Our Values: Meet Chef Alex

Chef Alex Fuentes

One of SingleThread’s core values is Stewardship. We define this as all-encompassing; we steward the land with our farm and sustainability in our kitchen, but we also steward the joy of our guests and growth of our colleagues. Mentorship is a key pillar in our culture, and that commitment is born from stewardship.  

Chef Alex Fuentes is a great example of such growth. Chef Alex was born in Southern California to an El Salvadorian father and a French mother. As first-generation immigrants, both his parents worked extremely hard to ensure that Alex and his siblings were raised in the best of surroundings. As a result of their hard work however, they were coming home late, which was how Alex stumbled upon cooking. He learned how to cook as a necessity in middle school - would get dinner started for his brother and himself with the coaching of his mother over the phone.

“My parents believe in the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality, and for my 16th birthday I got taken out to Spago Beverly Hills my first fine dining experience. I still remember those lamb chops. Food has been comforting for me for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t plan to become a Chef. The plan was to become an Architect as I loved the process of creation and constructing abstract ideas.”

Alex went to Austin to begin his studies in Architecture, but found that academia was not his forte and he returned to Los Angeles without much aim. As an avid skateboarder he spent his time skating, watching the Food Network and exploring various side gigs. Before he knew it, he found himself in a six-month apprenticeship in an Italian restaurant under “a traditional Italian Chef with a temper”. He loved every moment - and thus; Chef Alex realized that he had found his path. Shortly after the apprenticeship, his mother - always wanting the best for him - sent him to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in the Napa Valley.

Chef Fuentes on our Farm harvesting Squash Blossom flowers. Photo: Emma K. Morris.

Arriving at SingleThread

I grew up loving food but being in the wine country and exposed to the agriculture and origin of our food system was the perfect shock to my system, as was the structure of the culinary brigade. I had never thought much of where my food came from, and why sustainability and biodiversity is so important in how good food is grown. I couldn’t learn enough, and my passion for sustainability and zero-waste in the kitchen was ignited.

Upon graduating from the CIA, Alex went on to work at several restaurants in both Southern and Northern CA - being exposed to what he now says were very toxic kitchen environments with the typical hierarchical treatment made famous by some chefs on TV. When a skateboarding accident broke his wrist he was forced to take 7 months off and reflect. While he didn’t think much of it then, he now looks back on those early days with gratitude that he landed where he did - with Chef Kyle and Katina at SingleThread. After dining at SingleThread one day in early 2017, he immediately asked Chef Kyle for a Stage (where Chefs spend a few days to a few weeks apprenticing) and was quickly offered a role. 

Chefs Kyle and Alex at our crab fest 


“I have always admired the master to apprentice relationship, always looking for a mentor I can truly learn from and hone my craft with - and I saw that throughout the SingleThread team. I wanted to be a part of it. No kitchen I had ever been in placed such a focus on teaching and nurturing. This was a place where I could be challenged creatively, but it also felt like home - with Chef Kyle and Katina and their daughters and dogs mingling in the Restaurant and on the Farm. I gravitated toward their values and how they brought them to life every day. Cooking for me was very selfish at first, but when I came here I found a genuine love of service and hospitality - I found Omotenashi. It changed my outlook on what it means to be in this industry.”

In the years since he joined SingleThread as a Chef De Partie on the Donabe station, Chef Kyle has mentored and grown Chef Alex - and the rest of the culinary team - with dedication. In 2018 - in spite of it causing a gap in the SingleThread kitchen - he encouraged Alex to apply for the Ment’or Grant program with a focus on sustainability. Alex won a grant and headed off to Europe for 3 months to apprentice in several leading sustainability restaurants. Upon his return, he brought a vast array of new knowledge to make SingleThread an even better, more sustainable Restaurant with a strong focus on zero waste. 

It’s been incredible to watch Chef Alex’s growth here over the years. He really takes mentorship to heart and is always the one taking time to explain our “why”, our history, and inspiration to the entire team. We call him “the keeper of the flame”!”, shares Chef Kyle.

Most recently, Chef Alex has been promoted to Executive Sous Chef. He is a shining example of how our value of stewardship is embodied in our culture and people, and he is paying it forward every day as he mentors and nurtures his team. Congratulations, Chef Alex!