Vote for Your Favorite Chef in Santa Ana, Presented By Wells Fargo

Written By: Alana Aronson Chef in Santa Ana

Owner Operator Oscar Castro: El Raspadito

A first time entrepreneur following in his family’s footsteps, Oscar has been finding great success with El Raspadito. El Raspadito serves the most auténticos Raspados this side of Tijuana. They are all natural, real fruit Raspados—meaning no syrup. Customers can mix n’ match their 21 different flavors for an endless amount of delicious combinations.


Chef and Owner Jason Quinn: The Playground

Jason Quinn states that “The Playground is first and foremost, my dream.” It is his love and passion. It’s something that he feels so lucky to have at this age, at this point in his career. He recognizes this, and does not take it for granted. He is adamant in saying that his “goal is for Playground to be the best restaurant it possibly can be.” Jason has gathered a group of insanely talented young chefs, whom he expects to be the future of food in Orange County or wherever they choose to go. The menu at Playground is by no means all his influence, he admits. Each person on staff comes with an incredibly different expertise and is required to contribute to their recipes.

Executive Chef Brian Black: Tangata Restaurant

As Executive Chef for Tangata Restaurant at the Bowers Museum, Chef Brian Black strives to involve and inspire guests throughout their dining experience. From highlighting artisanal and sustainable ingredients to showcasing his dishes in a creative yet natural way, Black’s passion for culinary shines through each dish. As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Black began his career at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he then moved to Orange County working alongside Chef Michael Mina at Aqua, Chef James Boyce at Studio Montage, and at the luxury resort The Montage.


Chef Matthew Solomon: The Scotchery

Chef Matthew Solomon’s culinary journey dates back to days in his grandfather’s kitchen, where the interest in all things food and cooking truly began. His career showcases an impressive repertoire, working for legendary names like Chef Wolfgang Puck at Spago and Chef Emeril Lagasse at Delmonico. At Mastro’s Costa Mesa Solomon took his first Sous Chef position, eventually moving on as opening Sous at Mastro’s Thousand Oaks, and hopping back to Orange County as Executive Sous Chef for their Ocean Club Newport Beach location.

Even with the extensive restaurant experience Chef Matthew gained through the years, he took to expanding his palate and cuisinal knowledge with summers spent in Martha’s Vineyard and winters in Vail. Even with an offer as opening Sous Chef for Cameron Mitchell’s prestigious Ocean Prime in Beverly Hills and a position with their Boston location’s opening team, Solomon took on his most recent collaboration at Orange County steakhouse and libations hub, The Scotchery. There, he has helped craft a menu that reflects the inspired flavor profiles gained through years of refined training and experience.


Co-Founder, Co-Owner and Chef Sam Ruiz: Cafe Calacas

Mexico City born and raised, Santa Ana native Chef Sam Ruiz feels as though his plates are his expression of a culture. Calacas is his passion for food that creates a nostalgic feeling for his culture, and new moments for those who are experiencing Mexican street food for the first time. “We are old Mexican street food, with a modern twist.” Ruiz is the Co-founder and Co-owner 0f Cafe Calacas, Euro Caffe, and Executive Chef of Barrel Room.


Chef Ryan Garlitos: Irenia Restaurant

Chef Ryan Garlitos is dedicated to creating food that recalls the soulful comfort of the Filipino dishes of his childhood. At his modern Filipino inspired restaurant, Irenia, not everything is a direct interpretation of a classic Filipino dish, but rather a new spin inspired by a Filipino ingredient or a memory that he hopes will embody the heart and soul of a traditional Filipino meal.

Executive Chef Jason Montelibano: Chapter One: The Modern Local

A native of the Philippines, Chef Jason Montelibano a.k.a “Chicken Wang” was named executive chef of Chapter One: The Modern Local, located in the heart of downtown Santa Ana. A drummer in his off time, his motto “be happy when you cook, ” is reflected in both his attitude and culinary approach. With a musical bent, he is prone to singing in the kitchen, and his menu at Chapter One is casual, comforting—and fun—with plenty of creative culinary twists.

