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Participating Restaurants & Chefs 2020

When the top-ranked Orange County Chefs come together for the annual Illumination Foundation OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Hotel, you’re going to discover all sorts of magic afoot.

For starters, these talented chefs are typically creating an entirely original menu with course after course of their own favorites, culled from years of culinary innovation. You’re simply not going to find this evening’s dinner in any restaurant.

There’s something, too, about all these great chefs enjoying the rare opportunity to rub shoulders with one another and share new ideas. Far from a competition, OC Chef’s Table is an evening of light-hearted fun, a reunion of sorts between chefs who have cheered on each other’s rise to the top.

And, of course, there’s a magic in the Disneyland® Resort itself, a sort of charmed bit of stardust that descends on the event, uniting extraordinary chefs with extraordinary hearts in a partnered decision to end the pain and separation of homelessness.

Meet the Chefs We Have Confirmed for This Year's Event

Orange County's Top Chefs*

Andrew Sutton

Andrew Sutton
Host Chef & Culinary Director, Napa Rose
Disneyland Resort
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Wine and cheese may age well, yet freshness is only alive for a brief season. Every day, this philosophy drives Chef Andrew Sutton to fully embrace each wonderfully fleeting yet exciting opportunity to create something truly in the moment with every dish he prepares.

With talent and expertise, his culinary vision is that food engages us in the now. The fresh abundance of each season, how our food is prepared, and the way each meal is served ushers us into a unique sense of “being in the present.” Produce is a gift from the earth, and a chance for each of us to enjoy and share its delights. “I like a beautiful plate with great flavor,“ says Sutton. “After all, the ‘culinary arts’ is the only art form that touches all the senses.”

Chef Sutton’s personal outlook and award-winning skills stem from formal French roots and his passionate exploration of American regional cuisine. Energized by the athleticism and artistry of being a chef, he continually layers skills into his craft by mastering pastries, butchering, banquets, and sommelier certification. Prior to his two-time Chef of the Year honors, he was mentored by Dean Fearing at the five-star, five-diamond Mansion on Turtle Creek in his hometown of Dallas, Texas. He then served as Executive Chef at the Ivy Award-winning Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley, California, for several years before his accolades caught the attention of Disney. Chef Sutton was the renowned company’s choice to open and establish its Napa Rose restaurant at the luxurious Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort. Through his care, the signature restaurant soon became one of the premier destinations in Orange County and began its heritage of earning distinguished culinary awards.

At the world-famous Disneyland® Resort, Chef Sutton’s culinary leadership extends from the acclaimed five-star Napa Rose to the elegant Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge. In addition, he leads the Resort’s most prestigious signature dining experiences—the exclusive 1901, the legendary Club 33 and, New Orleans Square’s newest hidden treasure, 21 Royal, which presents unparalleled luxury by serving five-to-seven course menus within private quarters originally meant for Walt and Lillian Disney.

With spirited dedication, Chef Andrew mentors his team of 100 to be imaginative, interactive, and to create dishes that celebrate the bounty and heritage of California, with diverse flavors inspired by the seacoast, farms and cultural influences of the state. His stewardship has resulted in critical acclaim and multiple awards for the restaurants. As an individual, he was bestowed the prestigious Antonin Carême Medal by the San Francisco Chapter of the American Culinary Federation for making “extraordinary contributions to the culinary profession, particularly to education and the advancement of gastronomy and the culinary arts.”

Chef Andrew finds joy in teaching others how to create casual dinner experiences that allow everyone to spend time sharing great food and conversation. Because life is enriched when we seize those rare moments with friends and family. He hopes you’ll enjoy every taste to the fullest, and that whatever your passion is, you never let it lose its flavor.

Professional Accomplishments & Experience
• Executive Chef, Signature Restaurants, Disneyland® Resort – Anaheim, CA
• “Top 10 Restaurants of Orange County” – Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge (Orange Coast Magazine)
• “5 Stars” – Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge (Southern California Restaurant Writers)
• “Golden Bacchus Wine Award” – Napa Rose & Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge (Southern California Restaurant Writers)
• “Best Chef of the Year” 2013 (CRN Digital Talk Radio’s first-ever Food & Wine Awards)
• Executive Chef, Napa Rose (Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, opening team)
• James Beard House (multiple invitations, featured cook)
• Antonin Carême Medal (American Culinary Federation, San Francisco Chapter)
• “Top 3 Resorts in the U.S.” + “Top 9 Resorts in the World” – Auberge du Soleil (Condé Nast Traveler)
• The Mansion at Turtle Creek (with Chef Dean Fearing)
• Hotel Crescent Court (with Henri Boubee & Chef Steve Singer)
• Culinary Institute of America (New York)
• Universal Restaurants (with Chef Jean LaFont)
• Words To Live By: “Cook to the wine”
• Hospitality Motto: “Taste the wine first with a clean palate, then see if we can give you a ‘one-plus-one-equals-three’ pairing”
• Signature Dish: Scallops with Lobster, Lemon & Vanilla Sauce, paired with California Chardonnay.

Jet Tila

Jet Tila
Celebrity Chef, Chef Jet
Food Network
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Chef Jet Tila’s from the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Normandie Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles to the Las Vegas Strip; from backyard cooking classes to battling legends on “Iron Chef America”—Jet Tila has carved a singular niche as a culinary storyteller. Thanks to his diverse background and education, Tila is as comfortable as chef and consultant as he is teacher and student in the art of food. His numerous accomplishments in the culinary world continue to grow. Tila has partnered with the Compass Group, the world’s largest food-service company, to launch Modern Asian Kitchen, a new fast-casual Pan-Asian concept with locations nationwide. He also separately opened Kuma Snowcream, a shaved-ice concept that launched in Las Vegas & New York, all while continuing to build on his extensive national TV and radio appearances as a guest judge on Food Network’s Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Cutthroat Kitchen, Guy’s Grocery Games, as well as hosting his own radio show in Southern California. In addition he was named the inaugural Thai Culinary Ambassador in the United States by the Royal Thai Consulate, and was tapped to host Los Angeles’ first Thai Culinary Festival.

