Community Interview: Treehouse Kitchen

Owner Mary and Chef Tricia from Treehouse Kitchen

Owner, Mary Gafner, and chef, Tricia Cariffe of Treehouse Kitchen

In an effort to get to know our neighbors and introduce our members to the local businesses around us, we periodically conduct interviews with business owners in our community. Our Solana Beach manager recently took a croissant making workshop at Treehouse Kitchen and sat down with the owners to hear more about who they are and how they got started.

Find Treehouse Kitchen online:
Facebook: Treehouse Kitchen

About Treehouse Kitchen…

Founded by Mary and Stan Gafner, Treehouse Kitchen was established to bring together local chefs and food experts with people interested in learning more about cooking. Located in the Gafner’s home in Encinitas, they also host programs with art, yoga, and lifestyle experts, and consider their offerings as more of an interactive experience than simply a class or a workshop. 

With world cuisines like Thai, Chinese, and Indian, in addition to seasonal and on-trend workshops like holiday pies and fermented kombucha, there is plenty of variety to engage every type of foodie!

Read on to learn more.  

What’s your role and how long have you been in business?

We are Mary and Stan Gafner, and we’re the owners and founders of Treehouse Kitchen. Stan also makes jam (Jammin Stan) and initially started working at the farmer’s market. A lot of vendors there wanted to have their own retail space but couldn’t really expand large enough beyond the market to do so. Our original idea was to have a commercial kitchen and a retail shop in the same place — one in the front, the other in back. And we even found a space, but had difficulty agreeing on terms with the owner, so ultimately it didn’t work out.

Around the same time, we had included our home as an auction item for the Lagoon Conservancy, which included hosting a private dinner. It was then that the idea sparked for us to do classes in our home.

We always wanted to find a way to share our home with people, but couldn’t quite put our finger on how to do it. This idea gave us a way to support other chefs and give them an outlet, by having them come in and do the teaching themselves. Currently we have a variety of culinary workshops but our ultimate goal is to expand our offerings to encompass more creative outlets in the future — things like yoga, art, and music. 

What’s the best part about being in Encinitas? 

We are long time residents of the area and just really love it here. Stan inherited this property from his family and we’ve built our home from scratch, designing it in a way that fosters our interest in sharing it people. There isn’t much like this in North County and we’re hoping we can start to build a community around food and other shared interests and lifestyles.  

Treehouse Kitchen arrival - so welcoming!

Where do you find inspiration? 

Just being curious about things. And going on vacation — every trip is a culinary adventure for us because we really love food and trying different restaurants. We also often think about what we would want to learn and what others might enjoy and try to build workshops around that.

For example, we once learned how to flambé and now we want to flambé just about everything! We are incredibly inspired by what our chefs can do and create. We enjoy different types of food and people and want to share love that with others.

Did you always see yourself doing something like this? 

Not really, at least not in this capacity. Mary actually has a regular 9-5 job, so it’s not even something we’re doing full time at the moment. We never really saw it happening ahead of time, but just kind of went with it when the idea came about.

What was your first job?

Stan: Dunkin Donuts, making donut holes.
Mary: doing phone sales at the Olin Mills portrait studio.

What sort of advice would you give to an aspiring business owner?

Don’t give up! Just keep going and be tenacious. With Stan’s jam business, which he’s had for several years now, he’s seen a lot of turnover — over 50% of vendors drop out. So yeah, definitely keep going and don’t give up! It’s not easy.

Do you have anything exciting coming up in the future or is there anything else we should know about your business?

We’ve only been open since May of 2018, so at the moment we are working on getting established so the business can be more self-sustaining. And our workshops are currently only on the weekends, but at some point we want to incorporate other creative offerings like yoga, music, maybe even retreats that span multiple days. We’ll get there, but for now we’re experimenting with different marketing tools and really just trying to build our brand. 

What do you do when you’re not working? How do you like to spend your free time?

Look for new restaurants — we are obviously foodies at heart.

Chef Tricia at Treehouse Kitchen
Tools of the trade at Treehouse Kitchen

The next few questions are a series of rapid fire, don’t-think-too-much, one-word responses to see how people think on their feet. They usually provide some pretty interesting insight!

How would you describe yourself in one word?

Mary: Funny, or fun
: Creative

What are you afraid of?

MaryNot waking up
: Not being able to create; losing the ability to use my hands

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

MaryMessyness or dishonesty
: Idiots

Favorite food?

MarySushi and chocolate
: Same!

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

We’re doing it! We really enjoy working with people and watching them use their art to provide for people. 

Thanks so much to Mary and Stan, for opening their home and sharing more of their story! If you love cooking, or are interested in improving your kitchen skills, we highly recommend taking a class at Treehouse Kitchen. Next up for our staff is a Chinese Cuisine class – have a look at their workshop calendar and join us!  

Do you work for, or own a business in Solana Beach, Leucadia, or Carlsbad? Contact us to set up your own interview and feature!

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