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Tag: Illumination Foundation

Chef Ben LeFleche: Waterfront Beach Resort – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Q – This is your second year at OC Chef’s Table, yes?
Chef BenLeFleche: Yes. Last year was our first year. We’ve been wanting to participate for awhile, but since we’ve been undergoing heavy construction these last 3 years, last year was the first year we felt we could really pull it off. It was awesome! The scope of what Illumination Foundation puts together is simply incredible.

Q – How long have you been at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort?
Sixteen very fast moving years.

Q – So, all this construction dust … has it been worth it?
Absolutely! Before the expansion we were stuck with just one restaurant space, so it had to cater to a mixed crowd of tastes and ages. Now we’ll have three restaurants – the Boardwalk for three meals a day, the Off Shore Nine club on the upper deck, and finer dining at Henry’s, which will be in the space that our one restaurant – Shades – has been all this time. Henry’s is set to open in March – hopefully – right after the OC Chef’s Table event.

Q – Is Henry’s your baby?
You might say that. I oversee all of the food and beverage here, but Henry’s is a dream we’ve finally made a reality. I’ve always wanted to do something more upscale and creative and, fortunately, our management lets us do what we know.

Henry’s will be an all-scratch kitchen serving just breakfast and dinner. I don’t know if many chefs do this in an entire menu, from butter to jams, jellies, in-house cured bacon, sausage … everything that touches the plate will be scratch.

We’ve spent the last few years developing relationships with small purveyors and farmers who don’t normally do commercial work because they’re just too small and specific. So, for instance, we’re working with a lamb farmer at a ranch up north who can pretty much tell you which blade of grass the lamb eats on any given day. Another farmer we work with raises Campeche Tarpon. We’re also bringing in high-quality meats like Wagyu.

Henry’s is about people who care about their food … on both sides of the table. We’ll be doing simple dishes that really showcase the flavors.

Q – Give me an idea or two of menu items you’ll be featuring
Well, I love our braised octopus dish with pomegranate jelly and black salt. That, however, is an item on the winter menu I was hoping I would be able to cook with an earlier open date … it might have to wait until next fall.

Q – Why the Henry’s name?
The restaurant is named after Henry Huntington who created his own railroad and trolley system out this way. It all started as a friendly competition with his uncle, who owned Southern Pacific. He purchased a defunct hotel here in Huntington Beach in 1911 and renamed it the Huntington Hotel – it was a big success. He created quite a legacy.

Will any of your new menus be on OC Chef’s Table menu?
Oh yes! The menu is already written as a compilation of dishes from all three of our new restaurants. The Offshore Nine is usually where people start their meal while watching the sunset, so that’s the opening course. And … we go from there!

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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 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 … 

 

Chef Jayro Martinez: Social – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

When was the first time you thought you might like to cook?
Chef Jayro Martinez: In high school. I remember passing the Home Economics room and smelling all these great smells. I figured any class that smelled like that was one I needed to be in. The teacher was great, and as I learned baking fundamentals, I realized I was excited about something besides sports. All the different textures and the science behind this baking empire … who knew? It was just awesome!

When I was a senior, I found out that there were culinary school scholarships for under-served kids. I was lucky to be selected. So, I started directly out of high school and, in my free time, worked in restaurant kitchens.

Where did you first start?
I started with a company called Grace Catering, and also worked in the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. I started there as a prep cook and worked my way through all the stations to become the lead line cook.

It wasn’t my only restaurant, though. In fact, it wasn’t the only catering company I worked for, either. I would volunteer my time to work at restaurants. I wanted to study how every single one operated. Through it all, I gained a very broad knowledge of cooking styles, from Mediterranean to Spanish to Japanese. And then I ended up opening my friend’s Israeli restaurant, Mh Zh.

Not a bad reputation to earn as the first restaurant kitchen under your command. Didn’t Mh Zh make Best Restaurant of the Year with Thrillist?
It surprised all of us! It helps that it was a tiny restaurant – we only had 500 square feet. Within two weeks of opening, we were doing 200 covers a night with people waiting nearly 3 hours to be seated. It was absolutely crazy.

I worked there the first few months, and then continued to consult while I went over to help another friend open their catering company, Sqirl. I love the mix of all of it.

What made you decide to make the leap from L.A. to the O.C.?
My girlfriend was going to school at UCI, so I thought I’d give O.C. a try. Social had caught my attention as they had such great reviews, so I went to work with Chef José last June. We were able to launch a new menu before he moved to help at another of our restaurants. He created a fun, dynamic atmosphere here, so that’s the kind of energy I’m committed to maintaining.

