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Category: Get To Know Our Chefs

Craig Brady: Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Q: What made you decide to become a chef?
Chef Craig: As a kid, I was always helping my Mom in the kitchen. She was a great baker, and every other recipe came out of Betty Crocker. So, I started improvising early on. By time I was 15, I was making dinners for the family and knew that I didn’t want to have an office job. I was watching Bobby Flay on Food Network, and it finally dawned on me that I could essentially travel the world and always have someplace to work if I became a chef.

Q: You grew up in Yorba Linda. You chose the French Culinary Institute in New York. There are about 97 culinary schools between here and there. Why FCI? 
Chef Craig: I wanted to go to the best place I could and … well, the French are the best! And, I thought New York City was the hottest city on the planet. Plus, it’s where my idol, Bobby Flay. went. If he could go there, I could go there! I loved it, even though they pushed us hard. The chefs were very intimidating – they taught in more of the military brigade style for the kitchen. It’s a pretty old school technique now, but it certainly prepared me for the real world and the different personalities in chefs I’d meet and work for. But, between that hard push and the “friendly”competitiveness between my classmates, it fueled a lot of quick growth.

Q: You popped back to California but then headed back to the East Coast …
Chef Craig: I started right out of culinary school at the Montage Laguna Beach in that first year after they opened. I worked in three great restaurants thereafter, but I had this ache to get back to New York, so when the enoteca, Posto, in Boston had an opening, I took it. Boston is massively different than New York, but it was really cool, especially in the chef ranks. When the chefs know you’re a chef, they roll out the red carpet for you in their own restaurants. There’s a huge element of chef-to-chef hospitality and support of talent on the East Coast that you don’t see as much out here … so, I do my best to carry that kind of hospitality and tradition forward here in my own restaurant.

Q: How did you first hear about OC Chef’s Table?
Chef Craig: I came back to the OC and joined the Haven team in 2012. I was there for four years, and then spent two years in Michael Rossi’s kitchen over at The Ranch. That’s when we both started hearing about OC Chef’s Table – it was just getting rolling, but it was making a big impact in the chef community – chefs were talking about it  as an “elite” kind of event.

So, a year ago – 2019 – Chef Michael and his team signed up to be a part of it, and I followed his lead. Anything that The Ranch chooses to do outside of its own kitchen is top-tier – they’re very good at choosing events that allow them to showcase their talent in a unique way and attract great clientele you hope to see in your own restaurant. And, what Illumination Foundation is doing every day right here in our community is key. Everyone in the room knows that we’re coming together to help people here in our own world – that makes a difference, too.

We had so much fun with our table of guests at OC Chef’s Table. And, the people at Illumination Foundation are so organized – it is efficiency and communication at a whole new level. Most importantly, though, I loved that their Founder Paul Leon told us this year at our Chef’s Breakfast exactly what they did with the funds we all raised last year. I like when you can see what’s happening and it’s BIG – they bought and renovated a big house and moved homeless families in … all in just a matter of months. That’s incredible!

Q: You’re known for your unique beer pairings at Haven. Will your guests this year be seeing any of that in play? 
Chef Craig: Absolutely! I treat beer pairings like wine pairings – it’s an intimate science. So, we’re not doing something like a pilsner – a beer pairing at OC Chef’s Table will be much more atypical and unique. We’ll probably do the beer pairing with one of the five dishes.

Q: Do you have most of the menu worked out? Can you give me an idea of one of the dishes?
Chef Craig: We’re just about done with the menu – four of the five courses are finalized. I like the starter we’re doing – Early-season morels with English peas and pork cheek Guanciale with lightly cured egg yolk confit, pearl onions and pine vinegar. Or, more easily put – a yummy early spring veggie mushroomy dish!

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

Corey Muir: Bosscat Kitchen – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Q: What made you decide to become a chef?
Chef Corey: When I was a teenager, I was sent to a school in Hurricane Utah to get my head on straight. I was given a couple work options, so I chose the kitchen. As soon as I started there, I knew I’d found something I really enjoyed. In the one year and one day that I was there, I learned how to do all the basic cooking skills and was eventually cooking food for more than 350 kids and employees.

