Show 268, April 7, 2018: Nancy Luna, Senior Editor, Nation’s Restaurant News

Nancy LunaOrange County food fans know Nancy Luna as the Orange County Register’s long-time restaurant beat writer since 2005. Earlier in the year she moved on to the respected trade publication, Nation’s Restaurant News in the position of Senior Editor. Her new national beat is the restaurant industry’s largest and most talked about fast-food brands including McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and Subway.

Luna is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton. When she’s not digging for news on her beat, you can find Nancy regaling her fans about her latest dining adventures on her Fast Food Maven social media channels. Follow her on Twitter @fastfoodmaven.

Nancy invites her followers to Subscribe to the daily e-newsletter from NRN.

We’ll meet her.


Show 244, October 14, 2017: Food Journalist & Author Cathy Thomas

Andy Harris, Andrew Gruel and Cathy Thomas at the SoCal Restaurant Show 5th AnniversaryFood Journalist Cathy Thomas has been the highly-regarded food columnist for the Orange County Register for over 26 years. Most of that time was as the greatly-admired  Food Editor. In addition to that she is the online columnist for Orange Coast Magazine where you can view many of her entertaining and informative cooking videos featuring area and celebrity chefs.

“My first book was published in 2006, “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce” (Wiley, $29.95, 2006 written for Melissa’s World Variety Produce, the LA-Based company that is the nation’s largest distributor of specialty and organic produce). My second book is “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” (Wiley, $29.95). The book has received fantastic reviews. Emeril plugged the book on Good Morning America, naming it as one of the top ten cookbooks for the season. My third book, “50 Best Plants on the Planet (Chronicle, $29.95) explores the fifty most nutrient dense fruits and vegetables that grow on earth. The recipes are easy and delicious.”

Represented on the buffet today in the Melissa’s Test Kitchen is Cathy’s recipe for Hearts of Romaine Salad with Beets, Apples and Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing. It features Melissa’s Steamed Beets and Green Dragon Apples. The recipe is from Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.

“Because I’ve studied with chefs across America, Europe and Asia, I have a passion for ethnic cuisines. I love to embrace new flavors, new aromas and new techniques. When it comes to cooking and eating, there is always something new to experience.”

We’ll pull Cathy away from the cutting board for a chat.


Show 239, September 2, 2017: Show Preview with Co-Hosts Andy Harris and Chef Andrew Gruel

Now a tantalizing preview of this Saturday’s Labor Day Weekend bubbling over show. It’s not, with profuse apologies, for dieters. If we’re successful we will always leave you incredibly hungry and thirsty. In our case, upon careful reflection, that’s probably a pretty good thing…

Presented by Long Beach Chef AC BoralRICE & SHINE (an eight- course, family-style brunch experience) prides itself on being a completely unique brunch. You even leave with an edible care package. The next RICE & SHINE is set for Sunday, September 10th at 11:30 a.m. in a secret location in Downtown Long Beach. We’ll meet Chef AC.

When Chef & Restaurateur Michael McCarty opened the landmark Michael’s in Santa Monica back in 1979 I’m not sure he suspected that he would become one of the pioneers of what is known as California cuisine. A Michael’s in New York came on the scene about a decade later serving breakfast, lunch & dinner to the media elite. Just about a year ago Michael boldly rejuvenated Michael’s Santa Monica (working with son, Chas) by bringing-in a 28-year old rising-star chef with avant-garde ideas. Chef Michael McCarty is our guest.

Cleveland’s other popular celebrity chef, “Rocco Whalen, if nothing else, is wrapped up in the love of cooking: the idea and vitality of it, the doing of it, the invention and sustainability of it, the day-to-day enrichment of it, and, ultimately and significantly, the memory of learning all about it from his mother. All combine as convictions he affectionately shares with his regulars and first-timers who dine at his remarkable 15 year-old restaurant, Fahrenheit in historic Tremont, a stone’s throw from downtown Cleveland.” We’ll chat with the perpetually on-the-go Chef Rocco.

We’re delighted to welcome our Co-Host, Chef Andrew Gruel, back to the show (in-studio) after his recent global travels. Chef Andrew will be discussing a benefit he’s hosting at Slapfish Huntington Beach for all of September in support of Bracken’s Kitchen. Also on the menu is a discussion of shrimp. When you’re buying shrimp as “fresh” is that really the case? Is there anything wrong with enjoying shrimp that has been properly frozen?

