Show 454, December 4, 2021: Chef and Partner Amar Santana, Broadway by Amar Santana, Vaca and the Hall Global Eatery

Amar Santana

Orange County’s resident celebrity chef is Amar Santana of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, Vaca in Costa Mesa, and The Hall Global Eatery at South Coast Plaza. Chef Amar is best known nationally as the runner-up in a very close competition in Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 13 and then returning as an elite judge for Season 18 in Portland. In Orange County he was the opening executive chef of the highly praised Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdale’s at South Coast Plaza working with GM (and now partner) Ahmed Labbate.

His first solo restaurant with business partner and restaurateur Ahmed Labbate was Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. Just in time for the Holidays, Broadway has undergone a refurbishment and kitchen redo. “Inspired by the theaters in New York City, award-winning Chef Amar Santana alongside restauranteur Ahmed Labbate create an atmosphere at Broadway where the food becomes the main show. The restaurant’s menu is inspired by the creativity of Chef Amar Santana and his version of Modern Cuisine of The Americas. It features top quality ingredients, with a focus on local farms who can provide the menu’s seasonal requirements.” Think Grilled Smoked Pork Chop with braised collard greens, ham hock, apple butter and sauce charcuterie.

Chef Amar joins us to provide all the details on Broadway’s refurbishment and what’s in store for the Holidays at his restaurants.


Show 233, July 22, 2017: Ahmed Labbate, VACA Group, Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner at Vaca

Ahmed LabatteOn Thursday evening, August 10th Chef Amar Santana’s Vaca in Costa Mesa is hosting a sumptuous, 7-course, premium 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. If you’re celebrating something very special this is the over-the-top culinary evening experience you’ll want to be a part of!

For reservations to the Friends of James Beard Dinner at Vaca, please register online here. 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 & CEO Ahmed Labbate provides the tempting preview.


Show 214, March 11, 2017: Chef Brian Huskey, Tackle Box, South Coast Plaza’s 50th Birthday

Brian HuskeyIt’s the 50th Anniversary of Costa Mesa’s celebrated South Coast Plaza. Most of the restaurants there are doing something special to celebrate during the month of March.

Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 11 alum, Chef Brian Huskey of Tackle Box (on the sand in Costa Mesa), has created the Camarena Tequila chipotle-braised carnitas taco entrée for Wahoo’s Fish Taco in South Coast Plaza.

It’s available exclusively for $5.50 at Wahoo’s SCP (2nd level of the Crate and Barrel / Macy’s Home Store Wing) for the month of March, only.

Wahoo’s 30th Anniversary will be next year in 2018!

We’ve reeled in Chef Brian to provide the lip-smacking details.


Show 180, July 16, 2016: Chef Eric Samaniego, Chef de Cuisine, Michael’s On Naples, Long Beach

Eric SamaniegoChef Eric Samaniego (Bravo TV’s “Best New Restaurant“), formerly of Little Sparrow in Santa Ana, has joined Michael’s On Naples in Long Beach as the award-winning restaurant’s chef de cuisine.

In addition to changes in the kitchen, Michael’s on Naples is experiencing an aesthetic transformation as well. The restaurant’s rooftop terrace has been under construction as it undergoes a major expansion and renovation. The Rooftop (opens July 20th) will now have its own kitchen along with a separate menu featuring more casual fare and shareable plates.

The main floor’s menu will focus on the nightly changing Chef’s Tasting Menu and the five-course Pasta Tasting. The Michael’s on Naples tradition of suggesting inspired wine and food pairings will continue.

Chef Samaniego, who began his career working for the late Charlie Trotter in Chicago, joined Michael’s On Naples in April working under the tutelage of former Corporate Executive Chef David Coleman. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Samaniego is a native of Southern California with his formative years spent in the Central Valley. His culinary credits include a seven-year stint with David Myers working at the high profile Sona and Comme Ca (both now closed) in Los Angeles.

Chef Eric Samaniego joins us.


Show 167, April 9, 2016: Executive Chef Amar Santana, Broadway by Amar Santana & Vaca

Amar Santana at the Top Chef FinaleExecutive Chef Amar Santana (a C-CAP graduate) is the Proprietor of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and the new Vaca in Costa Mesa. Both restaurants have highly innovative beverage programs to compliment the stellar cuisine.

