Chef Ariel Mungi-Ciarrocca Brings His Culture and Culinary Experience to Surf City USA
An only child to Maria Ciarrocca and Jorge Mungi, Chef Ariel Mungi-Ciarrocca of The Brant Kitchen & Bar in Huntington Beach grew up as another set of hands in his parent’s bakery in Córdoba, Argentina. He learned to cook out of necessity while his parents were busy selling sweet treats and putting smiles on faces. He saw first-hand the power of food—how something made with love could make someone’s day. Because, let’s face it, you can’t have a bad day when it includes dulce de leche. Inspired by his parents, Chef Ariel set off on his own culinary journey to see how he could put smiles on faces through food himself.
Chef Ariel kickstarted his career at culinary school in Argentina and then embarked on his whirlwind tour de food, which included everything from flipping steaks in Florida to serving brunch and bubbles at Belmont Brewing Company in Long Beach. Known as “chef” at this point, Chef Ariel found that he was addicted to the rush of the kitchen, the adrenaline of feeding a revolving door of hungry patrons until that last ticket of the evening was exhausted.
“I really like to be in the kitchen, to be creative and in steady flow with my team. There’s a lot of adrenaline in the kitchen, and I love that rush. It’s also nice to make people happy through food.”
Chef Ariel has worked everywhere, from beach shacks to banquet halls, serving people from all walks of life. He’s mastered comfort food, upscale cuisine, tortellini, tapas and everything in between. “I’ve gone from 3,000-person banquets to fine dining restaurants to hotels, Italian joints, French bistros and so on,” he says. This is a guy who loves to learn and is always refining his craft to become the most versatile chef he can be. His success in this space is a testament to every job he has had, from staging to executive chef.
“I was always changing restaurants to keep growing my career and learning. I never want to get stuck in one place and stop learning.”
After nearly three decades in the culinary world, Chef Ariel is still as excited about food as he was when he was just a kid making croissants and cakes in his parent’s bakery. He doesn’t shy away from infusing his Argentinean heritage into his food either. Whether it’s The Brant’s famous ribeye with chimichurri or their irresistible butter cake (a nod to his parents), Chef Ariel always finds a way to wink at his past while still paving the way for his future. His food is a beautiful fusion representative of his past culinary experiences, and if you look closely enough, his menu tells a story of where he’s been and, perhaps, where he’s going next.
Chef Ariel’s current home, The Brant, is one Huntington Beach pitstop you won’t want to pass up. Located inside of Pacific City, this relatively new hotspot has impeccable vibes with an oversized bar, cozy patio and 180-degree views of the Huntington Beach coastline. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, with even Chef Ariel able to do a surf check from behind the giant glass window, offering patrons a peek into the beautiful chaos of a restaurant kitchen. He has infused his heart and soul into the menu, which features fan favorites like the fried chicken sandwich and French dip.
“Our food, our drinks and our vision are great… We are always evolving and you really can’t beat the view,” he says.
Chef Ariel personally recommends the halibut and the filet—two highly popular items on the all-day menu. And to drink? “The Old Fashioned is one of my favorites,” he says. The Brant recently launched a new brunch menu that includes sweet and savory breakfast and lunch items aimed to satisfy any craving. There’s fluffy French toast and a beefed-up breakfast sandwich that is a total two-hander. And whatever you do, get a cinnamon roll for the table—a decision you won’t regret.
In Cef Ariel’s spare time, which, truthfully, he doesn’t have a lot of, he enjoys golfing, fishing and snowboarding—all of which are almost year-round luxuries unique to Southern California living. He enjoys cooking comfort foods for himself, like homemade pasta, soups and steaks, always using his favorite ingredient: garlic. And when he’s feeling homesick, you might find him daydreaming about Imperial Ruso, a dulce de leche layered meringue creation that was a staple in his family bakery.
This story is really just about a talented guy who loves food. What did you expect? It’s in his DNA. He loves the stress of a full dinner service and a hot kitchen. He loves creating new specials each weekend to spice up his menu of greatest hits. He loves garlic, seasonal ingredients and locally sourced provisions. He loves it all, and at 46 years young, he’s just getting started.