Chef Brenda grew up on the West bank of New Orleans, Louisiana in a little town called Harvey. As a girl she spent much of her time trapping crawfish in the canals behind her house, crabbing in nearby Lafitte, picking wild blackberries, gathering pecans and fishing on the local bayous and along the Gulf Coast on her family’s boat. Brenda was not only fortunate to have access to the rich abundance of local seafood and produce, but also the diverse styles of cuisine embodied by her Sicilian, French and Filipino ascendants, often enjoying the pleasures of a backyard crawfish boil one day, a big pot of gumbo the next, then feasting on pancit, lumpia and chicken adobo the next.
Upon graduating from Louisiana State University with a BFA in Painting and Drawing, Brenda decided to pursue her real creative passion and began cooking in the kitchens of New Orleans. Within a few years, she found a natural fit at Mike’s on the Avenue creating fusion cuisine and was quickly promoted to Chef de Cuisine.
In 1997, Brenda moved to San Francisco and at the age of 29 landed her first Executive Chef position at the notable fusion pioneer Oritalia. While there, she garnered much positive attention. Three stars in the SF Examiner, three stars in SF Magazine, and a listing among the Top Five Bold Newcomers in the New York Times are among her many accolades. She has twice been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City.
After leaving Oritalia, Buenviaje went on to work as Head Chef of Sumi in the Castro, Head Chef of Café Claude in downtown San Francisco, Consulting Chef of Snooze in Denver, Colorado and Executive Chef of DeLessio Market and Bakery.
In 2007, Brenda decided to open her own place serving her interpretation of “French Soul Food” in a casual atmosphere. From day one the response has been overwhelming!
In her spare time you can find Brenda with her lovely wife Libby and three children Max, Aurora and Leo, crabbing off of the Sausalito Pier, catching a Giants game, foraging for wild fruit to put into her next pancake special and dreaming up new ways to take over the world one beignet at a time…
More About Brenda
Filipina New Orleanian Shines in Food-centric San Francisco
Mila de Guzman | Inquirer.net
Video: Filipina Yat = Filipina. New Orleans, Born and Raised.
R.J. Lozada | hyphenmagazinetv
Cook Like Brenda
Learn how to make some of Brenda’s iconic dishes
Proprietor & House Photographer
Libby is the co-owner of Brenda’s French Soul Food. She is the proud wife of Brenda, mom to their children Aurora and Leo, and stepmom to Brenda’s son Max. Born and raised in Iowa, Libby considered herself a meat and potatoes girl—until the day she met and fell for her amazing chef of a wife, who opened her eyes (and mouth) to some of the most dynamic, delicious, and sexy food in San Francisco.
In 2007, Brenda convinced Libby to leave her illustrious career as an academic to help open a small, humble restaurant. With the successful opening of two additional restaurants and the wonderful family they’ve created together, Libby considers herself to be one of the luckiest restaurateurs in San Francisco.
Director of Culinary Operations
Chef John graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts in 1994. He is an accomplished chef—with a career in fine dining as well as large-scale restaurant businesses, many of which he has helped open and operate. Over the years, his success has led to national and local media appearances and opportunities to work on celebrity events and catering.
He began his career at the renowned Mike’s on the Avenue in New Orleans, where he met Chef Brenda. After many grueling shifts working side by side, John and Brenda developed a mutual respect and forged a friendship that has endured to this day.
John worked with Brenda once again at San Francisco’s Oritalia, serving as her Sous Chef for three years. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he owned and operated MIX, a critically acclaimed fine dining restaurant. And most recently, he worked under Mark Sullivan at the Michelin-starred Village Pub, and as Executive Chef for Chalet Restaurant Group.
Although John’s passion lies with French cuisine, he is a skilled chef in a variety of styles, with a focus on fresh, local and sustainable food. When he isn’t cooking he enjoys spending time with his favorites—wife, Kelly and their son Owen—on late night drives adventuring up and down the California coast, in search of the best tacos (or donuts) in town…
Regional Kitchen Manager
Jorge was the first person Brenda hired in 2007—and it was his first cooking job. He helped open the tiny original space at 652 Polk, and has grown along with the company ever since. Jorge now coordinates the production and consistency of recipes across all Brenda’s locations, and helps form and train the kitchen teams that prepare the famous biscuits, beignets, fried chicken and all the rest for our customers. Outside of work, Jorge’s passions are his children, traveling and exploring different restaurants.
Director of Operations
With more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Andrew Bloom has worked in and managed a number of well known fine dining and busy neighborhood establishments in San Francisco and Berkeley, including Rex Café, Zax, Zax Tavern, Foreign Cinema and Aperto. Andrew’s passion for food and wine has led him to educate himself in all aspects of the hospitality industry—from catering, to bar and wine, to underground dinner events, and even to Dijon, France for a semester abroad.
From his childhood in Denver, Colorado where food was the focal point of his multi-heritage family, Andrew took quickly to having his home be the center of entertaining—extending comfort to everyone who stepped through their door. Leading Brenda’s front of house staff, Andrew offers this experience to you.
Director of Sales & Administration
Michelle began working in the Bay Area restaurant scene more than 25 years ago. Her corporate background and organizational OCD help her keep our human resources and catering departments running smoothly.
From bartender in the outer Mission to General Manager in an East Bay union spot, she has seen it all and done most of it! With her passion for great food and interesting wines and cocktails, she’s learned something new from every job she’s held. Always one to pitch in where needed, Michelle’s able to run a dish machine or shuck an oyster when called upon to do so. Though she admittedly recommends she not be asked to cook! She stands by the statement that her four years teaching pre-school were the best training for restaurant management she could have ever had.