Chef Amar was also one of two finalists on Bravo’s Emmy-Award winning Top Chef Season 13 which just concluded with a two-part finale in Las Vegas. Amar battled Chef Jeremy Ford, the Chef de Cuisine of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room in Miami. In a very close finale Chef Jeremy edged out Chef Amar for the title of “Top Chef.”

Gail Simmons, one of the “Top Chef” regular judges, has an insightful post on the “Top Chef” Finale (dated April 6th) in the blog section of the “Top Chef” area of Bravo’s Web site. It explains, course by course, the judging for the Finale.

Also OC Weekly’s Anne Marie Panoringan penned an entertaining weekly recap of each episode of “Top Chef” Season 13 with an emphasis on covering Chef Amar. You can find these archived pieces on Search on the site for Anne Marie Panoringan and “Top Chef.”

Chef Amar should be justifiably proud of what he accomplished during Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” The level of competition was the highest of any prior season! James Beard Award nominees as well as Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” were among the strong field of super-talented Cheftestants. Amar also retains great respect for Chef Jeremy Ford.

Chef Amar’s “Top Chef” Official Bio:
Amar Santana serves as the Executive Chef and Partner at Broadway By Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, CA and Vaca in Costa Mesa, CA. Born in the Dominican Republic, he immigrated to the US at the age of 13 and began his culinary career at 16.

He has been mentored by some of the world’s most renowned chefs, including Charlie Palmer, who helped him develop his skills of expressing his passion through food. By combining flavors and culinary traditions from all over the world, Chef Amar provides a truly unforgettable gastronomical experience.

Chef Amar is our very special guest.


Show 159, February 13, 2016: Executive Chef / Proprietor Neal Fraser, Fritzi at Arts District Brewing Co.

Neal FraserChef Neal Fraser is well-known to Angelenos for BLD, Fritzi Dog at the Original Farmers Market and Redbird at Vibiana Events Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Chef Neal and the Vibiana Events Center were even part of the recent Beefsteak episode of Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Fritzi is now Downtown, too, sharing space in The Arts District with the Arts District Brewing Co. It’s lunch and dinner for elevated pub-grub. It’s early in the going but the wood- fired rotisserie chicken and the potato waffle are already signature menu items. Nothing on the menu is over $19.

“The industrial chic restaurant serves lunch and dinner, and handcrafted cocktails from its full bar, which is stocked with bubbles, wines, brews from the Arts District Brewing Co., and Ketel One pours. With an occupancy of 60 diners, Fritzi is a seamless addition to L.A.’s historic arts district with its modern wood and metal elements and intimate atmosphere.”

“Fritzi’s menu features handcrafted epic dishes and small plates such as Charred Brussels Sprout, Forbidden Rice & Quinoa Salad, Spit Roasted Cauliflower, Crispy Shrimp Balls, Fritzi Burger, Wood Fried Rotisserie Half Chicken, Steak Frites, Santa Barbara White Fish, and more, with Fries, Tots, and Potato Waffle to accompany.”

Chef Neal Fraser joins us with the 411 on Fritzi.


Show 109, February 7, 2015: Show Preview with Chef Andrew Gruel (Guest Host) and Producer & Co-Host Andy Harris

Andrew GruelExecutive Chef Andrew Gruel of the rapidly growing Slapfish empire with restaurants in Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and now, Newport Beach is today’s special Guest Host.

Now a preview of today’s delightfully overflowing show

Chinese New Year is February 19th to March 5th, 2015. It’s the Year of the Sheep (often called the Year of the Goat or the Ram.) During China’s most colorful and important holiday, foods take on special symbolic meanings. Fruits and vegetables are also healthy and delicious. Our resident produce expert, Robert Schueller of Melissa’s, joins us with a tasty overview of fruits and vegetables which are part of Chinese New Year. He’ll also tell us where to find some inspired Martin Yan recipes to prepare at home to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Eric Samaniego (ex- Comme Ca in West Hollywood) is the acclaimed Executive Chef of Little Sparrow in Santa Ana. The Orange County Register’s Restaurant Critic, Brad A. Johnson, awarded Little Sparrow recognition as “Best New Restaurant” in 2013. Samaniego’s Pastry Chef, Nasera Munshi, was Johnson’s choice as “Pastry Chef of the Year” in 2014. If all of that wasn’t enough recognition Little Sparrow was selected by the producers (including Tom Colicchio) of Bravo’s “Best New Restaurant” competition series as one of 16 USA restaurants from four cities to vie for the title of Best New Restaurant and a cool $100,000 cash prize. With eager anticipation we’ll see how Little Sparrow does in their initial episode airing on Wednesday evening. Feb. 25th.