OCAPICA is celebrating 20 years at “Tastemakers of Orange County” on the evening of September 20th at SoCo and The OC MixTastemakers of Orange County 2.0” is a culinary event celebrating the Asian and Pacific Islander community, education, and heritage. The celebration includes food tastings, fun entertainment, and a silent auction. Their goal this year is 800 guests and 20 high profile Orange County chefs. Proceeds from this event benefit the non-profit organization, OCAPICA, and will support mental health, health, workforce, youth in education, and civic engagement opportunities for low income families. Executive Director and Founder Mary Anne Foo and participating Restaurateur Ed Lee of Wahoo’s Fish Taco join us with all the delectable details.

Special thanks to the OC Register’s Feature Reporter, Jackie Moe. This week she recognized the “SoCal Restaurant Show” on her list of the 25 top podcasts produced in Southern California that are “some of the most interesting, educational and entertaining recordings available.” We’re with some very impressive company and are deeply honored. We’re especially proud to be the only food, restaurant and libation show originating on local radio so recognized.

All of this and heaping helpings of extra deliciousness on this week’s show!


Show 234, July 29, 2017: Executive Chef / Proprietor Amar Santana’s Vaca Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner

Amar Santana at the Top Chef FinaleOn Thursday evening, August 10th Chef Amar Santana’s Vaca in Costa Mesa is hosting a sumptuous, 7-course wine-paired dinner with an abundance of passed hors d’oeuvre as a festive Friends of James Beard Foundation Benefit to celebrate South Coast Plaza’s 50th Anniversary.

Chef Amar is also well-known locally for Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and as the runner-up from lucky Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” in what the judges noted was the tightest final competition of the series’ long history!

Santana and partner Ahmed Labbate, whose roots together at South Coast Plaza go back to 2008 when they opened Charlie Palmer, will welcome 100 discriminating guests with a love of food and wine to the Beard dinner. Santana is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

The festivities on August 10 will include a small silent auction during an al fresco reception. While enjoying the signature Vaca Tonic and hors d’oeuvres, guests may peruse deluxe offerings, which will include a LVMH Luxury Champagne experience for 16 guests; packages from South Coast Plaza, the Montage Laguna Beach and Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, unique dining experiences, luxury travel destinations, and high-end wines.

Seats are $350 and $300 for members of the James Beard Foundation, all inclusive. For reservations to the Friends of James Beard Dinner at Vaca, please register online her For more information, please contact VACA GM Ghali Benhima at 714.463.6060. A credit card will be requested to secure the reservation.

VACA Group Partner & Executive Chef Amar Santana (well-traveled) provides the tempting preview.

The Orange County Register’s long-time Food Business Staff Writer, Nancy Luna, had a great explanatory piece with Chef Amar on Vaca’s upcoming Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner that ran in the print edition on July 27th.


Show 233, July 22, 2017: Dominic Palmieri, The Midway Gourmet, OC Fair Continues…

Dominic Palmieri of Midway GourmetWe always look forward to sharing with you the new, creative taste sensations at The Orange County Fair on now through August 13th. Already creating excitement from The Midway Gourmet is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on virtually everything edible including pizza and fresh corn.

Last year, 50% of Fairgoers surveyed said their favorite part of the Fair is the food. Fried, sugary or savory – and sometimes all three at once – the delectable edibles are some of the big stars of the OC Fair.

One of Chef Dominic’s returning star items is Fried A Fair’s deep-fried butter balls with maple syrup. Four to an order. The Orange County’s Register food staff writer, Nancy Luna, has already declared it one of her all-time Fair favorites.

New, and spectacular, on the RCS Midway at the OC Fair is the La Grande XL, the largest traveling observation wheel in the United States. Its cars (“cabins’) are even air conditioned. It’s carefully transported in 22 semi-trailers and 10 technicians using an 80-ton crane install it!


Show 220, April 22, 2017: Chef Andrew Gruel, Opening Restaurants at Trade, Irvine, CA

Andrew Gruel at the AM830 KLAA StudiosEver wonder what it really takes to get an eagerly anticipated restaurant open?

For the last year we’ve been patiently following our own, Chef Andrew Gruel’s, progress in opening Two Birds (cluckin’ good chicken done two ways) and Butterleaf (vegetarian food for non-vegetarians) in the new Trade Food Hall in Irvine located near John Wayne Orange County Airport.

At long last they are about ready (subject to final permitting) to begin service. We’ll hear all about it.

Chef Andrew was also on the front page of the Orange County Registers “LifeStyle” Section on Thursday, April 20th talking about his openings at Trade. The feature, with photos, continues on Pages 3 and 6.


Show 212, February 25, 2017: Zov Karamardian, Zov’s Bistro, Tustin

Zov Karamardian or Zov's in TustinThirty years ago Chef Zov Karamardian (now known for her unique Middle Eastern-fusion cuisine) opened her modest Bistro in 1,200 square feet in the Enderle Center in Tustin. Today Zov’s is the largest food tenant in the Enderle Center (12,000 square feet) with additional busy locations in Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Coast and John Wayne Orange County Airport. We celebrate with her…

Zov is celebrating by offering popular menu items at throwback prices. During the last week of each month (through November 4th.) Zov’s locations in Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Coast and Tustin will feature one dish at its original menu price.

