Debra Bonnefin has an unusual family history. Her paternal grandfather, born in Tahiti, was adopted by a California couple, and he grew up in Los Angeles. “As an adult, he was a scenic designer for the films studios, but then he was diagnosed with asthma and advised to move to the Eastern Sierras,” Debra relates.
From those roots in Lone Pine, California, Debra’s father moved the family to Lancaster in the Antelope Valley northeast of Los Angeles. “This is in the Mojave Desert near Edwards Airforce Base, and a distinctive part of my growing up was hearing the sonic boom when aircraft would break the sound barrier,” she laughs.
Another distinctive aspect of Debra’s childhood was the love the whole family had of outdoor cooking, whether roasting a pig in the ground or over a campfire. “Dad started out as a butcher and later owned his own restaurant, and he always grilled. That’s where our love of barbecue comes from.”
“Food was a big part of our lives, with Dad taking us to Tahitian restaurants on our trips. Though he had grown up in a California cowboy environment, he was very interested in is Tahitian culture, and I still have his recipe for Tahitian spareribs.”
Debra’s father passed on his skill with barbecuing and grilling to Debra, and her brother David and their siblings. “No one in this family lives without a barbecue.”
Professionally, Debra became a chiropractor and in addition to her practice was an educator and researcher in the field. “I developed my first rub, Mediterranean Bliss, early in my career, because it was a way to put a good dinner on the table quickly.”
As she developed her rub recipes, she used them when she entertained and gave them as gifts to friends, always winning high praise and encouragement to sell them. “At that time it was not easy to become a food entrepreneur. But regulations changed to accommodate small producers and shared kitchen facilities became available, and I came to a point in my career when I was ready to try something new. Continuing with my research and practicing as a relief chiropractor for vacationing colleagues, I kind of eased into Rockin’ Rubs.”
2013 was the year for research into this new venture and all that being a food entrepreneur entails. By 2014, she was fully committed to the business.
As the business grew, Debra welcomed her brother David and his wife Tina as partners. “The timing was perfect, sysnchronistic. David and I have always been close, and he and Tina contribute additional skills. A skilled craftsman, David makes the wooden crates for our gift sets. Tina has a sharp eye and is raising our game in terms of design. Our Mom, sister Janet, nieces and nephews pitch in too. The whole family gets involved!”
“We’re so glad to honor all the wonderful memories of our Father’s teaching us to barbecue. Plus we’re making delicious barbecue accessible to the busiest professionals with our Rockin Rubs.”