Califonia Bountiful

Brotherly love

January/February 2019 California Bountiful magazine

Siblings value ties to community and each other

Toby, left, and Juan Barajas work together in their hometown of Woodland. Photo: © 2019 Fred Greaves

Juan Barajas is known as Yolo County's Food Whisperer—which begs the question: Why?

"Yolo County is one of the richest agricultural communities in the world," he begins, then launches into a passionate and thorough description of its varied crops, with anecdotes about the people who grow them woven throughout the narrative. He genuinely loves his hometown—he was born in the county seat of Woodland—and divides his time between the restaurant he co-owns there with his brother, Toby, and the farms that provide its ingredients.

Of each of those ingredients, Juan said, "If you ask the right questions, it will tell you exactly what it wants to become." He's talking about the importance of firsthand, sensory-based knowledge.

As executive chef of Savory Café, Toby's task is to translate that to the plate. It's a collaboration both brothers say they value and enjoy. In fact, Toby said he returned home from a stint in the Bay Area so they could open their first restaurant together—Las Maracas in nearby Knights Landing, which they just sold to a longtime employee—and "so we could see more of each other and work together." Juan's wife, Kristin Hansen, works full-time in the aerospace industry, but also plays a key role in the collaboration.

The Barajas brothers have worked to elevate Woodland's food scene and help its residents make the connection between farm and fork. One of the most recent examples is the Aug. 31 unveiling of the Edible Learning Garden, a hands-on teaching tool at City Hall that Juan advocated.

"I see a really bright future for food in Woodland," he said. "If I could sum it up, it would be what we can do together as a community."


Citrus salad

Smoked ham hock and heirloom bean soup

Golden egg huevos rancheros

Braised beef shank 

Carrot-beet olive oil cake

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