Tila grew up in his family’s restaurant kitchens and markets in Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest Thai population outside of Thailand. As a boy, he spent time learning the ancient traditions of Asian cuisine from his Cantonese grandmother and working in the famed Bangkok Market, which opened in 1972, and Royal Thai restaurant, which opened in 1978. “I call it birth luck,” he says. “I was born into the ‘first family’ of Thai food in Los Angeles. My parents came here separately in 1966 and went on to open the first restaurants and grocery stores in this country and I was the kid doing homework in the back corner of the restaurant.”

Not initially sure if he would pursue a career in the kitchen, in his 20s, Tila says he “got it together” and decided to build a foundation for his passion and completed his culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu, establishing a framework of classical French technique to match his extensive knowledge of Asian cooking. He also completed an intensive study program at the California Sushi Academy. “My food is predominantly Thai and Chinese because it was the food I was exposed to growing up,” he notes. “And my cooking overall represents the neighborhood I grew up in LA: between Thai Town, Chinatown, Koreatown, and Little Tokyo.”

Combining kitchen experience with the bold new world of food media was a natural move for Tila, whose backyard cooking classes attracted the attention of the Los Angeles Times. He has successfully transitioned from subject to producer by writing for the Times and contributing to many other publications and multimedia platforms, including National Public Radio, the Food Network, and his appearances on the “NBC Today show”, “CBS Early Show,” “Parts Unknown,” “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and battling legendary Chef Masaharu Morimoto on “Iron Chef America,” among many more. A highly sought-after consultant, Tila opened the cafe at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley and also currently maintains a wildly popular Asian food line through Schwan’s Home Service. He keeps close to his roots by conducting “Melting Pot Tours” of Thai Town in Los Angeles, offering participants a curated tour of his favorite aspects of the neighborhood.

In 2009, Tila debuted the acclaimed Wazuzu, a brilliant take on Pan-Asian dining, at Steve Wynn’s Encore casino and resort on the Las Vegas Strip, which he was tapped to open in a record 98 days. Tila has also set five world records: for creating the world’s largest stir fry (4,010 lbs.)—breaking the record twice; the world’s largest seafood stew (6,656 lbs.); the largest California roll (422 ft.), and largest fresh fruit salad (15,291 lbs).
Tila’s current and future projects promise to bring him and his culinary skills to more prominence. He is currently growing his partnership with the Compass Group to open additional Modern Asian Kitchen concepts, nationwide, and plans on developing more Kuma Snowcream locations, a shaved-ice concept that launched in Las Vegas—the product of which he says is “like fresh, powdered snow, but that is creamy and tastes like ice cream.” “At this point, I am interested in creating concepts, not just one-offs,” he says. “I am and always will be a chef, but I am also always interested in new ways to combine cooking, business, and communication, since I enjoy all of them as much as I enjoy teaching people about where I come from through my food.”

Tila currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Allison, their children Amaya and Ren, as well as their two dogs.

Rich Mead

Rich Mead
Owner & Executive Chef, Farmhouse
Corona Del Mar
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During his 36 years of culinary expertise, Chef Rich Mead has cultivated relationships with the highest regarded local organic farms, allowing him to create the freshest menus using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and specially grown vegetables. In 2016, after years of planning, Chef Mead unveiled a unique and sustainable field-to- fork dining experience at Farmhouse, located within Roger’s Gardens. Nestled on over 6 acres in the garden-like setting, Farmhouse features exclusive wines, craft beers, signature cocktails, artisan refreshments and a healthy based seasonal cuisine.

Prior to creating Farmhouse, Mead founded, owned and acted as Executive Chef for several Southern California destination restaurants including Sage Restaurant in Newport Beach, Sage on the Coast in Newport Coast, Canyon Restaurant in Anaheim Hills and Seventeenth Café in Santa Monica. Throughout all his restaurant concepts including Farmhouse, Mead has been an integral part of the planning from concept creation to fruition and beyond, from in the kitchen to front of house, to design as well as active in developing the unique beverage program.

Mead is very active in local farms and philanthropic efforts. He has worked with Outstanding in the Field over the past few years to create food for seven of their farm to table dinners at various farms and vineyards in the area. He has participated as a guest chef for several farms to help celebrate their customer appreciation days and worked with other chefs to raise money for non-profit organizations such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Mead helped create the Green Feast, an annual farm dinner held at South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano to raise money for the Ecology Center. He is also actively involved with the Culinary Liberation Front, working to educate the public and local chefs about how and why they can do better supporting the mantra of local and sustainable. Rich was named restaurateur of the year by the Orange County Business Journal in 2007.

Jonathan Blackford

Jonathan Blackford
Executive Chef, A Restaurant
Newport Beach
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Nick Bennett

Nick Bennett
Owner, AHBA
Laguna Beach
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Jayro Martinez

Jayro Martinez
Executive Chef, AHBA
Laguna Beach
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In August 2019, Jayro Martinez joined Owner Nick Bennett as Executive Chef of the new AHBA in South Laguna Beach. The eclectic restaurant started with breakfast and lunch and eventually began serving dinner, too. (“AHBA”means “father” in Hebrew.)

