For Mickey Phelps, the road to her job as executive chef at is one that has taken her to France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Kenya, and Amsterdam. She speaks seven languages, including Swahili.
“Cooking from all over the world is fantastic, since I can incorporate a lot of flavors from different countries,” she says. “I like to call it California cuisine with an international twist.”
Phelps wasn’t always a chef. She’s worked for IBM and the Pentagon, and has had a plumbing business as well. But she’s always enjoyed cooking and discovered it was her “true love.”
“After I left the computer world,” Phelps says, “I decided to go and train at Le Cordon Bleu in France.”
It was no easy task getting accepted into the program, says Phelps. She had to take a general test, and then, “of course, there is the money issue, which let me tell you, it isn't cheap.”
But once there, she had the ultimate teachers: legendary chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pépin.
“Training under Julia and Jacques was amazing,” Phelps says. “I can say that it was a lot of hard work, but it paid off. Julia Child is an amazing chef, and so is Jacques. Julia is fun, and she always had a glass of wine. And when you needed help, she was right there. She never seemed to be annoyed.”
After moving from Greece to the United States in 1998 (“Love brought me to the USA”), Phelps lived in San Francisco and worked at the award-winning Silks restaurant. And then Scotts Valley called to her.
“I moved to Scotts Valley, because it was a small town and a friendly one,” Phelps says. “When I lived in San Francisco, it wasn't my scene. Yes, great restaurants, but too fast. And it seems that people have no patience in big cities.”
She spent some time as executive chef at , but later decided, “it was time to move on. I was working 12 to 15 hours a day,” Phelps explains. “And I needed some time for me instead of work and work.”
Her next stop was Scotts Valley Market, where she’s been executive chef since 2009, helping choose the wines and cheeses and cooking up delicious everyday dishes as well as upscale creations. Special customer requests are happily taken, and everything is cooked to the customer’s liking, including choosing their meat from the meat counter.
“For example, if you want a filet mignon and grilled polenta infused with truffle essence and steamed baby bok choy, we can do that,” Phelps says. “I had a customer order filet mignon stuffed with lobster for her 10th anniversary. I had it ready for her, and she was so happy that we could accommodate her.”
Phelps says Scotts Valley Market buys local and uses fresh ingredients. She goes directly to Jarred the butcher and Victor the produce manager—who goes to the fields himself to choose the produce—for her ingredients.
“One advantage that Scotts Valley Market offers over restaurants is that I get to pick my produce from the market, so it feels like you have a personal shopper doing the shopping for you," Phelps says.
Besides the deli, Phelps also runs the market’s catering business, Crown Café & Catering, out of the Scotts Valley store, as well as a deli in Capitola.
All this certainly keeps Phelps busy, but she says, “Working at Scotts Valley Market has been great.”
Her favorite part of the job—besides all that creative cooking?
“I love meeting all the customers.”