By Brandon Hernández
Last June, Kaitlin Ramos was recovering from a shattered leg at Palomar Hospital when the phone rang. It was Chef Dan Moody, with whom she had worked in February 2011 when his nighttime "pop-up" restaurant called Relate assumed the Encinitas space that houses St. Germain's Bistro & Café.
"Chef Dan told me that St. Germain's was looking for a new chef, and that he was going to give them my name," recalls Ramos, who sustained her injury in a motocross accident.
Whoa...a motocross accident?
Yes, off the clock and away from the stove, Ramos is an amateur motocross maven who's been riding since age 11. (Her father, a former pro racer, taught her the rules of the rougher road while she was growing up in Mira Mesa.)
But back to St. Germain's. When restaurant owner Roy Salameh called her for an interview, Ramos told him her injury would require three months on crutches-a major impediment in a commercial kitchen. Yet, with Salameh so enamored of her passion, he hired her on the spot, encouraging her to take as much time as she needed to mend before starting.
Ramos, whose penchant for physical fitness hastened her recovery, has repaid Salameh's patience and understanding with a fresh and delicious St. Germain's menu comprised of French-inspired cuisine infused with homey touches. And a few dashes of her freestyle spirit.
"There's a ton of overlap between motocross and cooking," says Ramos, 23. "For one, motocross has taught me to be tough-there is no crying in motocross and there's definitely no crying in the kitchen. And in both environments, you have to be self-motivated to be successful."
That drive has led Ramos to several motocross contest wins, including a third-place finish at the 2010 Cahuilla Winter Grand Prix, in Anza, California (Palm Desert). Unfortunately, in motorcycle racing, injuries are virtually a given: Ramos' number came up on June 10, 2011, when she was slammed by her own bike, causing 11 breaks in her right tibia and the severing of the tendon connecting her ankle and knee.
Her work at St. Germain's has been a more welcome hit.
"I want our food to be exotic enough to intrigue people, but simple enough not to intimidate them," says Ramos, who prefers to save the scariest stuff for the motocross course-and still two-wheels with dear, bold dad in her free time.
Ride along with Ramos via Twitter @TheMXChef or her food blog on the St. Germain's Bistro & Café website.
St. Germain's Bistro & Café
1010 South Coast Hwy., Encinitas