Jayro is originally from South Central Los Angeles and gained all of his initial culinary experience by working in Los Angeles restaurants from his late teens. He first got involved in culinary through C-CAP, then started working in his first restaurant at the age of 16. He was running his first kitchen at the age of 23 as Chef de Cuisine at the immensely popular Mh Zh in Silver Lake. Chef Jayro spent a year with Mh Zh, from initial set up of the kitchen and hiring to ever-evolving menu options. In its first year, Mh Zh became one of the hottest spots in Los Angeles, was named in Los Angeles Magazine‘s Top 10 Best New Restaurants list, and was mentioned in the Thrillist as one of 13 best new restaurants in America

After Mh Zh, Chef Jayro devoted a month to traveling in Spain and staging at different restaurants in Los Angeles until making his move to the OC as Social’s Chef de Cuisine in Costa Mesa. Shortly thereafter. he stepped into the role of Executive Chef  and participated in Illumination Foundation’s OC Chef’s Table for the first time in 2019.

With keen interest in starting up restaurants, Martinez  joined Bennett at AHBA to create Mediterranean/ California type cuisine with seasonal and revolving menus. The restaurant has been an instant hit.

Kenneth Williams

Kenneth Williams
Executive Chef, Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa
Rancho Mirage & Palm Springs
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An American Culinary Federation Certified Executive Chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York, Chef Ken brings a wealth of professional expertise to overseeing Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage’s diverse dining options.

Early in his career, Chef Ken worked at the prestigious Four Seasons hotel corporation in Newport Beach and Beverly Hills, where he learned the essentials of five-star and five-diamond food service. He then worked with Wolfgang Puck Catering, assisting in ultra-high-end catering events that included the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball.

Chef Ken has served as a progressive professional chef for corporate gaming, food management companies, and tribal gaming from Las Vegas to the mid-south and throughout California. In Las Vegas he worked in culinary operations on a large scale at Mirage Resorts and was involved in the opening of the Bellagio, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond property.

Prior to joining Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage in February of this year, Chef Ken was Executive Chef of theme park operations at Universal Studios Hollywood. Williams was recently invited to be part of the James Beard House event in New York City where we stunned the guests with his specialty dish of Five-Spiced Pork Belly with Pickled Red Onions, Candied Tamarind and Apples, Agave Pork Glaze, and Basil Oil… an experience his diners are not soon to forget.

Chris Simons

Chris Simons
Andrea
Newport Coast
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Corey Muir

Corey Muir
Chef de Cuisine, Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
Newport Beach
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A native of Orange County, California, Corey Muir found his calling to cuisine while working with troubled youth in Hurricane, Utah. He came back to California in October 2008, and enrolled in The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California – Orange County.

After graduation, he started working at The Wild Artichoke in Yorba Linda alongside Chef James D’Aquilla. He then moved on to Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa working with Chef Alfonso Ramirez as Chef de Partie. He then took his knowledge and love of French cuisine and techniques, to Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine alongside Chef Yves Fournier. He secured his current role at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations as Chef de Cuisine in 2015, under the guidance of Chef Peter Petro.

Steven Anderson

Steven Anderson
Executive Chef, California Fresh – Catering & Events
Tustin
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Taking inspiration from his grandmother, whom cooked the Saturday family meals, Steven Anderson joined the culinary field in 2008 with aspirations of becoming an executive chef. Since that time he has worked tirelessly to achieve his goals and find his place in the ever evolving culinary world. From running black tie galas for upwards of 850 guests and Oscar awards style parties to working with internationally renowned Chefs from countries like India, Slovenia, China and Vietnam to teaching culinary courses to kids and adults alike. Now seasoned and trained by some of the best, Steven is currently running an operation of over 50 cooks producing 10k meals per day. He has done it all in the past 10 years and developed into culinary professional with an appetite for great things ahead.

Leo Razo

Leo Razo
Executive Chef, Cambalache
Fountain Valley
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Leo Razo is co-founder and Executive Chef of Villa Roma Argentine & Italian Restaurant in Laguna Hills. He came to the United States in the early 1990’s from birthplace in Jalisco, Mexico. Before becoming the chef and owner of Villa Roma, Leo had shared his talents in well-known restaurants like Carmelo’s in Corona del Mar, Viva Italia in Laguna Beach and Sea Cliff Country Club in Huntington Beach. Leo enjoys delighting people with unique culinary adventures and has purposely traveled extensively throughout Argentina and Italy to study their culture, food and history.

Leo began his culinary profession as a dishwasher and added lots of passion, hard work, long hours and many sacrifices. Today he is grateful to have and amazing team running Villa Roma Restaurant, Villa Roma Market & Deli and Villa Roma Catering. With Leo’s leadership and his contagious passion Villa Roma has been recognized numerous times by press, regional organizations, congress, senate and other business leaders for his dedication and contributions to our Southern California community as a small business, his philanthropic involvement and community empowerment.

Leo’s greatest satisfaction is to see guests enjoy his food, service, ambiance and values. He enjoys delighting Orange County residents and tourists with the best Argentine & Italian cuisine. He is proud of each of his staff and considers them as his extended family. Leo believes in building and supporting each other. His purpose is to continue serving the community and providing our guests and friends with high quality, delicious food and cultural experience.

“My passion is to prepare and serve food not only to satisfy the palate, but to satisfy the senses and soul.” – Chef Leo Razo

Alfonso Ramirez

Alfonso Ramirez
Executive Chef, Catal
Disneyland Resort
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Chef Alfonso Ramirez is an alumnus of Patina Restaurant who worked at the original location, the remodeled restaurant, as well as the newest Patina location at Walt Disney Concert Hall—has been cooking nearly his entire life, originally schooled by his father, who is himself is a respected chef. “I learned from my dad, as well as several other chefs I’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout my career,” he says.

He earned his first position as a line cook at Patina by “showing up at the back door and asking for a job” and hasn’t looked back. Over the course of his career, he has worked alongside Joachim Splichal at Patina, Lee Hefter at Spago, and Eric Greenspan at Meson G and The Foundry. He joined Catal Restaurant in 2015 after serving as Executive Chef of Pinot Provence, a long standing culinary destination in Orange County that recently ended its contract with the Westin in Costa Mesa.

