When she's in the kitchen at her home in La Jolla, chef Isabel Cruz likes to cook with a crowd-even in tight quarters.
"For big family get-togethers, it's small, but it's big enough for us all to fit," she says. "I'm really getting into cooking at home a lot more and having people over."
Cruz owns four local restaurants: Barrio Star, serving "Mexican soul food" in Bankers Hill; Coffee Cup Café, a La Jolla spot popular for contemporary Latin breakfast and lunch; Isabel's Cantina in Pacific Beach , famous for contemporary Asian/Mexican fusion cuisine and catering; and Seaside Cantina, Pacific Beach, offering lighter, Latin-influenced breakfast and lunch on the boardwalk.
She also owns two restaurants and a farm in Oregon and earned accolades from The New York Times Book Review for her 2008 cookbook, Isabel's Cantina: Bold Latin Flavors from the New California Kitchen.
Despite all the success, Cruz keeps it simple in the kitchen. And the meals she whips up at home aren't so different from those on the menus at her restaurants.
"I'm a taco person," she says. "You can put anything on a taco."
The celebrated chef's favorite chaser? What else? Tequila.