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These Women Are Spicing Up the Kitchen

Written By: Elena Khury Female Chefs in Orange County

It’s no surprise that Orange County is filled with amazing restaurants and dining experiences, so we let it up to you to decide who the Top Female Chefs in Orange County are. Orange County is best known as one big melting pot filled with different cultures and ethnicities. Chefs Zov, Shachi, Linda and Gabbi all have something unique to bring to the table—literally. You already know their food is great, so here’s a little more about these top female chefs.

 

Zov Karamardian, Zov’s Restaurants

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted one of the top female chefs in Orange County?

Zov Karamardian: It’s an honor, and validation of the hard work our teams have put into our restaurants for more than 30 years. I started cooking at a time when there weren’t a lot of female chefs leading the kitchens in Orange County, so to still be recognized for this honor is wonderful. Thank you to everyone who voted.

Q: What is your inspiration?

ZK: I get inspired by ingredients and new items that I see. I always want to create, or recreate from the photos of dishes I’ve taken during my travels. When I am at the market, my eyes usually focus on one item, the look or uniqueness of it, and I build around that. I’m also inspired to create from nothing. Simplicity and freshness are the keys to great taste.

Q: What is your favorite thing to make?

ZK: I love making bread. It’s alive, and making it is very spiritual to me. It’s very calming. The live yeast, the smell, the crackle…any kind of yeast doughs, I love working with them. I also love making soups and stews. Slow-cooked foods that you can leave on the stove all day and enjoy the rewards of your work at the end. Anything that is comforting.

Q: Who is your favorite audience to cook for?

ZK: I love cooking for children and adults who really love food, who ask questions and care to learn more. I get the most pleasure out of watching people enjoy what I cook.

Q: How did you learn how to cook?

ZK: First, I learned to cook from my mother. She had a very small repertoire of things she made, but they were all the best. I really learned to cook though watching Julia Child on TV starting when I was 13. She’s my inspiration and my mentor. Later in life we became great friends, cooked together and she even pushed me to write my first cookbook.

 

Linda Johnsen, Filomena’s Italian Kitchen

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted one of the top female chefs in Orange County?

Linda Johnsen: It’s such an honor to be included with the other great female chefs of Orange County, but it’s also humbling to know so many people in our community have taken time to acknowledge this and voted for me.

Q: What is your inspiration?

LJ: My customers. They let me know just how much they love my food. I listen to them especially when they want a repeat of one of my weekend specials. I can’t wait to see them return to enjoy a meal they have been waiting for.

Q: What is your favorite thing to make?

LJ: A huge pot of Sunday Sauce. The smell, the flavor, the anticipation of a great bowl of pasta and all meats that have braised in the sauce for hours. Yum! Don’t forget a great loaf of bread for dipping and cleaning the plate with.

Q: What is your least favorite food trend?

LJ: Small plates. I’m Italian, even more important, I’m an Italian mom. It’s bred into our heritage to feed people lots of food. Small plates are an insult to our ability to nourish our guests.

Q: How did you learn how to cook?

LJ: I spent much of my childhood in the kitchen with my grandmother, Filomena. I loved watching her cook with her sisters after church for Sunday dinners or holidays. The women would be in the kitchen making fresh pasta, sauce and meatballs while the men were in the living room watching football. When the meal went on the table everyone gathered at the dining room table for this incredible food. I knew at a very young age that I needed to know how to create the same experience that always revolved around this wonderful tasting food.

Shachi Mehra, ADYA

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted one of the top female chefs in Orange County?

Shachi Mehra: I’m very humbled, grateful and proud that the community we have here in Orange County has given me the opportunity to shine. I’m overwhelmed by the support, especially from the community in Irvine, where our newest ADYA location recently opened.

Q: What is your inspiration?

SM: It’s difficult to select just one thing that I draw inspiration from. From training my staff on a new task, and using fresh ingredients, to reading a great article or recipe and even watching a movie—I find inspiration in countless places. One day, I was brushing my teeth and saw a pile of Indian bangles on the counter and my mind ran from there. It sparked the idea to encompass the vibrant colors and exciting music of Bollywood into a special we’ll be featuring at ADYA.

Q: What is your favorite thing to make?

SM: I really enjoy baking! I made an apple pie last week on my day off and sometimes I’ll make cookies, cakes or brownies. I find baking to be very relaxing and therapeutic. At ADYA, I enjoy creating new dishes and experimenting with flavors.

Q: Who is your favorite audience to cook for?

SM: While I love cooking for my family and friends, there is something magical about cooking for people who have never tried Indian food before. It’s incredible to share a piece of my culture with them and watch as they fall in love with the flavors of India.

Q: How did you learn how to cook?

SM: From a very young age, I had a passion for cooking and was willing to learn from anyone and everyone. From my mom, aunt, grandmother and even my friends’ parents! I was eight years old and overheard our Italian neighbor sharing with my mother her family pasta sauce recipe. I thought it was the most interesting thing that she would add sugar to her sauce. From that point on, I not only retained culinary knowledge, but I would share newly learned information with everyone!

 

Gabbi Patrick, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted one of the top female chefs in Orange County?

Gabbi Patrick: It’s an honor! It is great to be recognized with such strong females who are making a big impression in the Orange County food scene that keep you challenged and motivated.

Q: What is your inspiration?

GP: My family, my travels, embracing Mexican culture and being able to share unique and indigenous food for everyone to enjoy.

Q: What is your least favorite food trend?

GP: I’ve seen a few restaurants feature sea urchin in their guacamole; I am not a fan!

Q: Who is your favorite audience to cook for?

GP: My three kids are quite the food critics. They have grown up to have expensive food taste and quite advanced palates. They are for sure my most honest and favorite audience to cook for when I am trying out new things in the kitchen.

Q: How did you learn how to cook?

GP: I grew up in the restaurant business and my parents owned their own restaurants. Growing up in the kitchen and traveling all over Mexico is what inspired me to become a chef and share my culture and passion with everyone.

These #GirlBosses Are Your Top Female Chefs in Orange County

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