and worked the grueling night, weekend and holiday shifts, she decided that if she wanted to have time for family — and for herself — she’d better open a daytime eatery.

“That meant I needed to concentrate on more casual concepts,” Buenviaje said. “My ultimate goal was to move into a job that had more normal hours.”

And while Brenda’s French Soul Food is super-busy, it’s also only open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through

“What chef has weekends off, really?” Buenviaje said.

That gives her plenty of time to be with her son, Max, who is lucky enough to be loved by more than one mother, she said. Buenviaje, her former wife — who is the birth mom — and her current wife, all take part Max’s life.

Buenviaje credits her own mother for her support and influence.

“I didn’t realize it at the time but [my mom] was cooking Filipino and Creole food. So when I [started out] in the kitchen, I felt like I had an edge.”

Age: 42
Occupation: Chef-owner, Brenda’s French Soul Food
Children: Max, 9
Favorite book or movie to enjoy with your son: “Ratatouille”
Favorite restaurant in The City: Kokkari
Favorite cheap eat in The City: Dim sum from Wing Lee Bakery
Guilty pleasure: Double double “animal style” from In-N-Out Burger
Meal you served your son that he didn’t like: Max: “Those skinny green things with little trees on top” (asparagus)
Meal you served your son that you wouldn’t want others to know about: Mac and cheese from a box
Your best Mother’s Day to date: The first year Max was born. The whole motherhood thing was still pretty surreal


Monetta White, 1300 on Fillmore

Despite all that Monetta White learned from her mother, she said she most values her insistence in putting family atop her busy list.

“Family to me is first, before anything,” said White, who owns 1300 on Fillmore with husband Chef David Lawrence. “It’s pretty much how I was raised and that came from my mom.”

And so even though White has had to work long hours while raising her stepson, Alex Lawrence, who is now 19 and away at college, she says she always made time for family a priority.

“The restaurant industry is 24/7,” she said. “We have to juggle a lot. We try to focus on balance in our lifestyles.”

That means trying to ensure that she and her husband take two days off each week, one to spend together and another to take care of business. She also says she always makes time for her mom, no matter how busy. And as for Alex? Well, the Internet has certainly been handy, she said.

“Thank God for the Facebook and Skype and iChat,” White said. “If I don’t hear from him, I go on Facebook and I say, ‘Oh, I know what’s going on.’”

Age: 44
Occupation: Restaurateur, 1300 on Fillmore
Children: Stepson, Alexander, 19
Favorite book or movie to enjoy with son: “Rush Hour”
Favorite park or playground: Golden Gate Park
Favorite restaurant in The City: Zuni Cafe
Favorite cheap eat: La Taqueria on 25th and Mission
Meals you served your kids that they didn’t like: Fish or anything with peanuts (he’s allergic)  
Meals you served your kid that you didn’t want others to know about: Pepperoni cheese pizza or bacon  
Ideal Mother's Day: A spa all day


Gayle Pirie, Foreign Cinema

Gayle Pirie has plans to honor her mom on Mother’s Day, but what has been planned in her honor?

“I’ll be here, working,” the chef-owner of Foreign Cinema said. “I always do. It’s kind of a big day here.”

Of course, if the ultra-successful restaurateur who is raising an 11-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl could do anything at all, it would involve a lot of self-pampering on a remote island far from a kitchen, she admitted.

But she’s not dropping any hints on fellow Foreign Cinema chef-owner John Clark, her partner of 25 years. She said she really enjoys being at the restaurant on Mother’s Day.

“I don’t have to work as intensely as I used to, so now it’s really quality control and I don’t have to be in the pressure cooker as much,” she said. “I mean, I like getting flowers, for sure, but I like being at work.”

That’s because Foreign Cinema, while a top-of-the-line culinary experience for many, is also a second home for those who know Pirie and Clark well.

But maintaining the utmost of standards at a high-volume restaurant while raising a family is never easy.

“We tag team it,” Pirie said. “If I’m here, John’s with the children. If John’s here, I’ve got the kids.”

“Because of the nature of our business, we just take it one day at a time,” she said. “That’s what gets us through.”

Age: 46
Occupation: Executive chef, Foreign Cinema
Children: Magnus, 11, Pearl, 4
Favorite book or movie to enjoy with your kids: “Where’s Waldo?” “Tintin Adventures for Magnus;” “Eloise adventures with Pearl”
Favorite park or playground: New SF skate park on Potrero Street
Favorite restaurant in The City: Coi
Favorite cheap eat in The City: Toyanese Taco Truck on Harrison & 18th
Guilty pleasure: Onion rings
Meal you served your kids that they didn’t like? Braised chicken
Meal you served your kids that you wouldn’t want others to know about? Geno’s Pizza rolls
Your best Mother’s Day to date: I usually work on Mother’s Day at the restaurant, so I like it when my mom comes to brunch at Foreign Cinema, and I can see her at my work enjoying a nice brunch!


Pamela Mazzola, Boulevard

Pamela Mazzola attributes her success in balancing career with raising children to everyone but herself.

First, the acclaimed co-chef of Boulevard credits her husband, who “thought it was a good idea to have kids and I just agreed.”

“My husband has been tremendously supportive,” she said.

And then there’s fellow Boulevard genius chef Nancy Oakes, who places great importance in family and thus is flexible with Mazzola.

“She always says, ‘You’re the one that has the kids,’” Mazzola said. “I don’t think I could have stayed in the restaurant business if it wasn’t for her.”

Finally, Mazzola thanks her children for their support — even on Mother’s Day.

“It’s not easy to have a mom that works nights and sometimes weekends and isn’t always easy to get to the school play at
2 in the afternoon,” Mazzola said. “There have been times that I’ve said, ‘Listen, guys, if this is too much, let me know. I can redo my life.’”

But in return, Mazzola’s children get to call one of the best restaurants in the state their second home.

“And every time there’s a special occasion, this is where they want to come.”

That’s why on Mother’s Day, it’s quite clear who deserves all the praise.

Age: 52
Occupation: Co-chef, Boulevard Restaurant, partner, Prospect
Children: Maria, 22; Mason, 18; Maddy, 14
Favorite book or movie to enjoy with your kids: “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Ferdinand the Bull,” “The Littlest Rabbit” and “Winnie the Pooh”
Favorite park or playground: Golden Gate Park
Favorite cheap eat in The City: Nopalito
Guilty pleasure: Pizza for breakfast with an egg on it
Meal you served your kid that they didn’t like: Beef noodle soup
Meal you served your kids that you wouldn’t want others to know about: Caviar on English muffins with lots of butter; macaroni and cheese (“the yellow kind”)
Your best Mother’s Day to date: It is the one day of the year where I refuse to do anything and my husband and children take charge: presents, breakfast in bed, a hike and dinner cooked by my husband. Perfect day.

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