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When the weather outside is frightful (by the standards of us pampered Southern Californians) head to Iva Lee’s Restaurant for some cold weather comfort food. Iva Lee’s Restaurant serves up delicious and authentic Southern style, New Orleans inspired fare. Nestled in laid-back Downtown San Clemente, Iva Lee’s, named after co-owner Lisa Wagoner’s beloved grandmother, has been drawing patrons from all over Orange County and beyond since it’s doors opened in 2002. The husband and wife team of Eric and Lisa Wagoner, co-owners of Iva Lee’s, were involved in all aspects of the restaurant from the fun, eclectic design, complete with ornate ceilings and hot pink, printed wallpaper, to hiring their outstanding staff, which includes Executive Chef Christopher Starr. Starr began at Iva Lee’s as an intern and quickly moved up the ranks after being hired full-time. He then pursued and earned his culinary degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and returned to Iva Lee’s. Starr is an expert at providing a fresh take on classic Southern staples such as fried chicken, po’boys, and of course, gumbo. Starr points out, “Everyone’s gumbo seems to be a little bit different.” Needless to say we were excited when he let us in on how this favorite Iva Lee’s dish is made.

@mattdoheny-8815-Edit Starr begins by making the roux, which is a mixture of butter and flour. This is cooked down until it reaches the color of dark chocolate. Next, the veggies and Andouille sausage, which is flown in from Jacob’s World Famous Andouille in Louisiana, get cooked down along with a mix of spices in a bit of oil. The roux is then added into the vegetable mixture, which is followed by chicken and beef stock. Everything gets brought to a boil; then, roasted, diced chicken breast and crawfish meat are added. Starr lets the gumbo cook for an hour, uncovered. He then serves it over long-grain white rice, which is cooked with a little bit of butter, salt, a bay leaf and water. A sprinkle of chopped green onion finishes off this warm, Southern favorite.

Iva Lee’s
555 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
949.361.2855 | www.ivalees.com