I managed to graduate a year and a half early, so the next day when I returned home to Yorba Linda, I applied to The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California in Santa Ana.  I was 17 then, and I haven’t stopped cooking since.

Q: Where did you develop your love for French cooking?
Chef Corey: After the Culinary Institute, I got a job at The Wild Artichoke and learned a lot from Chef James D’Aquilla there. But, it was when I moved to Pinot Provence with Chef Alfonso Ramirez that I learned the most in French cuisine and techniques. It was awesome. I think I’ve carried parts of that forward ever since.

Q: Have you created any French-styled dishes at Bosscat Kitchen in Newport?  Well, I did have my Spicy Frog Legs on the menu for a quick minute. It was a big hit in Newport, but it didn’t prove as popular in our Texas location. But, in the time we had it on the menu, we won the National Award for Frog Legs!

Q: How many Bosscat Kitchens are in play?
Newport Beach was the first in 2014. Chef Peter Petro brought me on and we did a lot of work together before he moved to Texas to open our location in Houston. He just moved back about three weeks ago to help us complete the opening of our third restaurant in the Orange Circle. That will be happening sometime soon, but no set date.

Q: What’s your current favorite dish on the Bosscat menu?
Our menu is always changing here at Bosscat, but I’d say my current favorite is the 12-Hour Short Rib. It has so many great flavors; it’s a great winter dish.

Q: Why did you choose to participate for the first time in OC Chef’s Table this year? 
Peter, our Executive Chef,  participated in it about four years ago, and he said it was an impactful experience. So, when the restaurant asked me if I would be interested this year, I said absolutely. I’d like to do what I can to help kids and teens. So, we reached out to Illumination Foundation. I’m really looking forward to it.

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

Two OC Chefs Table Participants Honored in Anaheim Business Awards Event

On Thursday February 13, 2020, two restaurants participating in this year’s upcoming Illumination Foundation OC Chefs Table are being honored in the Anaheim Business Awards.

The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon has been named “Restaurant of the Year,” while Urbana Mexican Gastronomy & Mixology has been named “Immigrant-Owned Business of the Year.

Urbana - Ernie Alvarado blogThe annual Anaheim Business Awards event on February 13, 2020, is produced by the combined efforts of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce and the City of Anaheim.

Of just 16 Anaheim Business Award winners this year, Illumination Foundation will also be honored as “Non-Profit of the Year.”

“It’s such an honor for Illumination Foundation to be given this Anaheim Business Award,” said Terry Campbell, Marketing Director for Illumination Foundation.

“It’s a special honor, though, when two of our returning OC Chefs Table restaurants will stand with us at the same ceremony. While our annual gala in March attracts the finest chef talent in the area, we know that these restaurant owners and chefs have a special kind of caring humanity that distinguishes them as true community leaders.

“Both the Ranch Restaurant & Saloon and Urbana have been a part of our OC Chefs Table family for years, and it’s such a gift to be welcoming them again this year,” Campbell concluded.

The Anaheim Business Awards Luncheon will honor 16 businesses for their “significant contributions to the regional economy and greater community.” The event takes place at the Hilton Anaheim from 11:00 am to 2:00 p.m. For seating at the event, please visit AnaheimChamber.org or call (714) 758-0222.

 

 

Celebrity Chef Jet Tila: 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Celebrity Chef Jet Tila for OC Chefs TableWhen did you first decide you wanted to cook?
Chef Jet Tila:
My grandparents had restaurants in China and Thailand, so when my parents started their own Thai restaurant, I was just third generation along for the ride! I didn’t know there was anything else in the world to do. I started washing dishes in the restaurant when I was about 10, and was a prep cook after school in my teens.

What’s the latest fun thing you’re working on for Food Network?
I’m the Floor Reporter for Iron Chef America and I’m so stoked. Basically, I’m moving … moving very calmly, I might add … around the floor, asking quick questions of the contestants as they’re frantically trying to cook. I’ve got to think fast on my feet because these people are cooking anything and everything. Alton Brown is co-hosting with me, and I’ll run the first 20-minute tasting event. It’s a challenge!

I’m still judging on other shows, too – Guy’s Grocery Game, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay …all really completely different shows, so I’m learning something new every single day … I can’t even believe the kind of food I see – it’s amazing. I love it.

