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Family, Food and Art

Pati's charismatic demeanor and love of her community is illustrated very well in her restaurant menu where she writes, "The world is my neighbor." Pati says, "Home is where you first learn to tolerate diversity! "

Pati and Juan Ruiz

Family, food and art; that's the exact order Pati Cardonna Chef and Owner of the Wild Rose (House of Taste) in Gilroy California describes her life and her ambition towards the future. "I was searching for an answer to help one of my sons and got a new future for myself as well," describes Pati as she explains how she came to be running the Wild Rose restaurant.

Pati's son, John, one of seven sons, was hit by a drunk driver two years ago where he sustained major damage physically losing one of his legs. But more than physical injuries worried his mother; he was also very depressed and didn't know where he was going with his life. "I was very concerned about him," continued Pati. "I just didn't know what to do to help him." Of all places the answer was given to her at a funeral where she met Rachel Perez, Director of Community Education and Director of the HUD Grant at Gavilan College. Rachel asked her what she thought about opening up a restaurant in Gilroy. "It never crossed by mind," said Pati, "although my minor in college was Indigenous Cooking and I had operated a family catering business when living in Sedona, Arizona." But, this appeared to be a good decision on Pati's part as her son John became head chef and a second son took a leave of absence from college to help them set up the restaurant.

The Wild Rose is much more than a restaurant though. Pati's background as a social worker with Social Advocates for Youth, an advisor who helps kids go back to college or convince kids who normally wouldn't even think about college pursue higher education fits right into the Grant that funded the start up of this restaurant. This Grant was to encourage businesses in the East Side. The Wild Rose is an "incubating" endeavor from which micro businesses emerge. Students can enroll through Gavilan for certification in hospitality. They can receive training from hosting to banquet coordinating to marketing and ownership of future businesses. For instance, Juan Ruiz, who trained from washing dishes to hosting is now setting up a tamale-making business. By using the certified kitchen from the Wild Rose, he and two other tamale makers will learn how to make their tamales using state standards in health and safety while also learning how to market and sell their products.

Pati feels that food preparation is another art form and has made the Wild Rose a gallery in which artists of all specialties are invited. All of Pati's children are musicians and so music is another art form she appreciates having around her restaurant as well. Ralph Marquez, a local water color and mask designer has had a collection of his work displayed at the Wild Rose. In addition, Ralph along with other designers will be designing a mural for the courtyard depicting native landscape of the Ohlone people as well as the Ohlone people themselves. Pati also plans on setting up a rustic grill similar to an oven the Ohlone Native Americans used and make tortillas and rustic bread outside in the patio for patrons to enjoy with their meals.

I hesitate to call it just a "restaurant," since it brings to everyone so much more. Pati was very excited to know that we were going to share her story with the People around the world as she welcomes all her neighbors to come, enjoy and participate in what she is doing.

In April, Pati started a Grandma's Hall of Fame. She expects this to be ongoing. Bring in portraits of grandmothers and their stories and on Wednesdays, an "open mike" will be available for people to share their stories either about their Grandma or Grandma telling stories herself. In May she celebrated Grandma Day, with a Latino Poetry Night, Rivka Solomon, author of "It Takes Ovaries" and other women's stories giving a lecture from which a women's spirituality workshop was held in June 2002. Also in June, she began hosting Theatre Dinners on Fridays and Saturdays performed by the South Valley Theatre Group. Between these activities, various art exhibits will be on display throughout the downstairs restaurant and upstairs in the galley/banquet room.

Pati's charismatic demeanor and love of her community is illustrated very well in her restaurant menu where she writes, "The world is my neighbor." Pati says, "Home is where you first learn to tolerate diversity! " You can visit the Wild Rose (House of Taste) located in the 1905 City Hall Building in Gilroy California. I also think a thank you is in order to Gavilan College for having the foresight and courage to establish this program which enhances the people of the community to which they serve. END

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