Fionna R. España, C.W.P.C
I am a proud Latina who was born and raised in La Puente, California with my older sister, Felicity, by our mother. My mother, Virginia Espana, is by far one of the hardest working people I know and does not accept “no” as an answer. A large majority of my inspiration and strength is drawn from the example my mother has provided me. She has always given myself and my sister everything that we have needed to better our lives. She has taught us the value of education and instilled in us that time should never be a factor when pursuing our academic goals.
As my mother was a strong influence in my journey, so has been my grandmother. I can remember being as young as eight years old helping my grandmother cook. Dishes such as meatloaf, stews, and various comfort foods are vivid in my memory as the earliest meals I would assist in making for casual dinners and holiday meals. When I became of age to work, I chose the food industry as my choice in the workforce. At 17 years old, I worked multiple positions in the restaurant environment. From hostess to server to line cook, I wanted to learn every position possible to make the restaurant function successfully. A short time later, I decided to get married and start a family. I have been married for 17 years and have four amazing children. I have a 16 year old son, a 15 year old son, and a set of 9 year old twins who happen to be a boy and a girl.
Both my mother and grandmother taught me and continue to teach me so many great values in relation to family and education. I knew that when my children were young, I needed to go back to school to pursue a career I loved. When my oldest boys were 2.5 years old and 11 months old, I started attending Le Cordon Bleu. As my family grew, I continued to sharpen my skills, specifically my baking skills. My children would usually go to sleep at about 8 p.m.. It was at this time when I would practice my baking and would research various recipes. I would make it a point to also make these new recipes for family dinner nights as well as bake desserts for family parties and for friends.
Early in my cooking career, I started working in a small boutique hotel in West Hollywood as a pastry chef. Unfortunately, the hours were long and I would work very late. It became quite stressful that I, in fact, contemplated changing careers. It took a toll on my family and I knew I needed a change. I then decided that I would join ACF LA chapter to explore other opportunities in the culinary industry. I currently am a Retail Operations Manager at Cal Poly Pomona. Given the stresses of life, family, and my career, I decided that I needed a relief. So in 2013 I joined the Los Angeles Renegade Rollergirls and became team captain in 2017.
Throughout my journey as a chef, I have learned many things but most of all, I have learned to work hard. During my attendance at Le Cordon Bleu, I had the privilege of studying under Certified Master Baker Colette Christian and in the Spring of 2006 I graduated with my Associates degree. The following summer, I worked under Chef Robert Phillips and was promoted to lead within 9 months. In 2007, I worked at the University of Southern California under Chef Robert Phillips then in 2009 I moved onto working in the Commerce Casino. In 2010, I started Mama’s Baked Goodies where I specialized in custom designer cakes, catered events for high profile clientele as well as custom desserts for parties of 700+ guests. I then moved onto Park Vista of Fullerton Assisted Living Community in 2015. Finally, in 2017 I moved to Cal Poly Pomona and am there currently. During my time at Cal Poly Pomona, I have participated in farm to table events, beer and dessert pairing events and have mentored many students. In 2017, I received Pastry Chef of the Year for Chef de Cuisine Association of California, Los Angeles and in 2018 and 2019, I received Baker of the Year from Veterans of California.
Throughout my career as a chef, I have had special people that have made a tremendous influence on me. These people include my mom, Virginia Espana, my sister, Felicity Johnson, Raul Ortega, Cristina Leonardo, Maria Moran, my father, Fermin Quiñonez, and Eric Duvall. As these wonderful people have helped and encouraged me along my career path, I would like to do the same. I am not a conventional chef, mother, wife, sister, etc. I am one who likes to “Stir the Pot.” I want to help future generations do the same for the betterment of the culinary industry and for the betterment of their individual lives. Humanitarianism and philanthropy have always tugged at my heartstrings, therefore I have participated in multiple volunteer programs and am currently spearheading a food and essentials drive for foster children. I want to help teach people the way I was taught and prove to them that they can do anything with a little hard work.