42: Feeding Your Creativity with Food and Flavor with Lina Fat



Lina Fat is VP of Culinary Research and Development for Fat Family Restaurant Group, based in Sacramento, CA. Her first dream was to be a pharmacist, which she fulfilled when she earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of California-San Francisco in 1964, where she met and married her husband, Kenneth.

Her father-in-law, the late Frank Fat, founded the landmark Sacramento restaurant, Frank Fat’s in 1939, where many of the state’s most influential figures have dined for more than 70 years. Lina joined the restaurant business when the second restaurant, China Camp, opened in 1974. In 1976, Fat City Bar & Grill was opened, and since 2000, the Fat family has opened Fat’s Asia Bistro in Roseville and in Folsom.

Lina traveled the world to train under master chefs in Switzerland, France, and Italy, and at the Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She has spent a lifetime discovering new culinary secrets for what is now her specialty---combining flavors from around the globe!

She is a favorite featured guest on local Sacramento TV as well as authoring The Lina Fat Cookbook: Recipes from the Fat Family Restaurants. Lina and the Fat restaurants have received numerous awards over the years, and she has been actively involved in many community boards and organizations. Proving that her creative interests extend far beyond the kitchen, in 2007 she launched the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival, which showcases the cultural diversity of the region through presentation of ethnic dance from around the world by local talent. Lina is a true pioneer who has never been afraid to take on one more challenge in her creative and inspiring life.

Show Highlights:
  • Lina’s semi-retired life now after over 40 years in the restaurant business, helping run 4 restaurants and a catering business
  • The four Fat restaurants serving American Chinese food and receiving the James Beard Award a few years ago for Frank Fat’s Restaurant started in 1939 by her father-in-law
  • The funny story of how the famous Banana Cream Pie came to the menu in the early days
  • Lina’s beginning as a pharmacist and then a stay-at-home mom who started cooking and exploring her creativity
  • How she advised her father-in-law about opening a restaurant commemorating Chinese immigrants and then started writing and testing recipes
  • How Lina took on the new job of running the kitchen and managing the staff, bringing in new and innovative ideas and techniques
  • Similarities between work as a pharmacist and a chef and how LIna applied some of the same principles to her new career
  • The story of the historic bar and their branching into “bar food” at Fat City Bar & Grill
  • How Lina took on the new challenge as restaurant manager
  • Why a restaurant turns out to be a good training ground for learning life skills
  • Why she made her children and other young people start out as dishwashers in the restaurant
  • How she branched out into writing a cookbook
  • How Lina became a local TV chef---way before TV chefs were “a thing”
  • When Emeril Lagasse used one of her recipes on his famous show
  • Creativity in translating the Spanish tapas concept into dim sum
  • Only one of her children has followed her into the restaurant business and two have followed their father into dentistry
  • Lina’s advice to those who want to be chefs---Develop your palate!
  • Trends that Lina sees in the modern restaurant business
  • Lina’s love for small farmers’ markets and local CA resources
  • Lina’s story of her flourless chocolate cake mishap early in her marriage and how she took the failure as a challenge
  • Lina’s thoughts on creativity: “Don’t create just to create. Like food, creativity should have a purpose and a balance. Start with the basics first.”
Resources:
The Lina Fat Cookbook: Recipes from the Fat Family Restaurants, by Lina Fat

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