When we last chatted with Team USA (Chefs Philip Tessier and Commis Skylar Stover of The French Laundry) early last month they were on their way to Lyon to compete in the bi-annual Bocuse d’Or World Culinary Competition, the Olympics of the culinary world. This was after a year of intensive preparation and dedicated training. 24 teams of the most gifted culinary minds from across the world competed and Team USA (guided by the ment’or BKB Foundation) was awarded the Silver Medal (second place) for their artful and spectacular meat platter and fish plate. Team Norway was the first-place winner. This is a giant first for Team USA. Their previous top finish was sixth. Congratulations to Team USA on a stunning achievement. Chef Tessier is our guest.

Chef Jason McClain is the executive chef of the storied Jonathan Club, a very exclusive private club in Los Angeles established in 1894 with a rich history. Their main building is located in Downtown Los Angeles with a second facility, the Jonathan Beach Club (established in 1927) located on the sands in Santa Monica. A social club at this level needs to have outstanding food and beverage as an amenity for their discerning members. Chef McClain will take us behind the scenes on what resources and imagination he uses to fulfill this promise. He likes to say he’s responsible for “the best restaurant in Downtown that no one knows about.” One small example of his commitment to quality is his urban rooftop garden located on a former handball court where seasonally they grow heirloom tomatoes, broccolini, baby carrots, blueberries, figs, snap peas and yuzu.

Julie Margolin is the Honda Center’s busy Director of Food & Beverage Services. Over 500 employees are part of the food and beverage operations there. Honda Center is one of the few facilities in the country who runs their own food and beverage operations. It’s a massive undertaking and costly. This was done strictly to improve the quality of the food and beverage program there. She works alongside Honda Center’s Executive Chef, Jo-Jo Doyle. Julie joins us to talk about what’s new for the current season including the menu in Standing “O”.

We now have a chance to catch-up with Chef Andrew Gruel of Slapfish, today’s Guest Host. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a set of rules for organic farmed fish. Several consumer groups, though, say the recommended rules don’t go far enough to meet the strict standards of other organic foods. Chef Andrew will weigh-in on this and also speak about sustainability.

All of this and lots more absolutely incredible deliciousness on Saturday’s show!


Show 109, February 7, 2015: Executive Chef Eric Samaniego, Little Sparrow Café

Eric SamaniegoEric Samaniego (ex- Comme Ca in West Hollywood) is the acclaimed Executive Chef of Little Sparrow in Santa Ana. The Orange County Register’s Restaurant Critic, Brad A. Johnson, awarded Little Sparrow recognition as “Best New Restaurant” in 2013. Samaniego’s Pastry Chef, Nasera Munshi, was Johnson’s choice as “Pastry Chef of the Year” in 2014. It’s only 42 seats.

If all of that wasn’t enough recognition Little Sparrow was selected by the producers (including Tom Colicchio) of Bravo’s “Best New Restaurant” competition series as one of 16 USA restaurants from four cities to vie for the title of Best New Restaurant and a cool $100,000 cash prize. Chef Eric credits Brad Johnson’s coverage of Little Sparrow in the “Orange County Register” in attracting the initial attention of the producers of “Best New Restaurant.”

Despite not having any formal restaurant background, married owners of Little Sparrow, Bruce Marsh and Naseem Aflakian, opened the restaurant with financial help from Kickstarter.

They are proud of their guest-friendly boutique wine program where serious effort is given to matching appropriate wines with Chef Eric’s cuisine. On Wednesday nights all full bottles of wine are priced at half-off, and there is no corkage on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

With eager anticipation we’ll see how Little Sparrow does in their initial episode airing on Wednesday evening. Feb. 25th. In this first round they compete against Chef Gabe Thompson and L’Apicio, located in Manhattan’s East Village.