This is your third year returning to OC Chef’s Table. Why the return?
I’ve been involved in a number of charity events and dinners, but OC Chef’s Table has really had an impact on me. You feel everyone wants to be there because they truly care, and they’re coming together with this heightened sense of community to be involved in something that is such a crucial issue for our fellow human beings.

The interactivity and the connection with the guests while you’re cooking is fantastic, too – I had such an enjoyable time with them.

It’s just a great collection of amazing chefs who are able to do something good – and hang out with great people – for a great cause. I’m really pleased Illumination Foundation asked me to be involved again. It’s difficult to explain how it feels to be a part of it – there’s really nothing like this group.

Any secret menu ideas you’re cooking up for the next OC Chef’s Table?
Well, my latest book – 101 Recipes Every Cook Needs to Know – came out last summer, so I’m planning to pull that evening’s menu from the book with recipes that are seasonal for that time of year.

The best part, though, is that my wife, Ali, is coming along again this year. She’s a pastry chef, so she’s (obviously) going to be in charge of all the truly memorable food!

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Food photos credit:
Reprinted with permission from 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die by Jet Tila, Page Street Publishing Co. 2017. Photo credit: Ken Goodman.

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

 

Rocco Carbonaro: Rocco’s – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Q: When did you decide you liked cooking?
Chef Rocco Carbonara: It started with my Grandma. My brother and I were in her kitchen all the time. She was an old school cook, like cooking a pile of fava beans in old crates, that sort of thing. Both my brother and I got the bug – he went to culinary school first and has traveled all over the world as a chef. And, I’ve pretty much followed the same path.

Q: Where have you worked prior to the good ol’ O.C.?
Chef Rocco: I went to culinary school in southern Italy, so I started there, but I really wanted to learn how to cook international cuisine. So, I went to South America first, and I’d spend two months working in someplace like Columbia or Brazil, and then I’d take two months’ vacation there so I’d get to know the culture around the culinary. I had a great time traveling the world and cooking as I’d go.

When I landed in the states about nine years ago, I came to Orange County first because I had family here. I helped a friend open her restaurant in Telluride, Colorado, but for the most part, I’ve stayed here – meeting my wife was a big part of that decision!

Q: When did Rocco’s (the restaurant) come into play?
Chef Rocco: I was opening and operating restaurants for my family, but after I got married, my wife and I decided to branch out and that’s when Rocco’s was born. At one point just a couple years ago, I was operating three restaurants (including my Uncle’s restaurant, Carbonara’s after he passed away) and our family’s catering business, but I was never home. So, now it’s Rocco’s and the catering side, and it’s perfect for us.

Q: So, Rocco’s isn’t just Italian food …
Chef Rocco: No, I couldn’t let all that good travel and training go to waste! So, the menu is a real mix of international flavors. Although we loosely call it “latin cuisine,” it’s all over the board, from French to Venezuelan to Spanish to Mexican and Italian. We have a lot of fun in the kitchen.

Q: This is your third year at OC Chef’s Table. Why do you keep returning?
Chef Rocco: It’s such a great experience! It’s by far the most emotional event I’ve ever cooked in – all these stories of redemption and lives saved – really amazing. I can still remember the first year I attended – they awarded two sisters scholarships – they had been homeless for years with their Mom. It was really touching. As a chef, you just can’t walk away from that and say it didn’t change you. That’s why we’re back!___________________
The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Magellan Moore: Mastro’s OceanClub – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

You’re returning for your third year at OC Chef’s Table. What was your impression your very FIRST year?
Chef Magellan Moore:
It was amazing! Illumination Foundation did such a great job at connecting their chefs to the cause and showing everyone where their support is truly changing up people’s lives. It was mind blowing.

Chef-Magellan-at-OC-Chefs-Table-eventFor me personally, it was also amazing to meet so many great chefs in this area – chefs I’ve heard about and read about. We have had a number of chefs come in to Mastro’s for dinner, but this was an entirely different environment of camaraderie. It was a phenomenal event at every level.

What got you into cooking?
My Grandmother. From about age 8, I’d live with her every summer, and garden and cook throughout the summer. We’d do all the major holidays as well. My first real job in her kitchen was baking the cakes for Sunday dinner. It instilled in me a crazy passion to cook food for people and bring people together in a happy place.

