Urban Garden Stories and Recipes from Executive Chef Mayet Cristobal

My mother retired five years ago at the age of 60. She sold her huge house in Alabama and bought a small house in Northern California so she could be closer to her kids and grandchildren. The new house has a decent size yard, where she spends most of her days tending to her plants. She has all sorts of flowers, fruits, and vegetables in her garden.

Executive Chef Mayet Cristobal’s patio garden

During my visit last month, we harvested tomatoes, onions, herbs, and lemons from her yard. I thought how wonderful it was to have a source of some fresh vegetables to supplement at-home meals. I can also understand the pleasures of gardening and the triumphant feeling of enjoying the fruits of it.

I live in a decent-sized apartment in the heart of Hollywood, a nice neighborhood with a good school nearby and close to many things I enjoy. I can Lyft to all my favorite restaurants for under $10. The Hollywood Farmers’ Market, which opens on Sundays and the Third Street Farmers Market are both less than 2 miles away from my place in opposite directions. Thai Town, K-town, Filipino Town, Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia, and Little Tokyo are but a few miles drive. Getting any types of food delivered to my home is just a click away. And I love that we are exposed to so many different cultures and diverse lifestyles.

But what I don’t have is a yard. A yard to sit around and drink my coffee on Sunday mornings. A yard to till until I feel the sunburn on my neck and blisters on my fingers. A yard to grow plants and tiny citrus and apple trees. A yard for my son and dog to run around and play fetch. The real estate in my neighborhood is beyond my reach at the moment…I am several years away financially to be able to buy a home in this area. So, for now, I have a patio…an 8’ x 3’ patio. On this little patio, I started a small garden back in spring with different vegetables and succulents. In the last few weeks, I have harvested small amounts of different varieties of tomatoes and peppers and even some strawberries. I always have fresh herbs. This is also where I drink my coffee on Sunday mornings if the weather isn’t too hot…or adult berry mint lemonade on Saturday afternoons.

“I inherited her drive to not give up. I couldn’t let a small situation of not having a yard stop me from having my own little garden and enjoying life.”

It turns out I’ve inherited just a bit of my mother’s green thumb genes. I haven’t killed my plants yet. But more importantly, I inherited her drive to not give up. I couldn’t let a small situation of not having a yard stop me from having my own little garden and enjoying life. I would like to share some recipes from my patio garden harvest.

— Chef Mayet


Click here to download Executive Chef Mayet Cristobal’s favorite summer recipes inspired by gems from her own urban garden:

  • Adult Berry-Mint Lemonade
  • Patio Garden Summer Tomato + Pickled Peppers with Burrata
  • Quick Pickled Peppers
  • Salsa Verde
  • Plus Chef’s Tip for how to store fresh herbs for longer