Meet the Maker: Danielle Kuhn of Maison Cafe + Market and Giana Bakery + Provisions in Dana Point

Maison Cafe + Market and Giana in Dana Point are two of my absolute favorite restaurants in town. Casual yet classy, these two venues work for any occasion. Both of their menus are health-forward, with locally sourced ingredients and mouthwatering menu selections. But the best part about these two restaurants is the warm hospitality curated by owner, restauranteur and dear friend of mine, Danielle Kuhn. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten to know Danielle and am drawn to her welcoming persona and how she creates spaces for connection—good food and wine included. Despite the hustle and bustle of running a small business, Danielle is always willing and available to greet guests. She has catered many of my events with gourmet bites that taste as good as they look, trust me! We got a chance to chat about the vision behind her business and how she plays a role in making Dana Point such a beloved destination.

If you know Dana Point, you know Maison Cafe + Market. This breezy French cafe with farm fresh fare has been a community staple since 2018. Step inside the market and experience the charm of a hospitality-minded home with rustic wooden tables, bistro booths, an open-kitchen concept and sun-streaming windows. Warm and fluffy dutch babies are a breakfast delight, salmon nicoise salads are hearty and crisp, and house-made pasta paired with rare wines makes for a relaxed yet refined dinner. Maison is a hub of community and leaves you feeling better than you came - it’s truly a gem of Dana Point. With the same hospitality-focused philosophy, Maison’s sister restaurant, Giana Bakery + Provisions boasts an elevated Italian menu. From ricotta dumplings to slow braised pork and swordfish, every meal at Giana is thoughtfully curated to bring people together.

Community is at the heart of her Danielle’s work. Leading by example, Chef Danielle can often be found at one of the two eateries, guiding the team with fierce integrity and a gracious heart. Kuhn started in the industry at age 13 at a local Laguna Beach coffee shop. She immediately fell in love with “the dance of hospitality” and the way the restaurant atmosphere creates space to build relationships with guests and collaborate with a team that quickly turns into family. It was this atmosphere of connection that made Kuhn want to open her own restaurant.If you had asked a 15 year old Kuhn what she wanted to do with her life she would have told you, "I'm going to own my own restaurants”. And that she did.

Kuhn grew up in Southern Orange County (even living on a boat in Dana Point Harbor at one point) which is why it was the perfect place to plant her roots. A little known fact is that Kuhn first attempted to open Maison at the old Bubba Kahuna in Dana Point.  She recounts finally finding a space to open up shop at what was previously Aurora’s market. “I met with Frank and Aurora, the previous tenants and got their blessing to call their space my new home. I couldn't wait to bring my dream of an Italian market and restaurant to life” Kuhn recounts.

Kuhn’s dreams for her restaurants grew from her family’s rich culture. She’s French, Italian, and Armenian and honors her heritage through the French-inspired Maison and Italian-focused Giana, which means “God is Gracious”, a nod to the blessing it is for Kuhn to get to do what she loves everyday.

Kuhn is also deeply inspired by the power of whole foods. Both restaurants source local ingredients to plate meals that nourish the body and soul. Kuhn’s menus focus on, “creating meals that are not just delicious, but are also fuel for your body. We have no fryer, no canola or vegetable oil” the chef explains.

Working in restaurants since a teenager, Kuhn has tucked away many tricks of the trade. One of the biggest lessons she learned was the power of community - it’s what carried the Maison family through the pandemic, and through trials with their landlord during the peak of quarantine restrictions. Kuhn and her team struggled with their landlord in regards to the patio seating required to stay open with outdoor dining only policies in 2020. It was then Kuhn made the decision to relocate to a new home which she can't wait to share with the community. Look out because Maison is moving!

While remaining optimistic, the next hurdle for Kuhn and her team are the imminent price increases. The cost of goods have increased by over 30% in the past 3 months. “It's a challenge,” says Kuhn, “but my goal is to stay accessible to each guest, while maintaining our quality and service standards.”


Outside of the kitchen, Danielle Kuhn is a mother to two teenage boys. They are her number one customers–at the family dinner table that is! Not on restaurant menus, the Kuhn’s household favorite dishes are buttermilk biscuits with chicken pot pies, salmon with slow braised white beans and pasta, risotto with mushrooms and peas, and grilled steak with roasted sweet potatoes and salsa verde. Sunday supper is always bolognese! Some of Kuhn’s proud mom moments were when her boys learned to cook a perfect steak and fry over easy eggs like  pros!

