Traci Des Jardins entered college at the University of Santa Cruz intending on becoming a veterinarian. She quickly learned her passion laid elsewhere. She petitioned star chef Joachim Splichal to give her a chance in his kitchen; he gave her two weeks to prove herself. “It was an atmosphere of militarism, aggression, abuse, yelling,” she said. But she made it. She left Splichal and went to France to study at the famed Troisgros, where she was the only woman of 25 kitchen apprentices. Again, she made it. She is now the chef and co-owner of six restaurants, including the highly awarded Jardinere in San Francisco.