Ramirez brings his passion for cooking, what he calls “rustic flavor,” and a desire to let high-quality ingredients speak for themselves on the plate. His menus showcase his passion working with seasonal ingredients and include classic as well as some contemporary dishes. A Los Angeles native, Ramirez currently lives in Rancho Santa Margarita with his wife, whom he first met in high school, and two daughters.

Clint Chin

Clint Chin
Chef de Cuisine, Club 33
Disneyland Resort
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Clint Chin is the Chef de Cuisine for Club 33 at the Disneyland Resort. Opened in 1967 and recently expanded, Club 33 is a private, members-only fivestar restaurant hidden in the heart of New Orleans Square in Disneyland Park.

Prior to this role, Chef Clint has served as Sous Chef for Club 33, as well as for several other acclaimed restaurants throughout the resort, including Disney’s 21 Royal, and Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure Park. He began his Disney career as a line cook at Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa under Chef Andrew Sutton. Prior to Disney, Chef Clint started as a prep cook and line cook at the Jer-ne Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina Del Rey.

Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a track record of training and developing strong teams and a focus on creating original and high-quality cuisine. A graduate of the world-renown Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, Chef Clint has a flair for developing highly creative menus. He has an extensive knowledge of wine and is well-known for his classic French techniques, butchering and charcuterie, as well as his business acumen and high food safety standards.

Chef Clint lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Maureen. When he isn’t in the kitchen, he enjoys gardening and jogging with his dog, Marley.

Istvan Toth

Istvan Toth
Executive Chef, Davio's
Irvine
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Istvan Toth is the Executive Chef at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Irvine, CA. Toth was born and raised in Hungary and moved to the United States at the age of 19 to begin his career as a chef in the US. He grew up with grandparents who prepared all of their meals from scratch everyday. This upbringing is what started his love affair with quality food and cooking. Before leaving Hungary, Toth obtained his culinary degree at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School.

Toth began working in the industry as a teenager, where he interned in the kitchen of a well-known resort in Hungary. When he moved to the United States, he first settled in Southern California, where he worked as a banquet chef at the Sherwood Country Club, cooking for upscale private events held for renowned athletes such as Tiger Woods and Wayne Gretzky. He also worked as sous chef at the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica and helped open BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood. After a few years on the West Coast, Toth wanted to experience the culinary scene in New York, so he made a move east and secured in-demand positions at some of New York’s most renowned culinary establishments, including Eataly and Catch Restaurant, the flagship restaurant of the EMM Group. From there Toth joined the Davio’s family, where he has been cooking since 2013. Toth’s favorite part of being in the kitchen is being able to get creative with flavor profiles and the plating styles of his dishes.

When Toth is not at Davio’s he can be found hiking, deep-sea fishing or enjoying family time with his wife and newborn son, Istvan Jr. He currently resides in Huntington Beach, CA.

Sergio Ortega

Sergio Ortega
Chef, Descanso
Costa Mesa
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Jeff Moore

Jeff Moore
Executive Chef, EATS Kitchen
Irvine
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Jeff Moore, the Executive Chef at EATS Kitchen & Bar, has been part of the food and hospitality industry since high school when he worked at his family’s Californian, fourth-generation Moore’s Market in Lunada Bay, Palos Verdes Estates. It was here he learned the art of butchering and appreciating cooking with different meats. This early exposure started a devotion to customer service and is where he developed his management skills He has been building his culinary career for the last 15 years.

At EATS Kitchen & Bar, Moore has created seasonal menus that the local community and Hotel Irvine guests have come to enjoy. He manages all operations and supervise the EATS hospitality staff, as well as oversees the food menus in the hotel’s Red Bar and Lounge.

Moore calls his cuisine “modern California” cooking and is committed to California farm-to-table kitchen values, highlighting the highest quality seasonal products and local sustainability.

Previously, Moore distinguished himself as executive/regional chef for the Lounge Group in
Newport Beach, Calif. He was responsible for supervising eight properties throughout Orange County that received industry honors and Orange County media kudos during his tenure. Earlier in his career, he worked as chef de cuisine at Hopscotch Tavern, a former Lounge Group property in Fullerton, Calif., at Montage Laguna Beach’s award-winning The Loft and for several years did stints at restaurants in Utah, including Desert Bistro in Moab.

Linda Johnsen –<span>2017 Community Champion</span>

Linda Johnsen –2017 Community Champion
Owner & Executive Chef, Filomena’s Italian Kitchen
Costa Mesa
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Chef Linda Johnsen is the Owner/Executive Chef of Filomena’s Italian Kitchen and opening in December 2016, Filomena’s Italian Market, both located in Costa Mesa. Linda grew up in South Philly in a traditional Italian American family. She spent Sunday’s with her Grandmother, Filomena, and Aunt Rosemary walking to the open-air specialty markets for fresh ingredients to prepare the family dinner and making a pot of Sunday Sauce. This is where the tradition and techniques of Italian cooking and learning the secrets to making “homemades” or pasta were passed down to Linda and what she now shares with her guests in her restaurant and specialty food market.

Accolades: Opened in 2013, the Italian Kitchen has been named one of the Orange County Register’s 2015 Best Top 10 Italian Restaurant’s in the OC, and for a second year in a row, one of the 75 Best Places to Eat in the OC. Her award-winning pizza has been honored in 2016 by ranking #9 in the Register’s Top 20 Best Pizzas in Orange County, and #4 in Orange Coast magazines Best 28 in the OC. The Italian Kitchen was also ranked the #1 restaurant in Costa Mesa by Trip Advisor.

Expansion: Filomena’s Italian Market is an extension of Chef Linda’s restaurant and offers customers a vast assortment of specialty Italian foods, meats, cheeses, sandwiches and prepared favorites from her restaurant. Her award winning pizza will be available by the slice along with a gelato bar to satisfy that Italian sweet tooth. Known for an extensive selection of unique wines offered by the glass in her restaurant, the market will offer retail wine sales as well as fun tasting events curated by chef Linda and her Sommelier.

