Credit: Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen
Credit: Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

These 8 California-Based Influential Chefs Serve Up Insight, Advice and Inspiration

Take Note! 

From San Diego to Los Angeles, Southern California is home to renowned chefs serving just about every type of cuisine. Whether they attended culinary school or worked their way up in the kitchen, these chefs have all made a name for themselves by creating decadent, delicious dishes. These chefs are giving everything from insight to inspiration while pursuing their passion every day. Best Chefs in California


Name: Chef Imran “Ali” Mookhi 

Restaurant: Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen

Located in: Fullerton 

“My goal when creating a dish is to capture all the elements—taste, smell, texture and flavor—and plate it in a way that’s never been seen before. I prepare authentic subcontinent cuisine. I believe in versatility and combine a variety of Southeast Asian spices to develop unique dishes, and my favorite one to prepare is biryani. Receiving the Michelin honor of a Bib Gourmand award this year was definitely our biggest achievement thus far.”

Best Chefs in California

Name: Chef Narita Santos

Restaurant: The Exchange Restaurant & Bar

Credit: Dylan and Jeni

Located in: Downtown Los Angeles 

“I love creating dishes that celebrate my Filipino heritage while bringing comforting and humble flavors to life. I want my creations to offer a full spectrum: fresh vegetables paired with savory and sweet notes that bloom next to slow-cooked ingredients with pops of acidic notes to reset your palate. After the last few years of what the hospitality industry has seen and felt, I hope that we can extend more gratitude, grace and kindness towards one another.”


Name: Chef Brendan Collins

Restaurants: Fia and Fia Steak

Credit: Xavier Flores

Located in: Santa Monica 

“Hospitality is a brilliant industry to be in; it’s given me an amazing life of travel and creativity. You get out what you put in, and I’d love to see more people getting into it on a professional level. It’s been difficult to find staff lately; I’m not sure why people have decided to get out, but as a young lad from a mining village in northern England who now runs one of the best and busiest restaurants in Los Angeles, being a chef can be almost unbelievable.”

Best Chefs in California

Name: Chef Michael Payne

Restaurant: Tavern House Kitchen + Bar

Credit: Sarah King

Located in: Newport Beach

“I learned a long time ago that less is more—when you start with quality and follow technique, the end result comes out pristine. The simplest dish I make is my girls’ favorite: garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, pappardelle pasta and basil. Remember to always cook with your heart. If you trust that, you will never go wrong. You might make mistakes, but you will only grow and get better from the experience! Live life to the fullest by trying new things—it could change your life.”

Name: Chef Stephanie Izard 

Restaurant: Girl & The Goat, Cabra

Located in: Downtown Los Angeles

“I pull inspiration from my personal travels, other chefs and even from looking at a map and learning about the culture, flavors, techniques, spices, etc. of a specific region. Something as simple as a classic ceviche is refreshing, magical and reminiscent of my time spent in Lima.

Currently, I’m working on the opening of Cabra LA on the rooftop of The Hoxton, DTLA!”

Best Chefs in California

Name: Chef Roberto Alcocer

Restaurants: Valle and Malva

Credit: Audrey Ma

Located in: Oceanside and Valle de Guadalupe, Baja Mexico 

“My dream of becoming a chef stemmed from my love to eat, so it was easy to choose a path when I finished high school. My cuisine is 100% ingredient driven; it’s about seasonality and flavor pairings—as chefs, we change our favorite ingredients often. I curate experiences and concentrate on flavors, and I love to get the ‘wow’ from the people who taste my creations.”

Name: Chef Kelly Walling

Restaurant: Mitch’s on El Paseo Prime Seafood

Credit: George Duschannes

Located in: Palm Desert

“I was inspired to become a chef because both of my grandparents always cooked great food, and I wanted to learn how. It’s a lot more than just cooking. You’re a plumber, electrician, psychologist, accountant and problem solver. There is a lot that goes into getting that steak or sea bass to the guest other than just making sure it’s prepared properly.”

Best Chefs in California

Name: Chef Andie Hubka

Restaurants: Cork & Fork, Heirloom Craft Kitchen, Tu Madres Cantina & Grill

Located in: La Quinta, Indio 

“I am known for creative small plates that pull from just about every cuisine, along with wine pairings. I love small plates because you don’t have the rules like you do with traditional entrees and appetizers. My favorite thing in the whole world is when I pair a wine with a dish I’ve created and people have that ‘AHA’ moment of how wine and food just make each other better. My other hat is that I am a cookbook author; I have published three books, including the Cork & Fork cookbook (available on our website), and am working on a fourth now.”

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This article is brought to you by one of the many talented writers associated with Locale Magazine! We are a group of locals (whether born and raised or transplanted) who love this county we now call home!


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