Lina Fat is VP of Culinary Research and Development for Fat Family Restaurant Group, based in Sacramento, CA. Her first dream was to be a pharmacist, which she fulfilled when she earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of California-San Francisco in 1964, where she met and married her husband, Kenneth.
Her father-in-law, the late Frank Fat, founded the landmark Sacramento restaurant, Frank Fat’s in 1939, where many of the state’s most influential figures have dined for more than 70 years. Lina joined the restaurant business when the second restaurant, China Camp, opened in 1974. In 1976, Fat City Bar & Grill was opened, and since 2000, the Fat family has opened Fat’s Asia Bistro in Roseville and in Folsom.
Lina traveled the world to train under master chefs in Switzerland, France, and Italy, and at the Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She has spent a lifetime discovering new culinary secrets for what is now her specialty—combining flavors from around the globe!
She is a favorite featured guest on local Sacramento TV as well as authoring The Lina Fat Cookbook: Recipes from the Fat Family Restaurants. Lina and the Fat restaurants have received numerous awards over the years, and she has been actively involved in many community boards and organizations. Proving that her creative interests extend far beyond the kitchen, in 2007 she launched the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival, which showcases the cultural diversity of the region through presentation of ethnic dance from around the world by local talent. Lina is a true pioneer who has never been afraid to take on one more challenge in her creative and inspiring life.
- Lina’s semi-retired life now after over 40 years in the restaurant business, helping run 4 restaurants and a catering business
- The four Fat restaurants serving American Chinese food and receiving the James Beard Award a few years ago for Frank Fat’s Restaurant started in 1939 by her father-in-law
- The funny story of how the famous Banana Cream Pie came to the menu in the early days
- Lina’s beginning as a pharmacist and then a stay-at-home mom who started cooking and exploring her creativity
- How she advised her father-in-law about opening a restaurant commemorating Chinese immigrants and then started writing and testing recipes
- How Lina took on the new job of running the kitchen and managing the staff, bringing in new and innovative ideas and techniques
- Similarities between work as a pharmacist and a chef and how LIna applied some of the same principles to her new career
- The story of the historic bar and their branching into “bar food” at Fat City Bar & Grill
- How Lina took on the new challenge as restaurant manager
- Why a restaurant turns out to be a good training ground for learning life skills
- Why she made her children and other young people start out as dishwashers in the restaurant
- How she branched out into writing a cookbook
- How Lina became a local TV chef—way before TV chefs were “a thing”
- When Emeril Lagasse used one of her recipes on his famous show
- Creativity in translating the Spanish tapas concept into dim sum
- Only one of her children has followed her into the restaurant business and two have followed their father into dentistry
- Lina’s advice to those who want to be chefs—Develop your palate!
- Trends that Lina sees in the modern restaurant business
- Lina’s love for small farmers’ markets and local CA resources
- Lina’s story of her flourless chocolate cake mishap early in her marriage and how she took the failure as a challenge
- Lina’s thoughts on creativity: “Don’t create just to create. Like food, creativity should have a purpose and a balance. Start with the basics first.”
The Lina Fat Cookbook: Recipes from the Fat Family Restaurants, by Lina Fat
Have recent celebrity suicides left you with a deep sadness and wonderment at what it takes to go that far into depression? Those are common thoughts when we hear the news that someone was so overwhelmed by life’s difficulties that suicide seemed the only answer. The good news is that hope is available for anyone who needs it, and life is full of possibilities for connection and support—and yes, creativity that brings joy, mindfulness, satisfaction, and peace.
Dr. Caroline Giroux is a psychiatrist who migrated from Canada and is now Associate Professor at UC Davis. Through narrative approaches, she has the privilege to witness her patients’ growth and be inspired by their resilience. Apart from addressing the impact of traumatic experiences throughout the lifespan, she is an educator, an academic writer, an essayist, and a poet. She channels her creativity by designing teaching tools such as courses on mood disorders for medical students and a monthly newsletter for residents She is the mother of three spirited sons and has no shortage of opportunities to express her creativity through kids’ stories and various family projects.
Caroline is a creative physician who writes professionally and personally. She shares some of her poetry and essays in Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine, the official journal of the medical society by the same name. This lifestyle journal promotes the history, art, and science of medicine, the protection of public health, and the well-being of patients and their caregivers. I have the privilege of serving on the editorial committee of the journal with Caroline and am happy to share this conversation with you.
- How Caroline came to psychiatry, knowing even in high school that she wanted a medical field that allowed her to use her creativity and writing
- How she wanted to give hope to people through their deep sorrows
- How her parents inspired her to want to work in helping others and find gratification in service
- The difference in the college education systems in Canada and the US
- Why she pursued a physical therapy degree first and then went on to medical school, not knowing the reintegration of body and mind in medicine would make her PT “detour” worthwhile and very helpful
- The creatives in her family: a great uncle who was a priest, poet, and writer; and her aunt who is a painter and poet
- How depression and suicide rates have risen over 30% in the past 20 years and how creative people are keenly affected
- The struggle to reconcile our image of ourselves with what others think of us
- How some celebrities are disconnected from their families and struggle with addiction and substance abuse
- Alienation from others and self is a common theme and an inability to transform from a difficult circumstance
- Healing and empowerment come when people are willing to transform from fear, shame, and hopelessness
- How even Robin Williams, “the king of laughter,” had problems and a severe mental illness that people weren’t aware of
- What we can learn about attempted suicide to affect policies about gun violence
- When people reach a high stress situation and are overwhelmed, if they don’t have a coping mechanism, but have alcoholism and available guns—a ticking time bomb is the result
- Why we need to talk about suicide and deepen our understanding
- 12-25% of people experience depression, with men expressing it more openly but women being more willing to seek help
- The need is to expand coping skills to deal with stressors more effectively now and later in life
- The need for a “sabbatical of the soul” and respite to fight against overwhelming feelings
- There are many resources available to treat substance abuse and depression
- How religious affiliations can help because of the sense of community and the ritual practices that induce mindfulness
- How the celebrity lifestyle can take away the joy and mindfulness we gain from simple, daily, repetitive activities
- Why self-care is extremely vital for doctors and healthcare workers, in the form of exercise, mindfulness, yoga, and socialization activities
- Caroline’s thoughts on creativity: “We all have an innate potential for creativity, even those who might not think they are creative. We access this creativity for problem-solving, clarity, and mindfulness. Find your creative path.”
National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-8255