Affiliations: Chef Linda spends the majority of her time making sure her guests are being properly fed as a true Italian mother would do. She is also passionate about supporting the charities that feed and provide services to Orange County’s homeless population. She has been a return guest chef supporting S.O.S (Save our Selves) Annual Celebrity Chef Dinner and Wild & Crazy Taco Nights. She also supports the Illumination Foundation as chef/caterer at the annual Designer Runway charity event in the Laguna Design Center and a participating chef in the 2016 & 2017 OC Chef’s table gala dinner “Table for 12”.

Greg Daniels

Greg Daniels
Executive Chef, Harley
Laguna Beach
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Craig Brady

Craig Brady
Executive Chef, Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar
Orange, CA
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As Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar in Old Towne Orange enters its 10th year in business, it is led by Founder & CEO Wil Dee and Executive Chef Craig Brady, who oversees the restaurant’s noted culinary program. Chef Brady’s years of experience and noticeable passion helps in creating dishes that add finesse to the menu and provide an unparalleled dining experience.

Chef Brady received his formal training in New York City’s French Culinary Institute. During his stay there, he worked and staged at some of the city’s most exciting kitchens, but his first paid position out of culinary school was at the newly opened Montage Resort in Laguna Beach and its flagship restaurant, The Loft. He went on to the Patina Group’s highly acclaimed French bistro, Leatherby’s, and noted Scott’s Seafood at South Coast Plaza. It was because of his time at the latter that he was tapped to open a very popular and busy seafood restaurant in Santa Monica first as Sous Chef, then as Chef, gaining local and national write-ups along the way. Chef Brady’s reputation led him to Boston to aid in the opening of an authentic Verace Pizza Napoletana, or VPN, certified enoteca called Posto. This restaurant was praised as among the Best of Boston, and It was here as Chef de Cuisine that Chef Brady developed a love affair with Italian cuisine and philosophy that is still visible in his food to this day. The experience in Boston served as the perfect stepping stone to head back to Orange County, where he would join the Haven team in 2012 as Chef de Cuisine.

During those four years at Haven, Chef Brady defined his style and created something truly unique and special in the form of very intricate and creative beer-paired dinners with local breweries. In 2016, Chef Brady took on something new and challenging by joining the team at the heralded Ranch Steakhouse in Anaheim as Executive Sous Chef to run a grand operation efficiently and expertly.

Last year, Chef Brady returned to Haven, this time as Executive Chef. He adds a new sentence to the acclaimed restaurant’s already rich story, and his history with the restaurant has allowed him to connect with the Old Towne Orange community as he works to keep the menu fresh, innovative and relevant.

Michele Rubini

Michele Rubini
Head Pizzaiolo, L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Los Angeles
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Antonio Giordano

Antonio Giordano
Executive Chef, L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Los Angeles
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Riley Huddleston

Riley Huddleston
Executive Chef Partner, Lido House
Newport Beach
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As Executive Chef Partner of Lido House, Riley Huddleston brings a decade of culinary power to Lido House, driving the soon-to-open hotel’s food and beverage concepts including The Mayor’s Table restaurant, Topside rooftop bar and lounge and Crew Coffee + Cremerie.

Earning his chops as a chef, mixologist, pastry chef and restaurateur in elite New York and Chicago establishments, Huddleston is known for elevating fare with provenance as the starring ingredient. Huddleston’s innovative culinary style blends classic French training with modern cooking techniques. At Lido House, expect precision and playfulness from a menu that fittingly take cues from the hotel’s enviable waterfront in Newport Beach, offering a refined yet stylish celebration of Southern California’s coastal lifestyle and cuisine. The Mayor’s Table, positioned to be a Newport Beach hot spot, will manifest a pacific pub-style vibe offering inventive cocktails and seafood oriented fare including a raw bar, chef’s table and open action kitchen.

The Oregon native was most recently part of the opening team at the award-winning LondonHouse Chicago, a luxury Chicago hotel in the stunningly renovated London Guarantee Building. Huddleston held the dynamic role of executive chef + beverage director, leading the culinary and beverage program and operations for the hotel and its chef-driven dining establishments; curating everything from food and beverage menu concepts to music selections. Huddleston also created the menu and kitchen cocktail program as Executive Chef for I|O Urban Roofscape at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago, the city’s largest indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge where lifestyle was a centerpiece. He also mixed it up at the Aviary, crafting drinks for the famed Grant Achatz’s cocktail concept.

Yet, his early career at Timber Cove Resort may have proven most impactful, earning Executive Chef & Beverage Director rank at 24-year-years-old. Fresh off his award-winning entrepreneurial debut of Boise Fry Company in Idaho, it was here on the Sonoma Coast where Huddleston met and worked with developer Bob Olson, transforming the hotel into a success story. Serendipitously, when Olson was seeking a chef/partner for his Lido House legacy project, only one name came to mind. The pair traveled the world over—French Riviera included—scouting celebrated hotel menus for inspiration.

Magellan Moore

Magellan Moore
Executive Chef, Mastro’s Ocean Club
Newport Beach
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Chef Magellan Moore was born and raised in Columbus,
Ohio. His love for cooking came at a young age,
thanks to his grandmother. She was always cooking
and baking. Magellan eager to learn, followed her
around her kitchen and in the garden. She taught him
well and Magellan went on to get his first job in a
restaurant kitchen. He never looked back. Working his
way up the incredible food scene of Columbus,
Magellan became an executive chef at the age of 25.

Magellan moved to California 4 years ago. He started
with Mastro’s at the Steakhouse in Costa Mesa before
joining the team at Mastro’s Ocean Club in Newport
Beach. Magellan is excited to be named Executive Chef
of one of the most successful restaurants in Orange
County.

