Mariah Graham: Chef

Spotted in: Downtown Berkeley

Occupation: Chef

What are you up to today?

I'm leaving town. I live in Flagstaff, Arizona, and I'm visiting my best friend from high school. We're going to visit her friend and get lunch.

How long have you been out in Flagstaff?

Seven years. I loooove Flagstaff. And I've never been to San Francisco or the Bay!

What's your occupation? 

I'm a chef. I'm the head chef at this place called the Toasted Owl Cafe. It's a brunch place—I specialize in brunch.

How did you get started as a chef?

I've been in the restaurant business since I was 16, and then I just built my way up—from dishwasher, prep, and now I'm head chef. I'm going to a restaurant management school too, at Northern Arizona University .

What are your favorite places to hang out in Flagstaff?

There's the Grand Canyon, which is like 30 minutes away. There's a lot of good Native American culture spots, like the peaks. It's like the biggest mountain—the San Francisco Peaks, which is funny. [laughs]

They're called the San Francisco Peaks?

Yeah! There's an ancient ball court ruin there, which is really cool. Walnut Canyon, there's just a lot of really good nature stuff to do there.

Any fun stuff in town?

Yeah there's a really, really good underground music scene. There's a place called the Cottage House which is like a basement and people come from all over the world to play there. There's just a lot of talented musicians in the area.

What have been some recent inspirations?

Anthony Bourdain. I love him. All I want to do is travel. I'm doing international restaurant management, so I want to travel the world and cook around the world and learn different cuisines.

What cuisine are you currently obsessed with?

French. I'm really good at making crepes, which I like.

How would you describe your personal style?

Grungy witch. I study witchcraft. That's another major inspiration.

How did you get into that?

Um, just manifestation. It's a way for me to manifest things, and ritual. I got into that. I used to study anthropology before I got into being the head chef thing. I didn't really want a "book" kind of job. That's kind of how I view life—holistically. And cultures are exciting!

What do you like most about it?

The ritual part. Because say if I want something in life and I do a ritual, that sets my mind toward it. That's how things come about in my life. I just think it's a cool culture. I never really had a religion or anything. Now I see myself as a pagan and I celebrate pagan holidays.

What's been a challenge that you've hurdled lately?


How did you hurdle it?

I tried killing myself, is that too intense to say? It's a sickness and a lot of people struggle with it every day. I've been focusing on self love and have become happier everyday through thought and ritual.

Well I'm glad you pulled through it!

Yeah, I think it was because I didn't have a focus in life and cooking makes me happy. I also got out of Flagstaff—it's a small town and you can kind of get stuck there. So this little trip opened my eyes to a lot of things, which is cool. [laughs]

Her friend: The Bay is a good place for that. For opening up doors.

Yeah! My dream is to have a food cart on a boat.

Oh wow!

So like, hang out in rivers or lakes and just like when people are hungry they can pull up and get food.

You know, there's a serious lack of that here.

I know! Wouldn't that be cool?

You gotta make that happen!

Yeah, totally! That's my dream.

So what inspired your look and how did it all come about?

I got this dress in Chinatown. I really wanted one of these really bad! It had to be black because I love black.

That oversized jacket is great too!

Yeah, the oversized jean. 90s grunge is where I'm at—I like chokers, platforms, that's my style right now.

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