The time is early in the young child’s life but even just removing the simple cake from her easy bake oven, she senses that the connection is larger. She is a first generation child of immigrants from Spain. Immigrants that embody the American Dream and will slowly and methodically pass all that they know on to this curious kitchen inhabitant. Her mother will teach her how to cook and the importance of customer relationships through her own successful bridal shop. Her father will take over later and finely hone her business skills in his own successful communications company. And in the between time, she will devour reading material on cooking and food.
She is Denica Freitas, and her story is a fairy tale.
At 25 she will take weekend classes at California Culinary Academy of San Francisco and essentially work herself into a successful cake shop that caters and delivers pasties all over the Bay Area. I imagine her secret ingredient is passion.
Across town is a boy. He has come up through life donning an apron since the age of 15, taking any and all restaurant jobs from the Bay to Hawaii, which will not only mold his signature sense of floral attire, but ignite that same passion for desserts as Denica’s. He will find himself the owner operator of a very successful cookie shop in Castro Valley that ships his delicacies around the world. On paper he is a competitor. In a fairy tale, he is the prince. This is a fairy tale. The boy and girl fall madly in love. A love that is equaled only by their passion for food and in 2000, they combine forces and open Denica’s.
This restaurant comes to my attention by my wife. Since the day I met her, she has told me about this place, and literally, her face lights up when she speaks of it. The feeling is something she can’t explain, almost as unexplainable as what took me so long to get there myself. But I went, and I am in love with the love you feel here.
The restaurant is not spectacular in itself; a counter in front of an elevated yet simple menu, in front of a display case of pastries; a wall covered in mismatching frames displaying her family on various trips as you might find in her hallway at home, and a menu serving fresh, homemade, very healthy breakfast (all day) and lunches—salads and bowls, sandwiches and burritos, omelets and quesadillas, and of course desserts!
But it is the secret ingredient that a young Denica found so long ago that is palpable in this place—a live ingredient that has grown and invisibly made its way over every nuance. The ingredient is…passion. When she met her husband, James “The Cookie Man,” she doubled her wattage for life. Individually, they possessed enviable amounts of personal passion; enough to affect others on smaller scales and create successful businesses, but together their hunger for life, adventure and food, as well as the love for their five children, has created what can only be felt, not written about.
In 2005 they expanded the business next door by knocking out a wall and creating the Taco Lounge and of course have been met with success. Success is in their DNA. The food is delicious. It is flavorful and healthy. It can be vegetarian or not, but it is hearty. There is something about the walls here that make you want to be nicer to the people around you. The kind of happy that comes from a homemade chocolate chip cookie and a fountain soda or peering at the smiles of their kid’s faces on the walls. The kind of inspiration that comes from the Freitas’ personal motto~”Dream it, think it, do it, repeat.”
Denica’s Real Food Kitchen ,6058 Dougherty Road, Dublin, 925-829-6200