Stephen LaFountain

Stephen LaFountain
Executive Chef, Mastro’s Steakhouse
Costa Mesa
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Chef Stephen LaFountain is the Executive Chef for Mastro’s Steakhouse Costa Mesa. Chef “Steve” began his career at Glenmoor Country club in Canton, Ohio and has more than two decades of experience in the restaurant industry. In that time, he has worked with such recognizable concepts as Cameron Mitchell Restaurants in Ohio, The Le Meridean Delfina in Santa Monica, as well as the Cheesecake Factory. Chef Steve’s is new to Mastro’s Restaurants and looking forward to making his mark at one of the country’s top steakhouses.

Marco Zapien

Marco Zapien
Corporate Chef, Melissa's Produce
Los Angeles
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Jared Cook

Jared Cook
Executive Chef, Olea
Newport Beach
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Petros Benekos

Petros Benekos
Owner/Chef, Petros
Greater L.A. Area
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Melanie Danan

Melanie Danan
Platters By Design

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Art Ortiz

Art Ortiz
Platters By Design

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Rocco Carbonara

Rocco Carbonara
Owner & Executive Chef, Rocco’s
San Clemente
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Executive Chef and Owner Rocco Carbornara, was raised in Bari, Italy, two hours south of Naples. At age 16 he took his first cooking job in his parents’ local Trattoria, making salsas, ragu, gelatos, and other small-plate dishes. He worked there all during his early school days.

At age 18, “I realized my true calling,” says Rocco. “And enrolled in Istituto Alverghiero Armando Perotti, which is the Italian equivalent of the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school.” After graduating, he worked on Ibiza Island, preparing meals for international tourists at the Golden Tulip, a fancy Italian restaurant and resort hotel.

After several more stints at luxury hotels and restaurants, he came to the US in 1992, where he cooked for his Uncle Tony Carbonara, at Carbonara’s Trattoria Restaurant, and for his Aunt and Uncle who own “Tina and Vince Italian Deli” both on Ave Del Mar, San Clemente’s charming “main street.”

In the late 90s, he helped a friend from Capri open up “Rustico” a Restaurant in Telluride, Colorado. In 1999 he began cooking at several local Restaurants and then opened “Meditrano” at the Country Inn in San Clemente and, in the early 2000s, he bought the former Romance Restaurant at 201 N El Camino Real in early 2010.

Now Rocco’s, traditional menu choices include Chicken Marsala, Vitello Marsala, Ropa Vieja, a Cuban flank beef dish, and El Pastor, a pork choice-center cut, marinated with pineapple juice, bay leaves, onion, pimento-achiote, New Mexico chili and fresh pineapple char-broiled to perfection, with a side of rice and beans. Patrons pronounce the desserts at Rocco’s “incredible.”

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

South Coast Magazine Article

Paige Riordan

Paige Riordan
Owner & Executive Chef, Scarlet Kitchen & Lounge
Rancho Mission Viejo
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As Executive Chef and Owner of Scarlet Kitchen & Lounge in Rancho Mission Viejo, Paige Riordan pays homage to time-honored family recipes and East Coast classics brought to life with the finesse and flair of West Coast farm-to-table cuisine. An East Coast native, Chef Paige Riordan has cooked in some of New York’s most prestigious restaurants including Reynard at The Wythe, widely recognized for bringing farm-to-table cuisine to New York City. She attended culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, where she honed her skills in holistic, plant-based cuisine guided by whole foods and wellness. Prior to attending culinary school, Riordan was a professional dancer and choreographer. For several years, she owned a dance company which performed all over New York called Scarlet Fever, which inspired the name of the restaurant. Today, Riordan takes to a new stage as Chef-Owner of Scarlet Kitchen & Lounge.

Andrew Gruel – <span>2017 Community Champion</span>

Andrew Gruel – 2017 Community Champion
Owner & Executive Chef, Slapfish
6 locations
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Andrew Gruel, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, is currently the CEO and Founder of Slapfish Restaurant Group, the award-winning food truck turned international brick and mortar, based out of Huntington Beach, CA and Founder of Butterleaf Restaurant and Two Birds Chicken (two concepts in Irvine, CA).

Andrew has appeared on multiple television series including his most recent role as a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped Junior.” He was recently the Host of FYI Series “Say It To My Face”, as well as a judge on Food Network’s “Food Truck Face Off.” He has made appearances on the TODAY show, PBS, Cooking Channel, and has been featured in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Men’s Health, Food & Wine magazine, USA Today, Entrepreneur and Nation’s Restaurant News. In 2016 and 2017, he was named Top 25 Business Executives for Fast Casual magazine as well as featured in Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2017 Power List. In 2013 he was named top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs in Orange County. He is currently the Co-Host of The SoCal Restaurant Show on AM 830.

Jeffrey Boullt

Jeffrey Boullt
Executive Chef, Social
Costa Mesa
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Peter Lai

Peter Lai
Executive Chef, The Blind Rabbit
Anaheim Packing District
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Known for his simple modern American cuisine, Executive Chef Peter Lai creates the seasonally changing menus for the Blind Rabbit, a hidden speakeasy tucked away in the depths of Anaheim Packing District. Responsible for all culinary operations, Chef Lai works in tandem with the restaurants’ general manager and is a proponent of sustainable trends such as root-to-stalk vegetable cooking. He is devoted to purveying the finest Southern California products, handling them with respect to prepare thoughtfully executed dishes.

Chef Lai got his start at an early age in his family’s traditionalChinese restaurant. His career path includes working for Hyatt Hotels in New Mexico, Texas and California. Most recently, he was Chef De Cuisine at a signature restaurant in Huntington Beach, and the Executive Chef for a successful well known restaurant in Newport Beach. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from a Le Cordon Bleu Program in Texas and has been featured in several magazines and publications.

His vision for The Blind Rabbit is to provide a more seasonal and locally inspired menu, that will also pair with the wonderfully complex cocktails offered by this modern day speakeasy. He’s also expanded the menu significantly.

