Chances are you’ll be hearing more about Olenka Orjeda of Santa Rosa, soon. After hosting sold-out pop-up dinners in Northern California for the past two years, Orjeda was recently featured on an episode of the Food Network’s “Cooks vs. Cons.” The show places cooks along cook con-artists, leaving the show’s judges to guess their true identity.
For Orjeda, a native of Peru, cooking was always something that interested her. “My earliest influence was my mamama [grandmother],” says Orjeda. “She used to cook everything, so she took me under her wing and taught me. She used tell me, ‘Remember, you are cooking for people you love, not the pigs.’ It makes me remember to always be in a good mood in the kitchen.”
The advice is something Orjeda instills in her own children today, telling them the kitchen is a happy place. “When you’re creating food that is good for you, the main ingredient in any dish is love,” says Orjeda. “If you don’t cook with love, forget about it.”
Although Orjeda is now pursuing her passion, it wasn’t her original career path. “In Peru, I used to be a banker,” she says. But when she moved to the States to be with her husband—Vintners Inn’s Percy Brandon—he encouraged Orjeda to follow her dreams. “He told me, ‘This is the land of opportunity. You should do what you love to do.’”
Orjeda found the time on the Food Network show to be an amazing experience, as well as a great opportunity to connect. “This experience was a little door I was waiting for, and the light keeps growing.” Eventually, she says, she’d like to have her own cooking show.
For now, her husband tries everything she makes. “He’s my biggest supporter, and my guinea pig,” she says. As for her favorite dish to cook? “When I do events, I try to incorporate quinoa somehow. It’s a popular grain right now, but I try and elevate it to another level. I make it very flavorful and well seasoned. I mean, let’s eat healthy, but let’s eat yummy, too.”
Joe Meisch doesn’t stand around when it comes to helping veterans. Serving in the U.S. Army 579th Engineers unit before attending Sonoma State University, Meisch developed a temple massager designed to massage stressed facial muscles and relieve pain from headaches, migraines and other physical and mental ailments.
“My tool is a tool of efficiency,” he says. “Traditionally, massaging your temples requires raising your arms and putting direct pressure on the temples. That uses many, many more muscles compared to the muscles you want to relax. How does that make sense?” Meisch’s temple massager has two tips that gently roll on the temples. The tips taper into a handle at the bottom, simplifying the process to steady arm motions from a resting position. The product also includes aromatherapy, as it ships with a bottle of lavender oil to be applied to a reservoir near the handle.
“When I was in training, a friend of mine drowned in a river during an exercise,” Meisch says. “Later, one of my mentors was deployed to Iraq and was KIA. During his funeral, I saw a lot of the returning veterans were suffering: migraines, head trauma, PTSD and all sorts of mental and physical injuries. I made it my mission to help as many of them as I can.”
Meisch started donating his massagers in 2007 and most recently started a variation of the 22 per day challenge, where active and discharged servicemen and women do push-ups for 22 days in memoriam of the 22 veterans who take their lives every day. “I wanted to donate 22 massagers for 22 days,” says Meisch.
Today, 2,500 massagers have been donated to veterans and service members around the world. Meisch’s product is used at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, and is currently under a pilot program to determine if the massager activates a sympathetic or “relaxation” response in the nervous system, which causes dopamine production to relax the user.
Cows grazing along hillsides and in seaside meadows are a picturesque and familiar sight in Marin and Sonoma counties. Dairy farms have been a local presence for more than 100 years, but thes...