So, now that you’re at Social in the O.C., what do you see as the biggest difference between the clientele?
Everything in the O.C. is so clean and fresh and calm! It doesn’t feel hectic like L.A. The restaurants here are more traditional and classically driven – you don’t necessarily see the melting pot of cuisines like you do L.A., but the food is so classically great. I was exposed to a lot more farmer’s markets, and I think there’s more vegetarian cuisine, as a rule, in L.A.

So, I’ve enjoyed discovering the markets out here and bringing in more of that “urban” exposure to our Social menu. I really love coming to work every day.

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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 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 … 

 

Chef Brian Okada: Water Grill – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

This is your first year at OC Chef’s Table, yes?
Chef Brian Okada: Absolutely! Water Grill was there last year and afterwards, the chefs kept talking about how elaborate and amazing it was. They were totally hooked. So, this year I thought I’d step in and experience firsthand what all the talk is about. We’ve already started talking concepts over here – this is an important night for us.

So, what does a Culinary Director do vs. an Executive Chef of a restaurant?
It just means I oversee all of the restaurants from the top down, and get to design more about the overall dining experience, which is a pretty great job.

I started working with King Seafood Company 10 years ago as their Culinary Director, so I’ve helped create several new brands for the company – Fish Camp, Pier Burger, 555 East, etc. And I got to be involved in the remodels and updates for our Water Grill and steakhouse restaurants, too.

Now we have 21 restaurants – five Water Grills, three steakhouses that include 555 East in Long Beach, Lou & Mickey’s in the Gaslamp District and Meat on Ocean in Santa Monica. Then, we have fast casual too with Fish Camp and Pier Burger. It’s never a dull moment.

There’s a lot of R&D involved. We sit down in a room and start hammering it all out – plateware, everything that touches the table, equipment in the kitchen, then the menu concepts and cuisine design. Now the NEW project is the OC Chef’s Table!

Did you have any early influencers that got you interested in cooking?
Well, my grandmothers definitely got me interested in EATING. They both loved to cook, and they were on opposite ends of the spectrum. My Japanese grandmother was an amazing cook; she’d always do a huge table devoted to traditional Japanese food.

On the other extreme … my grandmother from the hills of West Virginia. She was the queen of comfort food. My grandfather would come home from work every day and, even well into his 60s, she would be sure that a glass of buttermilk and a piece of white bread for soaking would be there to greet him.

It’s pretty hysterical looking back at how these two women would load up a shared table – the huge bowl of steamy comfort food with this delicate, precise Japanese food. As it turned out, my Dad was a great cook (the West Virgina side) and my Mom somehow missed the cooking gene altogether.

When did YOU start cooking?
I had to get a job after high school, and luckily landed a restaurant job. No idea what I would have done had I gotten a job as a framer – I think this cooking thing is what I was meant to do. It was fun and came easy to me, and I couldn’t believe you could get paid for something that was all that. Then, they asked me to help them train people for restaurants they were opening so I spent a few years moving from place to place. There’s really no better experience.

So, when did you decide this would be a career for you?
Even after the restaurant opening and training I did, I don’t think I was truly committed until I worked for an executive chef at a private club in my mid 20s … and then my eyes were opened. I finally realized then that food could be art, and from that moment forward, there was no looking back.

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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 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 … 

 

Chef Ernie Alvarado: Urbana – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

How many years have you participated in OC Chef’s Table?
Chef Ernie Alvarado:
This one in March 2019 will be our third year. It means a lot to me to be able to help these people, especially the kids. It just wrenches my heart when I hear what they’ve been through.

What got you interested in being a Chef?
I had always been in the industry from high school – server, busser, food runner, you name it. I just loved the energy of the restaurant business. One day it was like I suddenly noticed the FOOD in the kitchen, how they were preparing it … and I realized I really loved THIS. I loved everything about the food. All my life, I had been picking it up from my Mom – she was the best culinary school right there … but it finally just clicked for me. From that point, I only wanted to work in the kitchen. So, I found great chefs to learn from, and worked my way up.

What do you like most about cooking?
I love the seasonings and layers of flavors. You might have a traditional dish with three ingredients, but I like infusing and experimenting, adding in 2 or 3 more to just give it that whole flavor experience.

What’s your favorite dish in Urbana right now?
Everything! I like making everything. I think just being a part of the Anaheim Packing District gives our food a special kind of energy, too.