Chef Luis Perez : Lola Gaspar

Chef Luis Perez was born in Bellflower, CA and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. He is personally and creatively inspired by his mother, Mexico (and taqueria in Mexicalli, BC), Spain’s Bar Boqueria in Barcelona and anywhere good food is made. His daughter Giulianna is a major inspiration for him as well. Perez’s favorite local restaurants include Anepalco, Oki Doki in Tustin, Old Vine Cafe and Santa Ana’s Cowgirl Cafe.


Owner and Chef Hop Phan: Dos Chinos

Hop Phan went to college for English and Math and was supposed to go into teaching, but when he graduated from UCI, teachers in California were being laid-off, so he knew he had to create his own opportunities. Although Hop went to school for English, his true passion was in food. Hop had been following some of the original lunch trucks all over Southern California for years and when he saw the Korean taco trucks over 7 years ago, it blew his mind! After following trucks like Kogi BBQ and Komodo and waiting in line for hours at their trucks, he thought that he could do what they did and maybe something even a little better. From articles in the New York Times to appearances on “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen”, Hop Phan has gained great attention for his culinary creations. The team at Dos Chinos also opened a Vietnamese concept called Sit Low Pho in the foodhall at 4th Street Market. Next up is their second Dos Chinos location at Trade foodhall in Irvine with the team’s newest Hawaiian Japanese concept called Megadon (scheduled to open in December).


Owner and Chef Ross Pangilinan: Mix Mix Kitchen Bar

Ross Pangilinan discovered his passion for cuisine at a young age. Adventurous dining experiences he shared with his father and cooking shows like Frugal Gourmet, have influenced his global palate and helped define his career as a chef. After high school, Pangilinan enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Excelling in his courses, he went on to work at various Southern California restaurants and in France for the two-Michelin-starred Les Trois Marche. At the age of 21, Patina Restaurant Group recognized Pangilinan’s skills and offered him his first sous chef position at Pinot Provence in 2005. After two years, he returned to France to work in the Michelin-starred Regis restaurant where he strengthened his culinary technique and back of the house operations. His sous chef position at the flagship Patina at the Walt Disney Concert Hall helped earn the restaurant its Michelin star in 2007. A year after various successes, including opening the modern Italian restaurant Sinatra within Encore at the Wynn in Las Vegas, Pangilinan returned to Patina Restaurant Group in 2009 as Executive Chef at Leatherby’s Café Rouge, where he led the culinary team for 7 years. Today, he proudly presents Mix Mix, his global dining concept exemplifying the techniques and traditions formed throughout his culinary journey.

Chef-Butcher and Owner Michael Puglisi: Electric City Butcher

Chef-butcher Michael Puglisi owns the only whole animal butcher shop in Orange County. With a decade of fine dining and culinary training, Michael expresses his passion for hand-made charcuterie, sausage, and custom cut meats by bringing Old World traditions to the OC. His standards of quality are only surpassed by his deeply rooted passion for sustainability and humanely raised meat.


Chef Jona Guijarro: BRASA Rotisserie

Chef Jona Guijarro believes in only using fresh and seasonal ingredients in all of his dishes. Taking from the traditional flavors and family-secret recipes of Peru, he combines his culture with modern cooking techniques to bring a unique and exciting twist to traditional dishes. Each bite that hits your palate is a reminder of the vast cultural influences all around us. These are the flavors and techniques he uses at the brand new restaurant BRASA Rotisserie. A hint of salt and a sprinkle of passion make the perfect garnish to any great recipe.

About The Author

Raised in Orange County, Alana loves all things local: hikes in the canyons and by the coast, runs in Corona Del Mar, and stories from the people who live in Orange County. With an English Literature degree from California State University, Long Beach, she is excited to join LOCALE Magazine and its love for local heartbeats.

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