The Grove’s Ginger Iuppa and James Kretschmer in their own words
Name/Title/Company: Ginger Iuppa/Chef/The Grove James Kretschmer/Chef/The Grove
Number of Years with Company:
Iuppa– 3 years
Kretschmer – 5 years
Number of years in profession:
Iuppa – 14 years
Kretschmer – 8 years
Iuppa – Reno High, UCDavis (B.S. Anthropology), California Culinary Academy San Francisco (Associates Culinary Arts)
Kretschmer – Hug High, TMCC – culinary program
Last Book Read:
Iuppa – Alice Waters & Chez Panisse
Kretschmer – Harry Potter & The Cursed Child
Iuppa - Priceless
Kretschmer – Dr. Strangelove
Favorite Musical Group or Genre:
Iuppa – Indie/Alternative – I can’t choose just one artist!
Kretschmer – Wu Tang Clan
Spouse, kids or pets:
Iuppa – Husband-Luigi, Daughter Naia (age 4), Daughter Haven (age 2), 3 cats and 1 dog!
Kretschmer – Wife Sonia, Son Emerson (age 10 months) 2 cats and 2 dogs!
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: How did you get into this profession?
Ginger Iuppa: While attending college, I was more interested in cooking for my roommates then studying. After finishing school I moved to San Francisco, enrolled in Culinary School and didn’t look back. Since being in the food industry, I have found that I prefer cooking for special events instead of restaurants.
James Kretschmer: I fell in love with cooking on accident. I was working as an electrician for about five years and got laid off when the economy started to decline. I wanted to find another trade/profession that fit my personality and lifestyle at that time. I started as a prep cook, peeling onions, carrots and potatoes for hours a day. I quickly fell in love with the pace, adrenaline and comradery of the kitchen environment.
NNBW: What do you enjoy most about working in your field?
Iuppa: I like being a part of someone’s special day. Whether I am cooking for someone’s wedding, birthday party, or holiday party, I can see the connections between family and friends and how food is bringing everyone together. If we do our job correctly, then the food we make will be a part of the memory people have from that special day.
Kretschmer: Food is like magic if you think about it. A single bite can transport you to a specific time or memory. A certain aroma can bring you an infinite number of emotions. Food brings people together and makes memories that last a lifetime
NNBW: What is the most challenging part about your job?
Iuppa: The actual execution of serving a meal to a large number of people all at once. When an event reaches 150-200 people, a lot of thought has to go into how and when the food is prepared to make sure all the guests receive a delicious, hot plate of food. When timelines change last minute, it’s always hard to make adjustments once the food is already in the oven. We try to be as flexible as possible, but it is not always easy.
Kretschmer: Keeping up with the latest food trends while staying true to your style of cuisine. Planning a meal months to a year in advance can be a very challenging task as well; what will be in season and the quality of that product is an educated guess at best.
NNBW: What do you foresee in the future of your profession?
Iuppa: Even with the ups and downs of the economy, people still seem to celebrate the momentous occasions in their lives and need a place or caterer to do so. The changes we see at events mostly have to do with what is trending. Plated, formal dinners aren’t as popular right now as stations where people can interact with the food and have more time to mingle with their guests.
Kretschmer: I am happy to see more and more people becoming not only conscious about what they eat but where it comes from. I think this trend will continue to grow and more people will want to support our local farmers and ranchers.
NNBW: What advice would you give someone who wants to get into your profession?
Iuppa: Work in a kitchen first and get your feet wet, see if it is something you really want to pursue before you spend any kind of money on classes.
Kretschmer: I would be brutally honest with them, the hours are long and difficult. It’s not as glamorous as Food Network makes it look, and it’s typically stressful. However, you can express your art, create, and bring together family and friends all in a day’s work.
NNBW: What was the best advice anyone ever gave you either professionally or personally?
Iuppa: Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are so many details that go into planning an event, that on the actual day, just worry about the big picture and everything will fall into place.
Kretschmer: My mother once told me, “you have two ears, two eyes and only one mouth. So look and listen twice as much as you speak.” You will learn more and succeed faster in anything you pursue with this in mind.
NNBW: Has there been someone who was especially influential in helping you establish your career or in reaching your higher goals? If so, who and how?
Iuppa: When I first moved back to Reno (I was gone 10 years!), I took my resume to The CheeseBoard and the manager at the time, Gigi Werbeckes, saw my potential and passed it on to the executive chef. I was hired the next week as the catering chef and spent four years learning all the in’s and out’s of catering. Now that I am the chef at The Grove, Gigi is my general manager! She is very supportive of all my ideas and is one of mine and James’ biggest supporters.
Kretschmer: When I first started in this industry, I worked for an executive chef here in town. I learned a lot about what being a professional meant. I watched him put a lot of energy into the back of house and the front of house because there’s only one goal, to give an amazing experience to the guests.
NNBW: How do you manage your time between the responsibilities of your profession and your personal life?
Iuppa: It’s hard! One nice thing about working at The Grove is that I can make my own schedule based around the events we have. The hard part is, we work a lot of nights and weekends, and a lot of times events will pop up last minute when I already have something planned with the family. Thankfully, my family lives in Reno, and help me a lot with babysitting my 2-year-old and 4-year-old.
Kretschmer: Through the grace of my wife, haha. It’s very difficult because in this line of work we typically work weekends, nights and holidays. Long hours at that! Luckily my wife Sonia is very understanding and we make it work. We take full advantage of any time off I do get to be with each other.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like about living/working here?
Iuppa: I grew up here and moved away for 10 years. I lived in Davis, San Francisco, Portland, and Denver. When my husband and I were living in Colorado, we decided it was time to settle down and decided Reno would be the best place. We love that there are four seasons here and each season offers something fun to do outdoors. We also love that in 30 minutes we could be at Lake Tahoe, and in 3 hours we could be in Napa, or in 4 hours we could be in San Francisco (where we met). Now that we have 2 young kids, we also really appreciate all the family activities and events that happen in our small community.
Kretschmer: I love Reno! We actually have seasons, very little traffic, an ever expanding food scene, mountain fun in any season and beautiful Tahoe within a 45 minute drive! The ocean and big cities are within a few hours drive, which is a short enough trip for the weekend also. Reno is great not only for what it has but what it doesn’t have as well. I’m not a fan of big cities that are oversaturated with people and crime.
NNBW: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Iuppa: San Diego. My parents grew up in San Diego and I lived there as a child, so I still have a lot of family there. Recently we have driven down there a few times with the kids and have had a lot of fun enjoying the beaches, theme parks, and sunshine.
Kretschmer: If I had to pick one specific place, I would have to choose Rock Lake. It a small alpine lake up around Johnsville (Graeagle area) that is only accessible by hiking in. I have been backpacking up in that area for over fifteen years. So many memories I have in those mountains, streams and lakes. I would much rather hike miles into the wilderness than burry my feet in the sand at the beach congested with many others. Stripping myself away from all the clutter and ritual of the every day grind is my idea of a vacation. Peace and quiet.
NNBW: Last concert or sporting event attended?
Iuppa: Reno 1868FC! I grew up playing soccer in Reno and love that we have a local team to support.
Kretschmer: Reno 1868FC! I have been playing soccer since I was eight years old. I just love the sport and I am so happy to have a local team to support.
Construction could begin next year and require about 500 to 600 workers, with a permanent workforce starting at 150 to 200 people with potential to expand.