Julie Frans always figured she’d be a teacher. She even studied English at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Although her career took a different turn — to being a chef and culinary consultant — she still spends her days sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Her classrooms are kitchens and edible gardens. Her students are fellow chefs, restaurateurs and lifelong learners.
“I think I’m an educator in a totally different way,” said Frans, 38, who is Chief Operating Officer and Chef at Large at Della Test Kitchen at The Wynwood Yard, where she also serves as Director of Community and Culinary. “I’m at the Yard every day. It works in a way that I can oversee, support and offer guidance.”
Keeping Food Fresh and Local
Frans came to Miami from San Diego six years ago with her husband, a private chef, and their two kids. She led the kitchen at Essensia at the Palms Hotel in Miami Beach for several years before starting her consulting business.
‘I felt like I could be a connector between farms and chefs.’
Digging gardens for schools and mom-and-pop restaurants, she eventually met Wynwood Yard founder Della Heiman. Ever since, Frans, Heiman and their peers at The Wynwood Yard, Miami’s first culinary incubator, have been teaching us about the benefits of fresh, local and sustainable food.
“As I got to know the local food scene, people seemed confused on what was good to eat, when to eat it and how to incorporate it into meals,” Frans said. “I felt like I could be a connector between farms and chefs, teaching about seasons here and my firsthand experience.”
Expanding the Yard to North Beach and Opening Jackson Hall in the Miami Health District
The Wynwood Yard team is preparing to expand this year to two new locations. First up: Jackson Hall, an ambitious, 10,000-square-foot culinary space in Miami’s burgeoning Health District, set to debut this spring. Frans and fellow chef Nicole Votano will oversee globally inspired, responsibly sourced menus that are free of fried foods, partially hydrogenated oils, proteins with antibiotics or growth hormones, artificial preservatives, or highly refined sugars.
After Jackson Hall, the next project is North Beach Yard, which will be closer in concept to The Wynwood Yard but customized to that community’s needs.
“It’s more family-oriented,” Frans said of North Beach Yard. “There will be a demo kitchen, a farmer’s market and an actual Della restaurant. A bigger, more permanent space.”
Frans’ penchant for making good-tasting, good-for-you food more accessible to everyone aligns with her role at Slow Food Miami, where she serves as Director of Chef Community. Slow Food promotes food that is grown and consumed in a way that’s beneficial to the environment and the people who eat it. Essentially, it’s the opposite of fast food.
“Slow Food Miami has a really strong base of people who show up and connect,” she said. “I feel the traction from the inside, but there are still so many more people to reach.”
As Jackson Hall and North Beach Yard get ready to open, along with all of Frans’ ongoing culinary projects, she said her biggest struggle is finding balance.
“There are never enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do,” she said, turning appropriately to a culinary reference. “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”