“These flavors represent the foundation of my cooking,” Chef Zov said. “Over the years some of these dishes may have come and gone, but seemingly they have not been forgotten. We’re excited to share these special menu items in celebration with our longtime guests.”

Golden Lentil Soup from Zovs BistroFebruary 26th to March 4th is Golden Lentil Soup.

Happy to note The Orange County Register’s long-time Food Editor, Cathy Thomas, is back (after a year’s absence) contributing to the paper. This week’s feature is Orange County chefs talk about – and share recipes for – the dishes they just can’t ditch.” One of these highlighted recipes is Zov’s creation of Sauteed Calamari with shallots, lemon, fresh herbs and chardonnay butter sauce.

Inspired by (and later a friend to) Julia Child, Zov has authored 2 popular cookbooks while growing her restaurant group to locations in Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Coast, Tustin and John Wayne Airport. San Clemente will debut next.

Zov’s was awarded the 2015 Small Business Award by the State of California, and Zov had the honor of cooking at the James Beard Foundation in Manhattan for the third time in late 2015. She was honored as the 2016 Golden Foodies Chef of the Year by the Orange County Restaurant Association.


Show 206, January 14, 2017: Executive Chef Amar Santana, Vaca and Broadway by Amar Santana

Amar SantanaAmar Santana is the Executive Chef/Proprietor of Vaca in Costa Mesa and Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. Vaca was Orange County Register Restaurant Critic, Brad A. Johnson’s “Best New Restaurant of 2016. For Season 13 of Bravo’s Top Chef Amar was the runner-up by the thickness of an onion skin. Chef Amar is also a distinguished alum of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP.)

Amar joins us to preview C-CAP’s Winter Harvest Benefit Dinner at James Republic in Long Beach on February 8th. The popular James Republic is one of the top destination restaurants in Long Beach. The evening is a spectacular, multi-course feast.

James Republic is co-owned by Executive Chef and Restaurateur Dean James Max (a multiple James Beard Award nominee) of DJM Restaurants. Chef Dean will be flying in from his base in southern Florida to present a course. James Republic’s executive chef, David MacLennan (opening exec chef) will also be preparing a course.

Chef Amar’s dish is under the veil of heavy secrecy but he does hint it will be a pork spectacular. The award-winning El Segundo Brewing Co. is brewing a special craft beer to pair with Chef Amar’s dish exclusively for the evening.


Show 204, December 31, 2016: Marin & Executive Chef Noah von Blom, DirtySexyHappiness Hospitality Group, Costa Mesa

Marin Howarth and Executive Chef Noah BlomThe (greatly respected and always trendsetting) Union Square Hospitality Group (Union Square Café, the Modern, North End Grill…) in New York initiated a policy of “no tipping” earlier last year. The gratuity is included in the menu pricing. The concept is an effort to resolve the inequality in the compensation of the Front of the House Staff versus the hard-working kitchen staff who are not tipped.

The DirtytSexyHappiness Hospitality Group tried this in ARC and Restaurant Marin at SoCo in Costa Mesa. We’ll chat with proprietors Chef Noah and Marin von Blom to see how this innovation has worked out in their properties.

It’s been a great year for Restaurant Marin. Restaurant Critic Brad A. Johnson of the Orange County Register awarded Noah Blom and baker Christy Henry “Pastry Chefs of the Year” honors. Also the Marin Fries were one of Brad’s The Best Thing I Ate This Week” in 2016.

They are also about to open their 3rd concept at SoCo, The Guild Club. We’ll get a preview.


Show 204, December 31, 2016: Food Journalist and Author, Cathy Thomas

Cathy ThomasWe know award-winning food journalist Cathy Thomas as the former long-time Food Editor of The Orange County Register and the author of 3 well-received cookbooks. She now has a new monthly, on-line feature in Orange Coast Magazine of a chef profile and accompanying cooking video recipe.

The feature with the video for December is “Making Scrumptious Salmon with Herb-Spiked Soffrito with Chef Michael Doctulero” (Waterman’s Harbor in Dana Point.) All the posted recipes are tested in a home kitchen.

A longer prose feature in December is Michael Campbell Makes Brunch Soar at The Loft at Montage.” Michael Campbell is the new Chef de Cuisine at The Loft at Montage.

She has also recently been a part of the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival in Orlando and journeyed to France on a barge cruise.

Look for her helpful e-Newsletter (typically ever two weeks), Cathy Thomas Cooks! It’s free to subscribe and there are, thankfully, no hidden sales pitches!

We’ll catch up with her.