We have a menu of favorites that people come back for on a regular basis, so my team and I focus on keeping those items fresh and consistent. But every week, I do specials, all of which are usually pretty spontaneous. I might go to the store or farmer’s market and see something that turns my head – and I find a way to put the ingredients together to make it special.

Recently, I’ve really liked the Filet Mignon Taco – we created it for our 3-year anniversary here at Urbana and haven’t removed it from the menu since. It might sound a little normal, but it’s my job to make it anything but normal. I really love the process.

Any plans yet for our OC Chef’s Table menu?
Oh, I’ve already started thinking about it. The key is to be very different from last year. I think that’s what all of us try to do, and that’s what makes it such an amazing evening.

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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 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 … 

 

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.

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.

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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 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 … 

 

 

Chef Anthony Berganza: Red O – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

What made you choose a career as a chef?
My parents migrated from El Salvador and I was born in East L.A. I grew up in Baldwin Park and really struggled. I didn’t even think I was going to graduate high school. One day, the career counselor called me into his office and I thought I was in for a bad meeting. But, turns out he was a former chef and he thought I was a fit for it. He’s the one who inspired me to pursue this field. It’s been nothing but amazing!

What was your most memorable restaurant job?
Every day at the Red O is awesome, really. But I did have the opportunity to work for Chef John Burton Race at the 2-star Michelin restaurant, New Angel, in Dartmouth, England. I had a 3-month scholarship and it was definitely the biggest 90 days of my life.

The whole life and culture over there for a chef is different there – it carries such prestige. At the same time, it carries a heavy weight of expectation. There’s a sense of urgency in the European kitchen – there’s no down time when you’re working over there.

The restaurant was so well known that people traveled from all over the world to eat there. The ability to get to know different cultures in the culinary world was so eye-opening. Food crosses boundaries in extraordinary ways, and I guess that’s the biggest lesson I came back to the States with. I was on a mission to do the same thing.

How did you get involved with Red O?
When I came back to the States, I started opening restaurants for Nordstrom’s all over the country. Corporate life had its benefits, but I wanted to be able to experiment more with food. I heard about Rick Bayless’ Red O concept, and already thought so highly of him that I really wanted to find a way in. They let me do a tasting for them, and it just worked out.

What did you prepare for the tasting?
I did a gnocchi with chimichurri and charred octopus, a deconstructed short rib with a corn soufflé and a toasted goat cheese watermelon salad with chili lime dressing. It all worked! (You never know if it’s going to go your way.) I don’t play with my food, but I DO like to be playful when it comes to food. It needs to be a fun experience for everyone.

What’s your favorite menu item now?
Probably the black ceviche – Ceviche Negro. It has this great charred octopus flavor with broth and onions and habaneros. We cook ancho chiles in a slow oven overnight and add those in for color. Then, it’s just the Vitamix with lime juice, garlic and a few more spices, which flavors the broth. It just has all this depth of flavor – it’s like tasting a really great wine.

Last year was your first at OC Chef’s Table, yes?
Yes – last year I was there with Mark, our regional chef. This coming March, I’m on my own! I really can’t wait – any part we can contribute to raise money for these kids and their families that are struggling  … we’re all in.

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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 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 … 

 

Chef Randy Gruspe: Duke’s – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

How in the world did a guy who grew up in Hawaii end up at the Duke’s extension in Huntington Beach?!
Right! The Duke’s first two restaurants were in Kauai and Waikiki but I had to move to SoCal to cook Hawaiian food! I love it, though. I truly grew up in the culture of Hawaiian cooking, so I really feel like I’m sharing my home with people here.

When did you first decide you wanted to cook?
When I was about 8 year old and cooking outside with all the men from my family and village. Passing down “recipes” and ways of cooking is prominently woven into the island culture, and the whole experience of it had me hooked. I used to race home from school to watch Japanese subtitled “Iron Chef” shows … that was about 1994. I was enthralled.

Did you ever think you were going to be something besides a chef?
I played rugby from about junior high on up. I eventually played pro in New Zealand … not for the All Blacks because they still don’t accept overseas players into the team … but for the Canterbury Crusaders. It was a great run and a lot of fun travel but, in the end, my heart wanted to be in the kitchen.

What’s your favorite food to cook at Duke’s?
I like the Banana Leaf Fish entrée because it resonates with being home in the islands and cooking your protein in a banana leaf over the open fires there. It creates such a beautiful steamed fish. We finish it simply with a hot sesame oil and topped with micro-cilantro. It’s simple but so, so good.