Michael Rossi

Michael Rossi
Executive Chef, The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon
Anaheim
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Executive Chef Michael Rossi is in the vanguard of culinary talent bringing the best of New American cuisine to Orange County. Rooted deeply in farm-to-table principles, his seasonally-inspired menus balance classic dishes with elevated interpretations of global fare.

After graduating top of class at the prestigious California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Michael Rossi trained under Chefs Roy Yamaguchi and David Abella of the highly successful Roy’s Restaurants, worked in Italy with world renowned Chef Bruno Barbieri at Michelin 2-star restaurant, Locanda Solarola, and helped open Disney’s® Award-Winning Napa Rose Restaurant alongside friend and mentor, Andrew Sutton.

Contagiously passionate about his craft, Rossi seeks an endless education and travels to farms, creameries, fisheries, distilleries and markets around the world for the best local and regional ingredients.

As Executive Chef at THE RANCH, Rossi is responsible for three venues totaling 53,000+ square feet of space from a single culinary kitchen. THE RANCH Restaurant, Saloon and Events Center proudly set the standard for excellence in food and service, garnering the attention of local foodies and national culinary enthusiasts, including:

  • Best Dessert Menu, Golden Foodie Awards 2018
  • Top 3 Best Steakhouse, OC Register Best of 2018
  • Top 3 Best Restaurant for Special Occasion, OC Register Best of 2018
  • Diners’ Choice Award, Open Table 2018
  • Hall of Fame, Trip Advisor 2018
  • Best Restaurant, OC Weekly Best of 2017 Readers’ Choice Award
  • Best Entrée, Golden Foodie Awards 2017
  • Best American Cuisine, Golden Foodie Awards 2016
  • Chef of the Year, Orange County Business Journal 2016
  • Chef of the Year, Southern California Restaurant Writer 2015
  • Chef of the Year, Golden Foodie Awards 2014
  • Best Steak, Golden Foodie Awards 2015, 2013, 2012
  • Best New Restaurant, Riviera Magazine 2013
  • Best New Restaurant, Orange Coast Magazine 2013
  • Top 10 New Restaurants in the United States, Gayot 2013
  • 2013 ZAGAT Scored: Food 28/30, Decor 29/30, Service 28/30
Ben LaFleche

Ben LaFleche
Executive Chef, The Waterfront Beach Resort
Huntington Beach
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Since January of 2014, Shades Restaurant & Bar Executive Chef Ben LaFleche, has been working his magic and perfecting his craft from his kitchen at the ocean view restaurant in The Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach. Soon, LaFleche will be overseeing three new restaurant options at the resort as well as the design and quality of banquet and special event menus. LaFleche recently debuted all new breakfast, lunch and dinner menus at Shades, which serves high end American fusion cuisine, with an emphasis on quality, fresh and sustainable ingredients as a dry-run for his new Boardwalk Three Meal Restaurant (set to debut soon in the new Waterfront Twin Dolphin expansion).

A graduate of the Canadian Culinary Institute of Montreal, LaFleche honed his cooking skills and talents in the popular ski resort of Whistler, British Columbia. This is where he was first exposed to high-end, creative American cuisine and became passionate about it. LaFleche later joined the executive cooking team of the Hilton Bonaventure in Montreal, further enhancing his knowledge of fine foods, while served in a fast-paced atmosphere.

Longing for Southern California sunshine and a more relaxed environment, LaFleche’s next move landed him in the kitchen of The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel. Steadily working his way up the chain of command – and becoming a U.S. citizen along the way – LaFleche’s masterful creations are now the centerpiece at breakfast, lunch and dinner at Shades Restaurant & Bar.

According to LaFleche, he has taken the Shades menu of American cuisine and elevated it, adding influences from the entire North America. His French Canadian background can be seen in the use of maple syrup and Poutine, the Canadian national dish. We are sometimes amazed at what Chef Ben can do with simple bacon… and he won’t tell us either!

“I love being creative in the kitchen and adding seasonal items and unique dishes that you won’t find at other restaurants,” said LaFleche. “From appetizers to our special dishes using the latest trends or twists out there, I want to add my own flair and give guests a truly memorable dining experience. I want every guest to feel, “ca été un plaisir!” (it has been a pleasure!) to serve them.” Shades Restaurant & Bar is open daily for breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant also serves an elaborate Champagne brunch every Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a carving station, custom omelet station, Belgian waffles, fresh sushi, an array of desserts and much more.

Shades also has a lively bar scene with its ocean view lounge and fire features for cooler evenings. There is entertainment Thursday through Saturday evenings from 6 to 10 p.m. and Shades has Wine Tasting Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Thursday. Shades Restaurant & Bar is located pool deck level of The Waterfront Beach Resort, at 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, just north of Beach Boulevard, in Huntington Beach. For reservations or more information, please call (714) 845-8000.

John Park

John Park
Executive Chef, Toast Kitchen + Bakert
Costa Mesa
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As a pastry chef with over fifteen years of experience, John Park is well renowned for his creative ideas and high standards. He has a vision for unique flavor profiles and innovative takes on classic techniques and ideas!

Los Angeles native John Park had visions of a career in math, but his plans were set aside during college, as John was unexpectedly drawn to the pace and precision of his fast food jobs. Since high school he worked part-time at fast food retail stores such as Togo’s. At age 19, he became the youngest manager of Jamba Juice, and because of his store’s success, was consequently recruited to be the youngest manager of Robeks Juice.

At the age of 22, John landed his first job in a professional kitchen at Koi as a savory cook. It is here that Chef de Cuisine Al Gordon identified John’s affinity for pastry. Gordon had him travel to Las Vegas on his days off to stage in the pastry department of notable restaurants including Aqua, Picasso, and Daniel Boulud Brasserie.

