In case you haven’t noticed, we just debuted our first-ever issue dedicated to all things South Bay. On February 25, we are also holding our first Taste of South Bay food and drink extravaganza at Novo Brazil Brewing in Imperial Beach. In conjunction with that, we’re also asking various South Bay food folks to come on to the HHH podcast to talk about all things south of the border…of the city of San Diego, that is.
This week, we asked to chat with Jose Barajas, a television chef and the owner of Mmm…Cakes, a Golden Girls-themed bakery and coffee spot on Chula Vista’s Third Avenue, near F Street. It opened in 2021 after a huge Covid derailment, a familiar tale—it was originally supposed to open in March or April 2020. And all of that after 15 years of baking in his home studio, as well as other area hotels and bakeries, culinary production teams, and on camera on several Food Network and TLC shows, like The Next Great Baker and Gingerbread Showdown.
Mmm…Cakes’ decor is over-the-top, as one would expect from a Golden Girls-laden cake shop. It’s tropical, decadent, and loud, and it’s even got a vintage Tiffany lamp (Barajas told me he bought it on Amazon for a steal). “It’s like if Blanche was alive with a line of coke,” Jose says.
“You know,” he says in the episode. “It’s gotta be good for the ‘gram!” We talk about his various inspirations and just how much damn fun it is to hang out there. Readers of the magazine can also get a peek at our host Troy Johnson’s food feature this month, which shows a few gorgeous images of the space and Barajas’ confectionary creations.
Barajas shares his humble beginnings cooking at home with his mom, who decorated cakes. “I started off young, not so much cake decorating, but just cooking. Then my mom started working, and she said, “You’re helping me, so that was that.”
He says he took to it because he wasn’t such a great student, but he was super into his art classes. It stuck. When he eventually started working as a dishwasher in a sushi kitchen, moving up the ranks to eventually start training as a sushi chef, he found out he had been accepted to culinary school. One baking class later, and the rest is history—Barajas is a cake guy now.
We also chat about his long television career, during which he thrived on camera but especially in production, owing to a recipe he developed while at culinary school and then in his own professional kitchen. He also talks about some of his favorite spots in South Bay, and marvels at how far downtown Chula Vista has come.
In food news, Tara Monsod of Animae was nominated for a James Beard award. She’s a semifinalist for Best Chef California and is San Diego’s only nominee, and Tacos El Franc is coming to National City. Earlier this week, we broke the news that the famed Tijuana taco spot will open its first U.S. location at the Westfield Plaza Bonita mall this summer, replacing Funky Fries & Burgers (we’ll call that an upgrade); CH Projects opened LouLou’s at The LaFayette Hotel and temporarily closed the beloved Starlite for renovations; downtown’s Lavo shutters after just over a year in the former Searsucker location; and a food website called “LoveFood” named Smoking Goat’s fries the best in California. We then discuss the merits of truffle fries.
Thanks for tuning in. See you next week!