Vista hair salon owner creates a cookbook from his customers’ recipes


A Vista beauty salon owner who loves to cook has been receiving recipes from his customers as a token of appreciation for nearly 50 years.

Epi Tapia, who owns the Epi Centre, a boutique hair salon at 702 Mercantile St., found nearly 100 recipes under a stack of papers a few years ago while cleaning his desk. That was the beginning of his cookbook entitled Epi’s ABCD Cookbook – Already Cooked and Ready. The cookbook is a culinary work, but also a story of some of the local residents who contributed to the book.

“This book is a labor of love and a confirmation that all of these recipes have been given to me to share,” said Tapia, 80.

“My wife and I talk a lot, and I really enjoy cooking and also experimenting with new recipes on my menu, so I wanted to share that with others,” Tapia said.

In fact, Tapia said it was his wife Virginia who inspired him to put the cookbook together.

Tapia’s cookbook contains 32 of the recipes along with a short story about each of the women (and a woman’s husband) who gave him the recipes. Each dish is accompanied by a photo of the finished dish and a copy of the original handwritten recipe, which is often a story in itself.

Recipes range from Mary Jane Lawler’s chilli con carne, Peggy Adler’s spinach quiche and Mrs. Doris Reeps’ “Oh Be Joyful Cake” to Marine Corps Col. Raymond Knapp’s wontons (his wife, Jane Ames Knapp, helmed the French 75 cocktail with brandy at). and champagne), Kelly Geiger’s Dynamite Cookies, Erma Kosanovich’s Persimmon Pudding, and Paula Kent’s European Cheesecake.
“When they gifted the recipes to Epi, they gave their permission to share them,” said Virginia Tapia.

“It wasn’t easy selecting recipes to include in this cookbook,” said Epi Tapia.

Much of the selection took place a few years ago at an afternoon social that Tapia and his wife hosted at their Vista home with the help of Executive Chef Chris Smith, an award-winning chef with first place awards from the Brandy Association of California and New Mexico Restaurant Association.

About 50 people attended and 25 recipes were prepared for the guests to taste along with the French 75 cocktail featured in the cookbook. The guests were asked to give their opinion on the dishes.

“We wanted to select recipes that appeal to different tastes and personalities,” said Tapia.

As guests sampled the variety of dishes, they asked for the recipes and Tapia replied, “You have to buy the book to get them.”

“It’s an Americana cookbook with a variety of flavors,” said Tapia, who grew up in New Mexico and moved with his parents to Vista in 1953, where he spent most of his life. Tapia has included two of his own favorite sopaipillas recipes from his childhood.

The cookbook contains a pinch of humor. Jane Ames Knapp describes her French 75 cocktail as “a quick adjustment of attitude.”

There is a recipe for Elephant Stew by Lucille Cathey, who made Tapia his favorite chocolate cake every year for his birthday. The recipe states: “1 medium-sized elephant or 2 small; 2 rabbits (optional); Salt;
Pepper; Cut the elephant into bite-sized pieces. Add enough brown sauce to cover. Cook at 465 degrees over an open fire for about four weeks. (This is enough for 3,800 people. If more are expected, add the two rabbits. Use only if necessary; most people don’t like rabbit in their stew!)”

Above all, the stories of the participants are full of admiration and gratitude for the friendship. For example, Margo Hudson’s biography (who contributed to Brownies) says that she “was the wife of a Navy officer. She and her husband have traveled all over the world and entertained a lot; she loved everything. She was a woman with a big smile and a big heart. She walked as if she were walking on tiptoe and on a cloud, her arms bent at the elbows and her hands raised as if praising God for all her blessings.”

Tapia thanked the first person in the cookbook, EF White, for her inspiration in including stories about each of the women who gave recipes. White’s recipe is for a Wassail Cider.

Following the Americana theme, the cover is red and inside, the story and recipe headings are blue on white pages. On the reverse is a pen and ink drawing of a woman drawn by Annabelle C. Doan, the original hanging on one of Tapia’s drawing room walls.

A winner of multiple hairstyling competitions, Tapia has owned day spas and hair salons in North County for 50 years and has been in his current location for 30 years. He also served as an educator and platform artist for Redken and Aveda and was manager of the May Company Styling Salon opening at the El Camino Shopping Center in Carlsbad.

Tapia said he is the stylist and his wife handles the technical side of the salon. She also helped publish the book.

“The most enjoyable contribution to the cookbook was working with the chef and the photographer; Arrange the plates and invite the guests to the soirée. I am over the moon that we now have a published book,” said Virginia Tapia.

The couple will be inducted into the Vista Historical Society in mid-May for their significant contributions to the community. The Tapias, which celebrate their 55th anniversary in September, have been involved with the Vista Historical Society, the Vista Public Library, the Avo Playhouse and the Moonlight Amphitheater.

Virginia Tapia, who has lived in Vista all her life, was CEO of the Vista Chamber of Commerce from 1989 to 1999. She has been a member of the Vista Economic Development Association, the North County Tourism Coalition, the North County Transportation Coalition, and the North County Chamber of Commerce Association, and has served on the Vista Community Clinic board of directors. She received proclamations from city, county, state, and federal officials. She was named Woman of the Year by the Vista Chamber of Commerce in 1988 and later Woman of Success by San Diego-based Soroptimist International.

Epi Tapia’s involvement in the community has included serving on the board of directors of the Vista Town Center Association and volunteering as chair of the Vista Fireworks, Chili Cookoff and Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

“We want to thank everyone who has supported us,” said Tapia. “Thank you to all my wonderful salon guests who have shared their recipes with me over the years.”

Tapia plans to donate $1 from the sale of each book to the Ukraine Country Relief Fund.

The book can be ordered from for about $19-$25 and from for $21.55. It’s also at the Epic Center and Barnes & Noble.


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