My Dad could see I was heading in a culinary direction, so he helped me get a job at an Italian restaurant there in Columbus when I was in high school. The chef took me under his wing for the next five years … occasionally screaming at me in a kitchen corner when my timing between dishes wasn’t quite right  … and I’ve never left the kitchen since.

What’s the best food item you’ve ever eaten?
I’d have to say that’s a “best food day.” My Grandmother was from a small town in Georgia where we would have our family reunions. She would be with her sisters in the kitchen preparing this crazy Southern feast. I would see peeks of those menu items in our Sunday dinners, but never all smashed together in one event.

I still remember one particular dinner; every bite was better than the next. Here we were in this smoldering, hot town of Cordele with our tables on red clay dirt. It was a very uncomfortable place to be. But at sunset when dinner started, it was paradise. Everything was perfect.

How did you land in the OC?
My wife grew up in Orange County (she had been one of my bartenders at my restaurant in Columbus) and, about five years ago we were expecting our first baby. We moved to be closer to her family. I was able to start at Mastro’s in Costa Mesa as the Sous Chef, and then transferred as the Executive Chef to Mastro’s Ocean Club.

What makes your Mastro’s unique from others?
At the Ocean Club, we have a larger percentage of fish and seafood dishes but, overall, the  Mastro’s menu are beautifully and similarly structured so that guests can enjoy a familiar experience in any Mastro’s they choose. It’s the kitchen’s personality that will be entirely different from restaurant to restaurant. When you walk into each chef’s kitchen, you’re going to see a lot of different things in the set-up and running of a kitchen. It’s really about the chef’s energy, but it’s that energy that still infuses the food.

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

Stephen LaFountain: Mastro’s Steakhouse – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Q: This will be your 5th year at OC Chef’s Table. Why do you keep returning?
Chef Stephen LaFountain: There are other charities focused on homelessness, but Illumination

Foundation has done such a great job focusing on families … children especially. I have three children myself, and the thought of anything happening to my children if I was never around propels me to continue to support what Illumination is doing. Your life can change in a moment, and many of the people out there have ended up on the wrong side of that kind of moment.
And, Disneyland® brings its own magic to the event. They’re obviously so supportive of children and families, and that’s a big factor for me, too. It’s just an all-around spectacular and memorable evening.

Q: What made you decide to become a chef?
Chef Stephen: I was that introverted kid who got picked on a lot at school, but I was fortunate to find a great crowd of friends in high school, and I started to come out of my shell. When I got my first job at a restaurant, I realized it was a sort of fresh start – I could be anyone I wanted to be. So, the outgoing part of me that had always been there finally started to show up. I loved the community in the kitchen and the community that arrived as clientele at the front door, and I found I had a knack for cooking. It was a perfect fit for the “new” me.

Q: What were you doing prior to Mastro’s?
Chef Stephen: Once I started in restaurants, I never left. But, when I was 21, I broke my back in a car accident, and I laid in bed for a year until I learned how to walk again. Initially, they told me that I’d never walk again … and then they updated the diagnosis, telling me that I’d end up in a wheelchair by age 40. That plan definitely did not work for me. So, I just kept working at it every day, and working on recipes, too. I had so much more gratitude for my life as a chef when I was finally able to return to that life.

I started working with the Cameron Mitchell group in Ohio and worked my way up from line to executive chef in about a year and a half. I ran all the stations and closed for all the chefs because I was determined to get a sous chef position. The executive chef position a few months later was a surprise, and I helped them open restaurants everywhere. They were a great group to work for.

They sold all their fish markets and steak houses in 2006, so in 2008 I moved out here to California to work for the LeMeridean Delfina in Santa Monica. It was quite a culture change! I worked for a couple other large entities, and found my way to Mastro’s. In that timeframe, I met my wife and had three kids, so it’s been a fast moving timeline.

Q: What lessons from your year on your back did you take into your kitchen?  
Chef Stephen: Patience! When you’re an impatient person … who’s now flat on your back for a year… you have no choice but to learn patience. It’s helped me enormously with my kitchen staff, my patrons, even my kids.

