Filomena's Italian Kitchen
Hop Phan’s journey to the top of the culinary world began in Vietnam, where his refugee family set out for Southern California. They settled in Santa Ana, where Phan grew up eating Mexican food along with many other flavors of our cultural melting pot. He taught himself to cook, and in2010 took his Latin Asian cuisine public with his Dos Chinos Food Truck, catching the attention of the New York Times and the Cooking Channel, which filmed him for the show “Eat St.” From there, Phan’s innovative flavor combinations and down-to-earth charm rocketed him to fame with spots on shows including “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Camp Cutthroat,” NBC’s “Foodfighters,” A&E’s “Man vs. Child” and the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise,” which highlighted Phan’s famous lobster eloté. Moving to brick-and-mortar eateries, Phan opened Dos Chinos locations in Irvine and Santa Ana, with another slated to open in Chino in October. His newest concept, Red Envelope, blends Vietnamese and American comfort food at locations in Irvine and downtown Santa Ana, with another coming to Chino in October.
Carlos Salgado is the chef and owner of Taco María in Costa Mesa, California. When Salgado opened Taco María five years ago, he made a decision to honor his family’s culture and their hard work by making Mexican-inspired food with a reverence for its provenance. Using the best ingredients available and applying the techniques and values he learned in Michelin-starred restaurants, he works to create a syncretic Alta California cuisine that represents Mexican food by putting real corn at the foundation.
There’s a saying in Mexico: “Sin maíz, no hay país.” “Without corn, there is no country.” And without true corn, any attempt to recreate, reinterpret, or evoke Mexican cuisine can have no authenticity. As such, all of the corn and masa products used at Taco María are nixtamalized and processed in house. Salgado sources heirloom varieties of corn for masa from small family farms in Mexico via Los Angeles-based importer Masienda.
Prior to opening Taco María, Carlos spent a decade in San Francisco and Oakland, learning in many of the Bay Area's best kitchens, including Vernon Morales' Winterland, Daniel Patterson's Coi, and James Syhabout's Commis. He was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2015, and in 2016, 2017, and 2018, he was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: West. He will forever be honored that this spring, Jonathan Gold named Taco María the 2018 Los Angeles Times Restaurant of the Year.
Wahoo's Fish Taco
As the eldest of the three founding brothers Ed and Mingo Lee, Wing Lam co-founded Wahoo’s Fish Taco in 1988 and has nearly 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry. Wahoo’s Fish Taco, headquartered in Orange County, California, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Lam a Chinese immigrant, spent his childhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before he moved to Costa Mesa. In 1970, Lam’s father, Cheong Lee, opened a Chinese restaurant called Shanghai Pine Garden, which the family still owns, on Balboa Island. Wing and his brothers grew up speaking conversational Portuguese, Chinese, French, and Spanish fluent, but learned English by listening to customers in their family restaurant.
Lam, known today as the “ultimate wing man,” restauranteur, surfer, speaker and philanthropist, graduated from Costa Mesa’s Estancia High School. Even when he had his first taco stand, Lam’s water polo coach, John Carpenter, inspired him to give back to the school. He then spread his generosity to the baseball team at Saddleback College and the water polo program at UC Irvine. Lam eventually left Orange County and graduated with a degree in finance from San Diego State.
Wing and his brothers road tripped to Mexico, and they loved the fish tacos there. Their vision was to create a fast-casual Mexican restaurant with a streamlined menu, inspired by their Brazilian-Chinese heritage. The brothers opened their first Wahoo's in 1988 in Costa Mesa. Now there are more than 60 locations, mostly in Southern California, but also in Las Vegas, Denver, Philadelphia, Honolulu and Tokyo.
Wing, often the face of Wahoos,has been featured in a national Merrill Lynch commercial and two Food Network shows, "Unwrapped" and "Beach Eats USA. "In addition, Wing actively supports many national and local community-based events and serves as a board member of various non-profit organizations, among many includes Share Our Strength, Juvenile Diabetic Research Foundation and Surfrider Foundation.
Wing makes repeat appearances as the guest speaker/panel at events such as the IEG Conferences and has been featured by nation’s top campuses like Yale, UCLA and USC MBA Program. Lam is also active in the Asian American Journalists Association. In 2018, he received the 2018 Corporate Creativity and Innovation Leadership Award from the Child Creativity Lab and the 2018 IMPACT Award from the International Executive Council. Over the years, Lam, his brothers, and Wahoo’s Fish Taco have been named one of the 500 Most Influential by the Orange County Business Journal, Best OC Brand by OC Weekly, the Golden Foodie Award and has countless awards for philanthropy and business achievements.
Geeta Bansal is an internationally recognized chef, restaurateur, food columnist and philanthropist who grew up in Delhi in an unorthodox household where formal entertaining for local and international guests was an everyday event. Her passion for cuisine led to her transformation from a college professor into a contemporary Indian chef in the US. Her unique Indian cuisine draws thousands of people to her restaurants for the past thirty-two years while influencing Indian cuisine around the world. Her iconic dishes like mango corn soup, watermelon curry and rabbit vindaloo to name a few show up in restaurants around the world. The only Indian restaurant in the country to feature a large variety of game meats and seasonal seafood, she has influenced other chefs by generously sharing her techniques and recipes.