The communities of Maison and Giana have added unmeasurable value to Dana Point, in their ability to bring people together over good food, coffee and wine. They are palaces of comfort, celebration, nourishment, and so much more. To know Danielle Kuhn is to love her, and the spaces she thoughtfully creates. “I feel so incredibly blessed by the guests that have turned into family and dear friends” Kuhn gushes. Here’s to 5 great years of Maison, and to many more with Giana as well. Stay engaged with Kuhn and the communities of Maison and Giana by visiting the eateries and following along on socials.

Q&A with Danielle Kuhn

When did you know you wanted to open your own restaurant?

When I was 15. I started working at a coffee shop cafe in Laguna Beach when I was 13 and pretty immediately fell in love with the dance of hospitality. The relationships that you build with the guests, the comradery that is created by a team with people from different backgrounds, skin colors, hobbies... none of that matters during service, you become a family. At 15 years old I dropped out of high school and dove full time into the service world. If you had asked a 15 year old me what I wanted to do with my life I would have told you, "I'm going to own my own restaurants".

What was the inspiration behind Giana?

Giana means God is Gracious, and I feel so blessed to get to live my dream and do what I love every day. I'm French, Italian and Armenian and have always planned on opening a restaurant that represents each part of my family's culture, Maison, my first restaurant is a French inspired cafe, and Giana, is focused on all Italian food. Both restaurants focus on creating meals that are not just delicious, but are also fuel for your body. We have no fryer, no canola or vegetable oil. In fact the only oils we use in the restaurant are an organic imported olive oil and organic coconut oil used in some of our pastries and house made granola.

Why did you choose Dana Point as the city to plant your businesses in?

I was raised in south Orange County and moved to Dana Point when I was 17 and lived on a boat in the harbor. From there we moved to Capo Beach and when I got divorced at 23 I moved my boys and I to San Clemente. For the last 22 years Dana Point and San Clemente have been my home. When the old Bubba Kahuna spot became available for lease I jumped on the opportunity to open Maison there. Fast forward to Aurora's market becoming available... I met with Frank and Aurora, the previous tenants and got their blessing to call their space my new home. I couldn't wait to bring my dream of an Italian market and restaurant to life.

Giana is deeply rooted in community, what does the community of Dana Point mean to you?

The strength of our community is just incredible.. Throughout the pandemic we were able to keep our team employed and our doors open because the community supported us. I feel so incredibly blessed by the guests that have turned into family and dear friends.

You started in hospitality at age 15, what changes have in the industry you seen since then?

So many, but I would say the greatest change has happened during the pandemic, watching the community support and embrace my small business not only kept our spirits bright, but it kept my team employed and a roof over all of our heads. The next challenge is going to be the imminent price increases, the cost of goods has gotten so out of hand that an already very fragile business structure is being pushed to its limits. How do you keep prices where you want them when your cost of goods has increased over 30% in less than 3 months? It's a challenge but my goal is to stay accessible to each guest, while maintaining our quality and service standards.

We hear a Maison Deux is coming soon. Is Maison Deux still the name you’re working with and can you share the location and timeline for this new venture?

Maison is moving! We struggled with our landlord at our old location during the peak of the pandemic, our rent was paid, our restaurant navigated to extreme and ultimately we received an eviction notice due to the sidewalk tables we had in place that allowed us to stay open. It was a rollercoaster of emotions but I made the decision to relocate to a new home... it's been a journey and I can't wait to share the new space with each of you.

What is your favorite dish to make?

Too many to name, when I cook dinner for the boys we have a few house favorites, salmon with slow braised white beans and pasta, risotto with mushrooms and peas, grilled steak with roasted sweet potatoes and salsa verde.... and Sunday supper is always bolognese. Noah, my 17 year old, is obsessed with buttermilk biscuits and chicken pot pies so I make those at least once a week and Nate is just happy to eat "mom food" when he visits from college. Both boys can cook a perfect steak and make over easy eggs like a pro... proud mom moments.

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