And, I learned to listen more.

And, I think I finally learned the meaning of “teamwork” from that situation. One thing I’ve noticed … if you have a really defeating injury, once it gets you laying down, atrophy sets in – in both your body and your mind, which just makes everything worse. I think I’m better now at recognizing when my team members might be struggling. You want to help them before they’re feeling like they’re flat on their backs.

It’s probably why I feel an empathy for people who are experiencing homelessness – it might just be about getting to a point where you don’t think you can get up again. The people at Illumination Foundation stop the atrophy and help these people turn it around, get back on their feet. Because I have an inkling of how that physical and mental atrophy can eat away at your life, I’ll do anything I can to support what Illumination Foundation is doing.

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

Chef Michael Rossi: The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

When did you discover the glory of cooking?
Chef Michael Rossi:
When I was a kid, my brother and I would fix taquitos or wontons before baseball practice. At the age of 8, I was Master of the Toaster Oven. It was a heady experience.

But the real cookin’ happened at my Grandma’s house.  My Dad was the oldest of 6 kids, and my siblings and I were the first grandkids of many to come. My grandfather was in charge of the bread and pizza baking, and Grandma was in charge of everything else. We weren’t even allowed in the kitchen until it was time to clean the dishes. Eventually, though, I got to stand on the chair and stir sauce – that was another big moment, for sure.

When did you decide cooking needed to be your profession?
When I discovered people actually cooked for a living! I was majoring in business law at U of A, and one of my buddy’s roommates got accepted to CIA in New York. At first, I thought they were talking “THE” CIA, and when I found out it was a culinary school to train chefs, I was aghast.

I remember thinking, “There are schools to DO this for a living?” We had no Internet or Food Network back then; I had no frame of reference. I rummaged up a few formal cooking shows on TV and … on a whim … flew up to check out the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I flew there in the morning, flew back the same evening, and drove straight to my parents’ house to tell my Dad I was slightly changing my major from business law to cooking.

My Dad was even more aghast. “What?” he said. “You’re going to go to school to be a fry cook at Denny’s?” But I took him up to see the CCA campus, and he was as amazed as I was. It was so cool to see so many people passionate about cooking.

What was your first restaurant job out of CCA?
I started working for a great chef in San Francisco while I was still in school. I totally immersed myself; I couldn’t get enough. I stayed at the school on the weekends to cook with chefs and took cooking classes the chef professors offered to the public. I honed in on Roy’s in Maui as my first real excursion in 1997. Roy’s was THE place to be; it was a great education.

So, tell me about what happened between Roy’s and The Ranch in Anaheim?
I was all over the map. I attended culinary school in Italy for a year, returned to Brentwood to work at Border Grill, then flew back to Italy to work at the 2-star Michelin restaurant, Locanda Posada Solarola. Chefs came from all over the world to work with this chef, so I was living with two Japanese guys and working in an Italian kitchen where absolutely no one spoke English. I was – seriously – a fish out of water in just about every way, but it was such a phenomenal experience.

I came back here to open Roy’s in L.A., then was involved in the opening of Napa Rose at the Disneyland© Resort and Ambrosia in Santa Ana.  When The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon opportunity came along, I jumped at the chance.

So, what of your personality exists in The Ranch?
Well, all the places I’ve worked … they all have a place here on The Ranch’s menu. We’re blessed to cook whatever we want, and I like to change it up all the time. On a normal evening, we’ll have 10 or 12 menu items that we’ve changed from the day before. You can only pull that kind of thing off with a talented team that loves to cook, and I’ve got the best around.

Chef Michael Rossi - The Ranch AnaheimI love finding really unique suppliers with superior product. I just got back from Tasmania where I spent a week hanging out with a bunch of great chefs and going to the Wagyu beef farms and whiskey distilleries. It’s my inspiration for this year’s New Year’s Eve menu.

This is your third year at OC Chef’s Table. What did you think of your first year at OC Chef’s Table?
I loved it! Chef Andy Sutton over at Napa Rose is a great friend of mine – he’s the one who got me involved. Just being back on the Disneyland® campus and being around all those great chefs … it just felt like going home.

