By April Walker
Valley Women Writer
2:55 PM PDT, April 27, 2011
“If you are a man in the business world, you have an automatic ‘in’ if you play golf. But it has been my experience, as a woman in the business world, that you have an ‘in’ if you can cook.” And, boy, does Cherie Watte Angulo have an ‘in’.
Angulo has served her savory dishes to California legislators, foreign dignitaries and, of course, her two loving sons and husband. Her professional life may be all business, but Cherie Watte Angulo has a trade secret, she is also a master in her kitchen.
As a native of the Imperial Valley and daughter of Calipatria farmer Jim Watte and well-known cooking legend, Donna Grizzle, Angulo’s life was markedly influenced by the plight of the California farmer. In fact, her decision at age 12 to become an agricultural lobbyist was a result of listening to the adult “farming” conversation while sitting around the family dinner table. Angulo wanted to make a difference in the lives of farmers, farmers who were heavily impacted by governmental regulations.
“Anything political, I soaked right up,” Angulo explains. “I attended campaign events and summer classes to learn more about politics.”
A move to Holtville in the early 1980s led Angulo to graduate from Holtville High School in 1984. She attended the only college of any interest to her — University of California, Davis — where she, true to nature, created her own major by combining agricultural economics and political science to form agricultural policy.
As a junior in college, Angulo’s life took a drastic turn. She was offered “a dream job” as a legislative assistant for agriculture. She got that job, and at only 20 years old, Angulo packed up and moved to Washington, D.C., to live a life of travel, long hours and exciting, but hard work.
After three years, Angulo returned to UC Davis and while finishing up her degree began working for the California State Farm Bureau in the national affairs division. Working with Ann Veneman, the secretary of the state Department of Agriculture for California at that time, introduced Angulo to the world of cooking as entertaining.
“Since we had no budget for entertaining, Ann (Veneman) and I would cook dinners at her house or my house for visiting politicians,” Angulo remembers.
An ability to organize large dinner parties at the last minute for important people quickly became Angulo’s calling card. She excels at spontaneity and rarely sticks to a recipe. Instead of copying word for word what the recipe advises, Angulo swears by the philosophy of cooking not being about the recipe but about “building components.” Her philosophy clicked, and many a visiting politician enjoyed a savory meal prepared by the hands of Angulo, the dedicated agriculture lobbyist by day and masterful cook by night.
Following her exciting job in politics, Angulo was hired as the executive director of California’s Asparagus Commission in 1999. Life in Sacramento was full and busy for Angulo, but in 2001 while on assignment in Washington, D.C., one fateful day would prove to be a life changing moment for her.
“Watching the flames from the Pentagon on 9/11, and the experience of being stuck in Washington D.C., in the days that followed, changed my life,” Angulo remembers.
Angulo moved back to the Imperial Valley after many years away, years of travel, excitement and professional fulfillment. She returned, married her longtime love, Tommy Angulo, and started a family. She continued to work part time in Sacramento, but her heart had returned to the place of her childhood.
Despite her move to the Valley, Angulo continues to organize, host and cook her heart out for not only her profession, but also Valley endeavors. Upon her return to the Valley, Angulo almost immediately became a treasured member of Donors of Valley Endeavors. DOVES, a local women’s organization that raises money to benefit women’s and children’s charities in the Valley, is where delectable cooking seems to be every members’ special gift. DOVES is best known for their festive Monte Carlo night, which takes place every spring.
Angulo’s two sons, 6-year-old Andrew and 4-year-old Matthew, also benefit from their mother’s love and commitment to the craft of fine cooking. Sharing family time over a full meal where all four family members sit down around the table and enjoy stir-fry or lasagna is extremely important to Angulo.
“I remember a few years ago realizing that my sons had never had Kraft Macaroni & Cheese! I make homemade dishes for them instead,” confesses Angulo.
Her profession still affords Angulo the opportunity to entertain large crowds. How serious is Angulo’s family about her special cooking talent? Serious enough for Angulo’s husband to buy out a party business. Now Angulo has tables, chairs, linens and chafing dishes to spare. This last August, Angulo used her newly acquired party supplies when she planned and created an entire meal for 80 people for the California Agricultural Leadership Program. A delicious combination of smoked pork, spicy cabbage salad, beans, bread and peach crisp welcomed the folks from Washington, D.C., as only Imperial Valley hospitality can.
And now to the recipe at hand. Imagine, if you will, attending a dinner hosted by Angulo herself. Picture your gleaming dinner plate adorned with a toasted English muffin, layered with roasted asparagus, then topped with a juicy Brandt Beef filet mignon, which has been seared to perfection over the grill. Smell the buttery béarnaise sauce, which has been generously drizzled over the steaming beef. The colorful combination of herb roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes have enough crispy crunch and flavor to outshine all other potato dishes. The meal appears simple, but perfectly elegant.
After tasting only a few morsels of her mouth watering meal, anyone would confirm that Angulo certainly has flawlessly earned her ‘in‘ to the world of fine cooking and entertaining.
Copyright © 2013, Imperial Valley Press