Show 104, January 3, 2015: Executive Chef Shirley Chung & Stacie Tran, Twenty Eight Modern Chinese

Shirley ChungNewly opened in Irvine is Twenty Eight Restaurant & Lounge which features a fresh, modern approach to traditional Chinese cuisine. The menu is contemporary Chinese dishes that utilize local, seasonal ingredients and bold flavors. There is a full bar with a focus on distinctive craft cocktails.

The modern Chinese cuisine menu was created by Executive Chef & Partner Shirley Chung, best known from Season 11 of Bravo’s “Top Chef New Orleans.” Partnered with Chef Shirley in Twenty Eight is seasoned restaurateur Stacie Tran, who has experienced a long history in the hospitality industry.

This is a labor-intensive operation. Everything is made from scratch including the signature squid ink hand cut noodles which are used in a dish with Southern California ≈.

“The number twenty eight has always been important to me,” explained Stacie. “In traditional Chinese culture, the number holds significant meaning. In my personal life, it has always been an indicator of positive change and success.”

We’ll be joined by both Chef Shirley and Stacie Tran.


Show 101, December 13, 2014: Show Preview with Producer Andy Harris

Andy Harris at the KLAA StudiosProducer and occasional Co-Host Andy Harris is going solo in the host chair this morning. Now a preview of today’s abundant show…

Urban Seoul is one of the 20 plus distinctive dining destinations in the Diamond Jamboree in Irvine. It’s an energetic restaurant that celebrates passion for food and its remarkable ability to adapt. The food is mostly a creative mash-up of Korean and Mexican flavors. The highly successful concept was created by Orange County restaurateur Bronnie Lee and Chef Kacy Jun. Chef Jun is our guest.

P Moss is a tiki historian and acclaimed fiction author who also owns the legendary Double Down Saloons in Las Vegas and New York City as well as the popular Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas. Frankie’s Tiki Room is the world’s only 24/7 tiki bar, known for its blend of Polynesian tradition with a hint of Las Vegas kitsch, welcoming ambience and one-of-a-kind tropical drinks that draw tiki aficionados from all over the world. These magical libations have now been poured into a book format. 77 previously secret recipes, stunning photography and illustrations are included in the newly released, Liquid Vacation.

P Moss pulls out the little cocktail umbrellas for us.

Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone’s Maude in Beverly Hills was the Best New Restaurant of the Year for both LA Weekly and Eater L.A.

Every month there is a new theme ingredient around which a 9-course tasting menu is created. It’s only 7 tables and 25 seats with an open kitchen. General Manager and Wine Director Ben Aviram joins us to take us through the extraordinary dining experience at Maude.

Chef Vic Vegas last joined us to discuss his new restaurant in Henderson, NV, Café V. He’s now hosting (along with Laila Ali) “Late Nite Chef Fight” on FYI on Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. Based on the real after hours’ chef competition (originally created by local culinary personality Jolenne Mannina) that takes place in Las Vegas, each episode of “Late Nite Chef Fight” has two leading, Vegas-based chefs competing against each other in a food truck they have never stepped foot inside before.

ChaCha’s Latin Kitchen in Brea is kicking off its Third Annual Toy Drive to benefit local families in need. Guests are encouraged to drop off a new unwrapped toy at Cha Cha’s in exchange for a $15 certificate good toward the Flamenco Sunday Brunch to be redeemed in The New Year. Co-owner (and veteran restaurateur) Don Myers has all the details.

A festive new taco has arrived at Mercadito at Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas as part of Mercadito Hospitality’s national Tacos for Strength Campaign. This December, Mercadito will feature a winter-inspired taco created by James Beard Award finalist and Michelin Star award-winning chef Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant in Chicago.A portion of the proceeds will go to Share Our Strength. Mercadito at Red Rock Resort opened mid-summer. Executive Chef & Owner Patricio Sandoval is our guest.

Eric Klein is the Executive Chef and Partner at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Las Vegaslocated in the Forum Shops, his first fine-dining restaurant in Las Vegas. It led the way for other prominent fine-dining chefs to establish destination restaurants in Las Vegas. Chef Eric has been the highly visible face of Spago Las Vegas since 2007. Spago is now celebrating their 22nd anniversary with a throwback menu (think Smoked Salmon Pizza) and retro prices from December 15th through 19th.

All of this and lots more absolutely incredible deliciousness on Saturday’s show!