Within a year, John began working as a pastry cook under Wonyee Tom at Water Grill, where he was able to acquire a solid technical foundation. In 2005, he assisted with the opening of Providence before returning to Water Grill to work with David Lefevre as pastry chef in late 2006. John took a step down in 2008 when he accepted an invitation to work as pastry sous chef for the critically acclaimed Jordan Kahn at Michael Mina’s XIV, where Kahn’s unrivaled creativity was instrumental in John’s development.

During his career, John has made his mark on several other Los Angeles establishments including The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, The Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles, Rustica, Yi Cuisine, and Fraiche. John was also the pastry chef for Sang Yoon, creating desserts for Lukshon and Father’s Office.

John Park opened Quenelle, a nationally recognized ice cream shop, in Burbank, in 2013. Growing critical acclaim and demand led to the opening of a second location in San Marino, California, in 2015, along with a new venture named Pokestuf, in Alhambra. With his culinary expertise and business experience, John has now been successfully managing two popular ice cream shops and one poke bowl restaurant gaining a wide following, since January 2015.

Not only is John dedicated to engaging and mentoring his workers, and practicing a business model that attracts customers with high quality and service, he is also involved in the local surrounding communities. Both Quenelle and Pokestuf are involved with schools in their neighborhoods, through partnerships, donations, and fundraisers; and contribute to the business community as well by being destination eateries.

Quenelle has been featured on the TV show Unique Sweets and named one of the “Nation’s Hottest Ice Cream Stores” by eater.com. Pokestuf has gained attention as one of the best new poke restaurants in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. Through word of mouth and independently written national and local media attention, the two stores have been tremendously successful within two years of opening. John plans to bring the same high standards and attention to detail that make his three stores successful, to the newly envisioned 5 Loaves. For him and his staff, cooking is not a business but a passion, and this will allow them to take guests to the next level in their enjoyment and education of food.

ADDITIONAL LINKS:

OC Register Article

Joseph Tripi

Joseph Tripi
Executive Chef, Trevor’s At The Tracks
San Juan Capistrano
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Executive Chef Joseph Tripi was born in Buffalo, New York and developed his early passion for food and cooking as a child in his family’s kitchen. A move to California at age 10 and a dinner at Benihana sparked Joseph’s interest in becoming a chef. After completing the Culinary Arts Associates Program at Orange Coast College, Chef Joseph worked briefly for California Pizza Kitchen and was then hired by Wolfgang Puck. He went on to open 6 locations for the famous chef and developed recipes and training programs for his chain of restaurants. Tripi further honed his skills at Cheesecake Factory, Morton’s, Houston’s and Rock Bottom Brewery. With the opening of Trevor’s At The Tracks, Chef Joseph has now successfully opened 27 restaurants, 4 of which were his own.

Chef Joseph’s interest in using the freshest ingredients for his recipes strongly supports the “Locally Acquired and Globally Inspired” theme of Trevor’s at the Tracks. His eclectic menu changes with the seasons and includes many dishes that use food harvested from our on-site garden.

Noah Moreno

Noah Moreno
True Food Kitchen
Newport Beach
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Ernie Alvarado

Ernie Alvarado
Executive Chef, Urbana
Anaheim
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Executive Chef Ernie Alvarado at URBANA, the Anaheim Packing House’s most colorful restaurant. Recently named Best Mexican Restaurant by the Golden Foodie Awards among other recognition. Chef Ernie Alvarado’s modern take on Mexican Gastronomy boasts Mexican culture from the regions on Michoacan & Jalisco. Growing up in Jalisco, Mexico surrounded by delectable street food was a true inspiration. Chef Ernie Alvarado’s true passion has always been towards culinary arts, devoting himself at a young age. Using natural and fresh ingredients including handmade tortillas, gourmet tacos and red snapper ceviche, Mexican Gastronomy takes a modern twist.

Leo Razo

Leo Razo
Co-Founder & Executive Chef, Villa Roma
Laguna Hills
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Leo Razo is co-founder and Executive Chef of Villa Roma Argentine & Italian Restaurant in Laguna Hills. He came to the United States in the early 1990’s from birthplace in Jalisco, Mexico. Before becoming the chef and owner of Villa Roma, Leo had shared his talents in well-known restaurants like Carmelo’s in Corona del Mar, Viva Italia in Laguna Beach and Sea Cliff Country Club in Huntington Beach. Leo enjoys delighting people with unique culinary adventures and has purposely traveled extensively throughout Argentina and Italy to study their culture, food and history.

Leo began his culinary profession as a dishwasher and added lots of passion, hard work, long hours and many sacrifices. Today he is grateful to have and amazing team running Villa Roma Restaurant, Villa Roma Market & Deli and Villa Roma Catering. With Leo’s leadership and his contagious passion Villa Roma has been recognized numerous times by press, regional organizations, congress, senate and other business leaders for his dedication and contributions to our Southern California community as a small business, his philanthropic involvement and community empowerment.

Leo’s greatest satisfaction is to see guests enjoy his food, service, ambiance and values. He enjoys delighting Orange County residents and tourists with the best Argentine & Italian cuisine. He is proud of each of his staff and considers them as his extended family. Leo believes in building and supporting each other. His purpose is to continue serving the community and providing our guests and friends with high quality, delicious food and cultural experience.

“My passion is to prepare and serve food not only to satisfy the palate, but to satisfy the senses and soul.” – Chef Leo Razo

Brian Okada

Brian Okada
Executive Chef, Water Grill
Costa Mesa
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A 40 year veteran in the restaurant industry, Chef Brian Okada has worked with a myriad of renowned restaurants across the country. He’s been the Culinary Director of King’s Seafood Company since 2007, and he currently oversees all culinary development and concept development for King’s Seafood Company and their 21 restaurants.

Tony Celeste

Tony Celeste
Executive Chef, Whitestone
Dana Point
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