And what’s your favorite food to cook, period?
Spam fried rice. No question. It makes me happy.

What do you think of participating in your first OC Chef’s Table?
It’s crazy to be in company with so many amazing chefs! I just feel honored to be in the room with these people. I’ve heard such great things about OC Chef’s Table for the last few years, but never suspected I’d be invited to participate. I’m really looking forward to the experience. Time to bring it!

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 … 

 

Chef Rich Mead: Farmhouse – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Chef Rich Mead - Farmhouse Newport Beach - OC Chefs Table 2019 for Illumination FoundationYour open-air Farmhouse restaurant  has been so well received since its opening in 2016. How have things settled in since the opening?
Chef Rich Mead:
We started out as a French farmhouse with this great footprint, but it seems every time you’re building something, you never end up with enough room in the kitchen. After we opened, we realized that our kitchen was too small for the amount of business we were doing.

So, I worked with the City and the Health Department to take our 700-square-foot basement … which was really more of an unfinished cellar for wine storage … to a fully developed prep kitchen. Now we have floors and stainless steel walls and walk-in storage and freezers with plenty of room for all the prep work we need to do on a daily basis. It’s a godsend.

You have quite the resumé working with one large group at one large table. How in the world do you serve a multi-course meal to ONE table of 200 people?
Very methodically! When the folks from Outstanding in the Field first came on the scene, I thought it was such a great concept – cooking for one long table of people in the middle of nature using only organic finds. Our first event hosted about 40 people. And then it GREW like a weed. We went from hosting 40 people to 140 people … and that’s when I started calling in help.

It’s not unusual to serve 200 diners in an evening … even holiday or group dining buyouts can easily be that large. So, it’s really the same thing … except it’s at one long table all at once. Everyone is looking at their neighbor’s plate! We just did an event for Greenpeace at San Juan Capistrano’s Ecology Center for 250 people, and that was our 10th large event there. Each event is a different experience, so it keeps you on your toes and always creating better solutions for a memorable dining experience.

So, cooking for a table of 10 people at OC Chef’s Table … not as daunting?
It’s an opportunity to get even more creative. Chef Andy Sutton has been my friend for years, and he got me involved for the first time last year. He told me there would be more than 30 chefs in the ballroom’s kitchen, and that I needed to think of what I can create just relying on an induction burner in the front. That’s when I started changing things up, thinking in terms of great cold things I could serve … how I could poach a salmon properly, that kind of thing. Cooking is all about solving something … I love figuring that all out.

Last year was your first at OC Chef’s Table. How did things go between the chefs?
It’s fun to work with all these chefs. You can’t afford to hire them in real life for your own restaurant, but you have this one night to work with all of them and get a whiff of the kind of talent they bring to this room. No one feels bad about helping each other. If you need to borrow something at OC Chef’s Table, they lend it to you. I saw some chefs just move over on their own grill to make way for a chef who needed more room for a particular dish. It’s fun to meet your friends again, and great to talk with so many of the younger chefs to get an idea of what they’re doing. 

What one memory do you remember most?
For starters, this is a charity event where just about every dime from the event really does go toward helping the people. That’s important to me. This is a chance to help someone find a new answer and get back on that path. Illumination Foundation gets it … they have a different vision for our world, and when you’re part of this event, you begin to see, too.

The event is a long day. I took a couple of my younger chefs with me, and they went in completely understanding … no one was getting paid to be there and, in a relative sense, it’s a small table of people compared to what we usually produce for a restaurant full of people. But you meet the wonderful people at your table, and you hear the stories from the stage, and you feel the commitment everywhere … and you begin to understand the size of what Illumination Foundation is doing.

But my best memory … when the event was over, these younger guys immediately started talking about how they would do it better next year. There was no question in their minds that they wouldn’t be back again. That’s what this event is all about. It touched these young guys and got them involved with something that’s so much bigger than just cooking.

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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 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 … 

 

 

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 new 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.

Last year was your first year at 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 next book – 101 Recipes Every Cook Needs to Know – is coming out in April next year, so I’m planning to pull that evening’s menu from the book … sort of a first pre-release peek with recipes that are seasonal for that time of year.

The best part, though, is that my wife, Ali, is coming along 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 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 … 

Chef Jason Neroni: Rose Cafe – 5 Questions, 5 Minutes

Rose Cafe Chef Jason Neroni for OC Chef's Table 2019When 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 … 

 

 

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