Blanca Rodriquez, owner of Pimienta Bar and Bistro, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, the daughter of two chefs. Her restaurant is located 34029 Hoyt Road SW, Federal Way. Courtesy Kellen Burden

Blanca Rodriquez, owner of Pimienta Bar and Bistro, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, the daughter of two chefs. Her restaurant is located 34029 Hoyt Road SW, Federal Way. Courtesy Kellen Burden

Pimienta, always a good decision | The Hand That Feeds

People who like food and people who love food are divided not by means or geography, but by decisions.

I’ve served shepherd’s pie at a homeless shelter and watched a man with no shoes taste its flavors with his eyes closed.

I’ve sat across a table from people with millions of dollars and watched them hastily backhoe ahi tuna into their mouths. Civilizations with nothing spend most of their money on ingredients that they slave over for hours, while people with mountains of disposable income seem to think that everything they eat should be fast and cheap. In my observation, the transition from liking food to loving it, is made up of a million little decisions. Food can be the sound of your grandmother humming over a pot of simmering beans or something that stresses you out about your evening. It can be the taste of a century-old cookie dough recipe off a wooden spoon or calories. Food can be a family operation or an industry, like oil or shipping. It can be set in front of you by the hands that seasoned it or passed to you from one window to another by someone who doesn’t know what’s in the sauce. Candle lit, or washed in neon. With the environment, or in spite of it.

Blanca Rodriguez, owner and head chef of Pimienta Bar and Bistro, has made many decisions about what food is to her.

“I never actually thought I was going to become a chef,” she told me, standing at her rustic bar, loading bottles of tequila into the shelf while she spoke. Hands busy, always working. Growing up in Guadalajara with two chefs for parents, food was always an important part of her life, but she wasn’t sure that cooking was the path for her.

“But then I started putting things together, creating recipes,” she said with a smile, remembering back to the fledgling days of her obsession. She landed a job as a chef for one of Nordstrom’s Restaurants in Seattle. “Nordstrom really gave me the opportunity to explore my chef side. They trusted me,” she said, making a jet with her hand, flying off a launch pad. “I just took off.”

She managed restaurants in five states, developed recipes wrote cookbooks. She was part of a production that many people would have had a hard time straying away from, no matter what their gut told them.

Not Blanca, though. She took a trip to Europe, exploring France, Spain and Italy, watching their chefs, tasting their food, and when she came back, she knew that she needed something different.

“ I’ve worked for a big corporation … I don’t want that production,” she said. “I want this production.” She motioned around the room of Pimienta. At the walls, covered in their reclaimed barnwood, splashed with their warm burnt orange paint. At the tables with their white linen, topped with candles. Standing there at the bar, near the window to the kitchen, we could see the whole place. Every seat.

“ I have an opportunity to meet everybody. That’s what I like,” she said. “That’s how I have fun.”

And when Blanca is having fun, everyone is having fun. My wife and I first ate at Pimienta a few months ago after it was recommended to us by a very particular French chef. We were wary of the location when we pulled into the lot, thrown off by the gas station on one side and the beauty parlor on the other. The candlelight flickering on the tabletops got us through the doors, though, and the world outside melted into the homy ambience around us. Deep warm colors, the buzz of laughter. Food came to us rich and deep. Food with dimensions, like rooms in a museum. Carefully crafted textures, flavors, smells and colors. We had drinks and we laughed and we ate and ate and ate, and when we stumbled back through those doors into the night it was like waking up from a dream. Time had seemed relative, sensations heightened.

People who love food understand the depth of it. They respect the work that goes into it, and they appreciate its past and are excited about its future. By that definition, Rodriguez loves food. She’s poured her passions into the menu and her time into sourcing ingredients as locally and humanely as possible. She personalizes her dishes. She gets to know her customers, and, as a result, she’s built a very special place. A place that centers around good decisions. A place where food has a story and a personality. A place where she can teach people to love it.

Pimienta Bar and Bistro is located at 34029 Hoyt Road SW, Federal Way. Visit pimientabistro.com or call 253-838-2398 for more information.

Kellen Burden is a local novelist and lunch enthusiast. More of his work can be found at www.goatfederation.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

By Larry Lark, contributor How do you top the 2021 Dodge Durango… Continue reading

2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD
Car review: 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat AWD

By Larry Lark, contributor If you want something truly special, get in… Continue reading

Shelley Pauls photo
March of Diapers collects more than 305K diapers for local nonprofits

The seventh-annual event included donations from local businesses, nearby cities, and dozens of generous individuals.

Cheryl Hurst stands among the thousands of diapers being stored at Billy McHale’s in Federal Way as part of the annual March of Diapers charity drive. (Photo by Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror)
Local charity collects thousands of diapers in annual drive

Federal Way area nonprofit organization Do the Right Thing has been collecting… Continue reading

Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals.
The bride was 19, and the groom was 89 | Senior lifestyles

Is it love? Or is it exploitation? Last fall, a 19-year-old employee… Continue reading

Rotary Club of Federal Way President Steve Ball, right, signs the Program of Scale agreement with the Rotary Foundation with Federal Way Rotary Club member Bill Feldt. Courtesy photo
Rotary Club of Federal Way leads $6M effort to end malaria in Zambia

Federal Way’s Bill Feldt spearheaded the program in partnership with World Vision USA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport
Car review: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

By Larry Lark, contributor Subaru has made a few tweaks to improve… Continue reading

T
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

By Larry Lark, contributor The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Custom… Continue reading

Teaser
Pacific Christian Academy wins five Best of Federal Way awards

The Federal Way school focuses on academic, emotional and spiritual health of students.

Photo courtesy of Shelley Pauls
Volunteers restore Hylebos Blueberry Farm for upcoming season

Last Saturday, master gardeners Jim and Donna Cox led a pruning seminar to spruce up a local blueberry farm.

Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals.
In retirement, your money may not be enough | Senior lifestyles

Think your nest egg alone will be enough create the retirement you… Continue reading

"Profiles in Courage," by John F. Kennedy. Courtesy photo
What are your local Federal Way leaders reading?

The Mirror asked various officials about their favorite books and current reads.