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About Donna

Donna Nordin, a pioneer in the development of Southwestern Cuisine, was born and raised in San Diego, California. At the age of eighteen, while studying abroad in Rouen, France, a compelling urge to work with food was set in motion. She was soon enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Donna's reputation as a leading creative force in the culinary industry soon spread and her cooking talents and instruction techniques were in great demand. Upon relocating to San Francisco, California, she began a teaching career that has taken her around the world. She returned to France several times during the years and in 1979 studied with Gaston Lenotre, world renowned pastry chef.

While on a cross country trip in 1984, Donna visited Tucson, Arizona, for three days of teaching. As plans for a Southwestern restaurant evolved, Donna and her new partner/ Don Luria, eagerly began conceptualizing the menu by developing and testing recipes. Their restaurant, Café Terra Cotta, opened in July 1986 to rave reviews and a noticeable air of excitement. With Donna as the Executive Chef, the restaurant was an instant success and became one of Tucson's most popular and nationally recognized restaurants.

In January 2001, Terra Cotta moved into their new Tucson location on Sunrise Drive. Donna took great pride in ensuring that the new location lived up to the proud reputation Terra Cotta has earned. Café Terra Cotta closed in January 2009 after a 23 year run. Donna taught her favorite French dishes in a cooking class in Southwest, France each year until the facility closed. She still teaches her Southwest favorites in Lake Tahoe. Beginning in 2011, Donna started to teach both Southwestern and French cuisines in her home and in other residences in the Tucson Area.


Donna’s culinary recognition and awards include being on the cover with a major article in Bon Appétit, December,1980, a nomination by the James Beard Foundation for “Best Chef Southwest”, the IACP’ Chef’s Award of Excellence and the Scottsdale Culinary Festival’s appointment to the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame.

Donna complimented her culinary talents by beginning a jewelry business. Each of her pieces are one of a kind. Her jewelry can be found in stores around the country.

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