In 1989, Holly took a break from working and set-off with her backpack
for points far away, which included tours of Australia and Fiji.
Upon her return in 1990, Holly enrolled in the Baltimore International
Culinary College. Holly completed an externship in Ireland with
Master Chef Peter Timmons as one of her final courses at BICC. This
experience gave her a firm foundation in technique and classical
cuisine. Upon graduation, Holly worked for two years as a line cook
for the Milton Inn, in Sparks, Maryland. During her tenure, wine
guru Robert Parker marked the restaurant as one of his “Most
Memorable Meals” in 1991 and 1992.
In 1993, Holly moved to Seattle with her husband Michael, who was
enrolled in graduate school, and began her Seattle culinary career
at Place Pigalle in the Pike Place Market. After a brief cooking
term there, she accepted a position with Tom Douglas at the Dahlia
Lounge where she was sous chef for nearly four years.
Opening her own restaurant was a lifelong dream and to that end,
she began the preparation, planning and development of a restaurant
business plan. Simultaneously, Chef Tamara Murphy encouraged Holly
to be a part of the opening of her notable restaurant, Brasa, and
she agreed to take part as chef de cuisine at Brasa for its first
year. She left when the opportunity to acquire Cafe Juanita became
After a simple remodel and hiring of staff, Holly launched Cafe
Juanita in April of 2000. She opened with an adventurous menu, a
flourishing garden and updated surroundings in this charming Kirkland
house. Her passion for northern Italian cuisine continues to bring
her rave reviews from local and national media.