Chef and Kitchenista Aureny Aranda

A small business-owner from Chula Vista and the mother to a family of four, Aureny Aranda has overcome financial and personal difficulties during a pandemic, emerging stronger and more successful than ever. 

But how did she get here?

According to Aranda, years ago, she and her family did not have “very good eating habits”, but the chef from Mexico City did have some of the best granola on the block.

Her passion for cooking caught the eye of Patty Corona, the coordinator of the Cooking for Salud® program. Corona invited Aranda to give a presentation at Olivewood Garden & Learning Center, a local garden and nutrition education center that hosted Aranda’s granola demonstration. Afterwards, Aranda enrolled in the Cooking for Salud® Program, and her cooking style changed dramatically. 

Not only did Aranda cook more at home than before, but she also invited her husband and daughters to be “part of the cooking”, ensuring that the experience was a shared activity. Her cooking became more plant-based as she learned new recipes, and she stayed involved at Olivewood for the next four years, helping with running the very program she’d participated in.

Aranda described the staff she volunteered alongside as “magical”, and she felt both useful and at home with Olivewood.

When COVID-19 hit, Aranda lost her business. She had to return to the start of her culinary career: baking bread. 

Though this was a struggle at first, after contacting one of the chefs from Olivewood Gardens, Aranda invested her time and money into a new business. Since then, she has attained a cottage food operation permit, a catering permit, and a rented commercial kitchen. Due to health issues, Aranda is actually rarely able to eat bread herself, but she is passionate about the process, finding the process of change through fermentation “incredible”, especially in her favorite bread to bake, sourdough.  “Looking at it after the long waiting process and slicing it is an indescribable feeling,” she says, and when she does eat bread, it’s usually sourdough.

Aranda has been so successful in her self-made ventures that she has been invited to a webinar as a guest speaker, educating other people on starting a food business and food permits. She has been featured in a film, The Kitchenistas®, which focuses on programs from Olivewood Gardens. Aranda has also been recently featured in a Star News article. 

“I had to reinvent myself,” says Aureny Aranda about the impact of COVID-19. But despite all of the hardships, she is thriving. 

Aranda’s family often eats their own variations of Cooking for Salud® recipes, favoring whole grains with vegetables, vinaigrettes, and hummus. Her daughters are now also “completely independent in the kitchen, and they always have fun cooking.” 

Aranda still volunteers at Olivewood Gardens, attributing the Cooking for Salud® Program to completely changing her cooking style. Now, Aranda plans to expand her bread business and sell more plant based meals.


Our Interview With Aureny


Q: What San Diego neighborhood are you from?

A: Chula Vista

Q: What is your connection to Olivewood? (Staff, volunteer, member, other)

A: I’m a volunteer

Q: How has the Cooking for Salud! program impacted you?

A: In many ways, like more cooking at home, inviting my husband and daughters to be part of the cooking, more vegetables are part of our meals since I started C4S.

Q: Why/how did you get involved with Cooking for Salud!?

A: I met Patty Corona at my daughters‘ school and she invited me to give a brief presentation of my granolas to a Kitchenista meeting. I signup immediately for C4S.

Q: How long have you been involved?

A: 4 years

Q: Why does the work you do at Olivewood matter to you?

A: I like to share my expertise and what I have learned at Olivewood Gardens, I love everything about Olivewood Gardens, staff volunteers the place is magical, it just make me feel useful when I am at OG.

Q: What was your situation before Olivewood?

A: About eating, once in a while vegetables were included in my meals, my cooking was completely different. Now is more plant based.

Q: Can you briefly share more about you and your family so that we can better describe who you are to local media?

A: We are a family of 4 not with very good eating habits, I’m a chef and cooking has been always in mi life, 3 of us with obesity problems but always trying  to be better

Q: Can you share background information (age, ethnicity, education, etc.)? This information is helpful because certain reporters or outlets cover particular demographics, such as aging populations, Spanish-speakers or members of the LGBTQ+ community, for example.

A: I’m 52 years old, I’m from Mexico City and I’m married to a Mexican with a Lebanese background. I’m a chef and I’ve been making granolas and working as a personal chef.

Q: Anything else you’ve been up to? (What you do in your spare time, recent accomplishments)

A: When the pandemia started I have to reinvent myself going back to what I started my culinary career that is making bread. I called one of the Chefs I met at Olivewood Gardens and he gave me some if his starter, now my business has grown in the past 8 months, I started with a cottage food operation permit and now I just got my catering permit and rented a commercial kitchen. I have been invited to give a webinar on how to start a food business and talk about different permits. My plans are to expand my bread business and sell plant based meals.

Q: What is your favorite bread to bake and why? Is it the same as your favorite bread to eat?

A: My favorite bread to bake is the sourdough, just all the process and the way that the dough changes through fermentation is incredible, and looking at it after all the long process and slicing it is an indescribable feeling. I’m not a bread person (health issues with swallowing), but once in a while if I eat bread, definitely is sourdough.

Q: Do you still use the recipes you learned from Cooking for Salud when you cook for your family, and do they have any favorites?

A: Of course! I have made some changes or variations to the recipes. Our favorites are whole grains with vegetables, vinaigrettes and hummus.

Q: If you remember, which granola recipes did you share at Cooking for Salud? How did you feel when demonstrating them?

A: I don’t remember making granola with the kitchenistas, Chef Joe used to make one.

Q: Do you teach your children the recipes you make, and if yes, do they see the cooking skills as valuable or even fun?

A: Yes, I always share with my daughters, they are completely independent in the kitchen and they always have fun cooking.