Where the Heart Belongs

For chef Yella Catalana, cooking at Mill Valley Beerworks is literally a labor of love. The Mill Valley native’s career began with an internship at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, an experience that cemented her desire to lead a culinary life. After traveling around the world, studying and eating wherever and whatever she could, Yella finished her degree while working as a pastry chef in Los Angeles. She relocated to the Bay Area to work at Boulettes Larder in the iconic Ferry Building, but quickly discovered that her heart belonged in Mill Valley. Three years ago while enjoying a pint at Mill Valley Beerworks (her favorite local bar), she met owners Tyler and Justin Catalana — now her husband and brother-in-law, respectively — and together the three transformed the bar into a full-blown restaurant, where Yella honed her skills as the pastry chef. In January she took over the kitchen completely. “It has been a such a joy working with the local farmers and purveyors and all of their magnificent offerings,” she says. “In a neighborhood restaurant, the icing on the cake has been the people: getting to know regulars as friends and working with such a lovely and tight-knit crew.” Here she shares the recipe for a frequently requested dish: a unique and beautiful salad featuring unusual aromas and delicious flavors. millvalleybeerworks.com

Avocado and Roasted Carrot Salad

Serves 4


  • Black and white sesame seeds
  • 4 ounces tahini
  • 2 ounces water
  • 4 ounces plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 bunch baby rainbow carrots
  • 2 tablespoons wildflower honey
  • 1 preserved lemon (optional)
  • 1 avocado
  • Mint leaves

To Prepare

  1. Scatter sesame seeds into frying pan. Toast on medium heat, shaking occasionally, until dark and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, thin tahini paste by whisking water into it until any lumps are smoothed. Whisk in yogurt and olive oil.
  3. Finish with salt and lemon juice to taste and set aside.
  4. Coat a pan lightly with olive oil and sear carrots at high heat until slightly charred.
  5. Turn off heat and immediately drizzle one tablespoon of honey into the hot pan, allowing it to caramelize and even burn slightly.
  6. If you have a preserved lemon handy, thinly slice, toss into the pan and coat with rest of honey.
  7. Spread the tahini dressing liberally onto serving plate.
  8. Slice avocado and scatter half over tahini.
  9. Place warm, honeyed carrots over the avocado. Layer more avocado slices on top of carrot. Garnish with sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, toasted black and white sesame seeds and fresh torn mint leaves.