Recognition of her talents have led to an invitation by the James Beard Foundation, the most prestigious national culinary arts organization in the country to present her modern Indian cuisine at the New York brownstone to an audience of prominent gourmands. Keeping abreast of upcoming global trends by dining at iconic restaurants, frequent International travels, attendance at major food events like Gastronomika, Mistura, MAD, Gastromasa, and dialogues with global chefs her food reflects her journey. Her knowledge of the history of cuisine and chefs has led to many of her chef friends referring to her as the Wikipedia of cuisine!
Geeta incorporates the changing colors, flavors and aromas of each season and enhances the products with her mastery of Indian spices. As a cancer survivor, she credits her Ayurveda based cooking for helping her combat the disease and side effects of the intense treatments. She shares her knowledge of the medicinal value of these spices at lectures, cooking demonstrations for large audiences, and on her frequent appearances on major TV networks. Often featured in newspapers, magazines in Southern California and beyond and regularly seen on local and national television (CBS, FOX11, KCAL9, KTLA5, Hallmark Home & Family), radio shows, and documentaries, Geeta has a huge fan base for her lively appearances.
Frequently creating special events with appearance by international chefs like a four hands dinner with two Michelin starred Mauro Colagreco for instance at her restaurant she stands out in the culinary community. Her fans await with anticipation for her collaborations and wine events some featuring Moroccan, Peruvian, Mexican, Spanish, French cuisines with an Indian twist. Her restaurant maintains its own organic gardens for herbs, fruits and flowers especially roses which figure prominently in her cuisine. Sustainability and seasonality have been in her repertoire for decades before they became buzz words and current trends.
Her food and travel articles and insightful interviews with top chefs around the world appear in national and international publications such as The Daily Meal, Gourmet Magazine, Epicurious and her blog Gastronome Geeta. As a motivational speaker for cancer patients and lecturing students at schools she has a unique place in the community and recipient of numerous awards.
LA Times Test Kitchen Director
As the L.A. Times Test Kitchen director, Carter oversees the testing of all recipes that appear in The Times. In addition, she writes features, pens the "Culinary SOS" column, and contributes daily kitchen tips, recipes and videos to Food’s Daily Dish blog, and is also a regular contributor to "The Splendid Table" radio program. A native Southern Californian, she also holds a degree in film from the University of Southern California and, when she’s not cooking, loves watching old movies.
My journey started in 2005, when my baby sister shared her wonderful chocolate chip cookie recipe. We added some spices to satisfy our exotic, South America taste buds, and with her blessing, I began selling cookies as gifts to corporate America. I then had a dream of adding one of the world’s most important discoveries… ice cream, and our craft sammiches came into being. The business bug bit in 2007, and I traded boxes and tins for a pop-up store that hit the road in Spring & Summer, seeking out happy-go-lucky cookie and ice cream lovers.
By 2010, Craft Ice Cream Sammiches® were established, and on their way to street food fame. From that success, I decided to launch a mobile dessert truck, which helped change the culinary landscape in Southern California as part of the now famous food truck movement. In 2014, I’m excited to announce a life long dream of opening The Chunk-N-Chip Shop at 4th Street Market – an artisanal culinary hub that treasures community values in the historic, downtown Santa Ana.
While we’ve come a long way in a short space of time, one thing is for sure – my passion and adoration for the small batch community is unwavering. Chunk-N-Chip will always be a small batch business, with an appreciation of simple, fresh and seasonal ingredients. We never plan to grow too big for our boots, and are committed to creating truly Craft Ice Cream Sammiches® and smiles. While some think old-fashioned values and service died out, we say it’s only just beginning. Salud!
Amy Scattergood is a staff writer for the Food section of the Los Angeles Times. She has degrees from Yale Divinity School, the Iowa Writers Workshop and the Cordon Bleu and has written a book of poetry and co-written a whole grain cookbook. Although originally from Iowa, she’s lived in L.A. for a long time now and will continue to do so, as long as tacos and the Pacific Ocean exist.
Jenn Harris is acting editor of the Los Angeles Times Food section. She has a bachelor’s in literary journalism from the UC Irvine and a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California. She has appeared as a food show judge on the Cooking Channel, the Food Network and Fox and helps host the Food section’s many dining events throughout the year. Harris covers restaurant news, dining trends, chefs and cocktails. She’s the unofficial fried chicken queen and a happy hour enthusiast on the never-ending quest for her next big bite and stiff cocktail. She once visited 22 bars and restaurants in a single day for a story. If you want to see what she’s eating now, follow her on Instagram.
Andrea Chang writes about food and restaurants for the Los Angeles Times. She previously served as an assistant Business editor and covered technology and retail as a reporter. Chang graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and has written for the St. Petersburg Times, the Oregonian and the Mercury News. She grew up in Cupertino, Calif., and joined The Times in 2007. Chang was taking photos of food before smartphones existed and will happily eat anything – except fresh ginger.
Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
Margaux Kugelman graduated from the prestigious Statler School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and holds a masters of Business Administration from Pepperdine University. Her expertise in the beverage industry spans 15 years and her credentials include Advanced Sommelier via the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Wine Educator, Italian Wine Specialist, French Wine Scholar, Wine & Spirts Education Trust Advanced Certificate, and she is currently completing her WSET diploma. She works at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in Orange County and the proud mother of two girls.