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These Chefs Are on Fire!

Written By: Alana Aronson Chefs in Irvine

We compiled a list of Irvine’s best chefs, and you voted for your top 5! These creative kitchen masters are innovative, passionate, and incredible individuals. From their favorite dishes, to where their hearts lie outside of the kitchen, we have their answers to the questions you have been dying to ask.

 

Yves Fournier: Executive Chef, Andrei’s

Q: Why and how did you start your career in the restaurant industry?

Yves Fournier: At about the age of 14 I made the choice to go to culinary school in Paris. I also worked in restaurants every night after school. Then came my passion for food and the desire to travel and cook around the world.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted as one of OC’s favorite chefs in Irvine?

YF: It’s a great honor to be in Locale Magazine and I love knowing that people enjoy what I create with the team at Andrei’s.

Q: What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?

YF: I’m crazy about Rugby. I also like National Geographic, soccer/FIFA, Game of Thrones, Bill Maher, music/live concerts, and traveling.

Q: What is your favorite dish at your restaurant?

YF: At the moment my Moroccan beef short rib tagine with all its spices and flavors and having fun with our daily specials.

Q: What gets you excited before each service at the restaurant?

YF: The adrenaline rush knowing that we have a lot of reservations! And when my deliveries actually come before service starts!

Q: Where can we find you when you aren’t at work?

YF: When I’m not at work I like to be with my family enjoying Southern California: Walking at Crystal Cove, Balboa, Laguna, coffee at Portola in the OC Mix, Adya at The Packing House or working in my garden.

 

Timothy Doolittle: Executive Chef, Bistango

Q: Why and how did you start your career in the restaurant industry?
Timothy Doolittle: I was just a high school kid who needed a job. How it progressed from there is a far more interesting and endearing story, but I’ll save that for the memoir.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted as one of OC’s favorite chefs in Irvine?
TD: It is truly a surprise, as I am a bit of a newcomer to the SoCal scene. But, I am humbled and excited to be received so well, so quickly.

Q: What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?
TD: Vintage motorcycles and Porsches! SoCal is a terrific place to have these obsessions.

Q: What is your favorite dish at your restaurant?
TD: I love our scallop dish with cauliflower, raisins, and almonds. It is simple but elegant.

Q: What gets you excited before each service at the restaurant?
TD: Service is always an adrenalin rush. So the anticipation of performing under pressure is on my mind twice a day, everyday. It is hard to put into words, but I imagine it is not unlike how an actor or singer feels just before going on stage.

Q: Where can we find you when you aren’t at work?
TD: You might find me and my dog at Heisler Park in Laguna or watching the surfers at Huntington Beach Pier. I almost always go to breakfast on my days off, so I try to find new places and spend some time and learn a bit. I am still getting to know Orange County, so this is my methodology…follow the food!

 

Adam Brown: Executive Chef, North Italia

Q: Why and how did you start your career in the restaurant industry?

Adam Brown: As a child I grew up in restaurants and have always enjoyed cooking, the hospitality it stands for, and—of course—food in general.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted as one of OC’s favorite chefs in Irvine?

AB: It is a great honor to have been a chef in Irvine for a year and now to have made the list.

Q: What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?

AB: outside of the kitchen I enjoy eating out a lot and trying different restaurants to stay current. I also like the outdoors, when I can find the time and energy to enjoy it.

Q: What is your favorite dish at your restaurant?

AB: I enjoy all of our pizzas, but our Short Rib Radiatori pasta is one of my favorite dishes. It’s hearty and balanced.

Q: What gets you excited before each service at the restaurant?

AB: Getting the team motivated and excited for a very busy shift and seeing their determination to be better each day.

Q: Where can we find you when you aren’t at work?

AB: I try and keep a strong balance of work and home-life so outside of work I try to stay away from the restaurant and enjoy going to LA to check out their food scene.

 

Anne Marie Damaso: Co-Owner and Executive Chef, Sweet COMBforts

Q: Why and how did you start your career in the restaurant industry?

Anne Marie Damaso: At a young age, I fell in love with the artistry of cooking and baking. I got my first job as a cook where I was able to practice my creativity in the kitchen. I loved having no boundaries when it came to recipes or plating. No day is the same when you’re in this industry so it makes sense that you learn something new every day. Being in the restaurant industry gives me a high sense of fulfillment and I can’t picture myself doing anything else.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted as one of OC’s favorite chefs in Irvine?

AMD: To be voted one of OC’s favorite chefs feels amazing! I feel honored to be amongst Irvine’s best! My family, friends, and team at Sweet COMBforts are so proud.

Q: What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?

AMD: To be honest, my passion stays in the kitchen. I’ve developed an interest in everything from craft cocktails to coffee. Being able to create modern twists to traditional styled lattes and cocktails is just like a home experiment! That goes hand in hand with what we do at Sweet COMBforts.

Q: What is your favorite dish at your restaurant?

AMD: Definitely the waffles! We specialize in honeycomb shaped liege waffles that are buttery and flaky. We embed them with pearl sugars that give the waffle a nice and sweet caramelization that’s off the chain!

Q: What gets you excited before each service at the restaurant?

AMD: So many things excite me before each service. Being able to wake up to something you love and do what you’re passionate about is a chef’s dream! Not only that but seeing the dynamic of everyone in the kitchen and going through the exhilarating rushes. There’s nothing more gratifying than knowing that all the hard work everyone puts in pays off with the customer’s experience. You can see it on their faces when they take their first bite.

Q: Where can we find you when you aren’t at work?

AMD: Most likely trying out all the awesome food and drinks that Orange County has to offer. I’m originally from the Central Coast, so whenever I’m not working I love visiting my family and friends back in my hometown.

 

Katy Smith: Executive Creative Chef, Puesto Irvine

Q: Why and how did you start your career in the restaurant industry?

Katy Smith: I started working in restaurants when I was 18 in the front of house. I also started living on my own and had to learn how to cook. I absolutely fell in love with it. I started devouring cookbooks and cooking shows. While I was in college I threw as many dinner parties as I could afford, always looking for an excuse to feed people. As soon as a graduated college I went to culinary school.

Q: What does it mean to you to be voted as one of OC’s favorite chefs in Irvine?

KS: It is unreal and so exciting. Puesto is brand new here and the warm welcome feels unbelievable given how little time we have been open. It also means a lot because I grew up in Irvine. This is my first time living back in Orange County since leaving seven years ago. It’s an incredible homecoming.

Q: What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?

KS: Is there anything outside the kitchen? No, I am a huge music lover. I grew up singing and performing. I’ve always leaned towards the arts. I love live music, going to shows and I love going to the theatre as well.

Q: What is your favorite dish at your restaurant?

KS: I love our Cochinita Pibil taco and the Zucchini and Cactus taco. Both predate my time at Puesto–so this isn’t nepotism! They are both totally traditional. They literally take me back to tacos I have had at small stands in Mexico.

Q: What gets you excited before each service at the restaurant?

KS: Well, a lot. It feels like live theatre every night. You never know what will happen. It’s that same rush. But particularly in Irvine, we have a brand new crew—getting to see our awesome cooks up their game every day and truly start to take ownership of their stations is exciting. Opening a restaurant can be so rough, and seeing our amazing team not only survive the opening but really enjoy their work feels incredible.  

Q: Where can we find you when you aren’t at work?

KS: At home cooking, or eating my way through Orange County and San Diego getting inspired by what all of my fellow chefs are creating.You Voted! Here Are Your Top 5 Chefs in Irvine