When did you first decide you wanted to cook?
Chef Jason Neroni: I wanted to be a ride operator at Disneyland® and, instead, they steered me to the Blue Bayou where I peeled fruit and made Monte Cristo sandwiches.
Once I graduated high school, I started pursuing an art degree. One day, I wandered up to the Club 33 kitchen – also a Disneyland® property – and they were preparing this elegant, beautifully plated food. Suddenly, it all clicked into place – I had the ability to do art on a plate … I could actually express myself as an artist as a chef. I started working at Club 33, and I’ve never looked back.
You’re one of our only guest chefs from an LA-based restaurant. Why did you choose Venice as your “home” base?
I grew up in Orange County but I loved coming up to Venice in my teens because it just seemed more “real” to me. Now, you have Google and Snapchat here … it’s an influence of constantly evolving change. It just feels like the right “palette” for me.
You’ve cooked in Europe and Manhattan and SoCal. What would you say is the biggest difference in the three worlds?
It’s all about the kitchen environment. European chefs begin apprenticing at the age of 10 or 12. In Europe, being a chef is a lifestyle and you cook your entire life. Here in the States, it’s more about cooking for a job. When I returned from Europe, I approached the management of my kitchen a whole different way – now, my kitchen is filled with longtime chefs and staff. It’s a huge difference.
You had some great successes in Manhattan. How is your food different now in Venice at Rose Café?
I’ve been cooking 24 years now, so Rose is a culmination of what I’ve done (so far) in my career. You’ll see anything from chorizo spiked eggs and breakfast pizza to more refined menu items. I like painting a very big picture!
This is your first OC Chef’s Table. What made the decision for you?
Things are a little scary for a lot of people right now. I see homeless people struggling in my own neighborhood; I see it everywhere. These people feel forgotten about … society has discarded them. That’s not cool. I’ve got kids now and I don’t want them to learn that this is how we treat people. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives – it’s just the magnitude of the help they need that varies. Why wouldn’t all of us want to help?
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 3, 2019.
In it 6th year, 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 …