But the real sense of “family’ began when the Illumination Foundation folks opened the doors, and all these amazing people came in to support their cause. The crowd and the stories and the leaders on the stage who are so committed to ending the homelessness issue … it brought it all home to me. It was just overwhelming being a part of such a good thing. It’s why we keep returning.

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

 

 

Chef Linda Johnsen: Filomena’s – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

You’re returning for your 6th year at OC Chef’s Table! Why do you keep coming back?
Chef Linda Johnsen:
My restaurant is in Costa Mesa and we have homeless people all around. Years ago, I made a commitment that if they came up to my door, I would feed them. It doesn’t matter how well the restaurant is or isn’t doing – I won’t turn anyone away.

So, several years ago I met Paul Leon, the co-founder of Illumination Foundation and, when I saw what his organization was doing for the homeless, I jumped at the opportunity to do more.

When did you first decide you wanted to cook?
When I was 8 years old, I was already experimenting in the kitchen (and I use that term loosely). My grandmother taught me to make pasta with my own hands, and I had an Easy-Bake Oven … clearly, the sign of any serious cook. When I first got married, my grandmother would come to my house in South Jersey and show me how to make all the family recipes I had grown up with. At 22, I started my own catering company and I’ve never stopped cooking.

What led to opening Filomena’s?
The recession in 2009! I was selling real estate and that world tanked. I started looking for something to keep me busy and, lo and behold, I saw this restaurant up for sale. So, I opened at a really terrible time, but it seemed to resonate with people and food critics, and it keeps working. We added our Italian Market two years ago, and it’s catching on, too.

Filomena's table at OC Chef's TableWhat do you find most memorable about the OC Chef’s Table event?
I love hearing the girls and women on stage talk about the new lives they have because of Illumination Foundation. It hits home with me.

When I started out on my own, I was about 17 years old and had to leave my job because I was being chased around a desk every day. I was on my own without a lot of resources available and it was a matter of time before I was pretty much homeless. I even tried to join the Navy, but that didn’t work, either!

I needed help. Women are out there right now with similar stories, and many of them have children to care for. When you’re down and out, you just need to feel that tug of knowing that someone cares and has resources to help get you on your feet again. That’s what Illumination Foundation is doing for so many families right now. They’re getting these women and children off the streets and helping them rebuild their lives.

The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020.
OC Chef’s Table continues to help Illumination Foundation raise funds to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

 

Chef Steven Anderson: California Fresh – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

What made you get into the catering business instead of operating a restaurant?
Chef Steven Anderson:
I enjoy working in restaurant kitchens, but I love pulling inspiration from a lot of different culinary styles. I oversee both catering and a large-scale university operation, and it’s never a dull moment.

You can probably blame my upbringing for the large-scale preference. My grandmother was a great home cook – she could whip up anything. And, I spent a lot of time in my own high school cafeteria kitchen helping my Aunt, who introduced a lot of unique menu items into the daily lunches.

I like surprising people with a real experience, too. Last year, we did a gastronomy-based menu for Andrea Bocelli. I don’t want to just go for the design in the plating or the flavor profile – I want to make it a show for the guest, too. It’s all about giving the guest an exciting experience that’s different, something they not only enjoy in taste but haven’t seen before.

What did you prepare for Mr. Bocelli?
It was an 11:00 p.m. dinner after his concert, but he’s just getting off work, so we balanced to balance a hearty entrée – herb-crusted hanger steak with a Cabernet Demi-glace – with lighter sides.

What’s your latest favorite to cook?
Sous Vide Pork Belly. It’s like a chemistry experiment.

What are you changing up this year at OC Chef’s Table?
Last year was our first year, and we were in the foyer for the reception, so, we got to see the “main event” as observers. We figured we’d just poke our heads, but we didn’t want to leave. The energy in that room with all the chefs working together was something really cool to see.

OC Chef’s Table is one of those rare events where you’re not just serving guests who eat, listen to a couple presentations, and go their way. This is a collaboration of passion between high-level chefs, the extraordinary Illumination Foundation and truly interested patrons who are all committed to getting this homelessness issue handled.

I think I was the first to sign up for the 2019 event, this time IN the room with a table of patrons. It was such a great experience that we’re back again, no question! We’re really looking forward to it.

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The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes … 

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