Show 401, November 28, 2020: Executive Chef & Partner Barry Dakake, Barry’s Downtown Prime, Circa Resort, Las Vegas Part Two

Barry Dakake of Barrys Downtown Prime“Vintage glamour and hospitality meet modern innovation and design at Barry’s Downtown Prime at Circa Resort in Downtown Las Vegas. The new steakhouse concept is from Chef Barry Dakake and his seasoned hospitality partners at Make It Happen Hospitality, LLC. Barry’s Downtown Prime delivers the city’s finest premium steaks and seafood, fresh tableside preparations, creative cocktails and outstanding service.”

“Evoking a throwback vibe worthy of Downtown Las Vegas’ legacy, Barry’s brings back guests to the classic cool of the 50s and 60s where great music and sounds of clinking martini glasses filled the air, the chef greeted you at the table, the polished bartender knew your favorite cocktail and everyone felt like a VIP.”

“After leaving New York in 1999, Chef Dakake was commissioned by Chef Charlie Palmer (Aureole) to open Aureole at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, followed by Charlie Palmer Steak, the first independently owned restaurant ever to be located in a Four Seasons Hotel. Chef Barry then brought his talents to be part of the opening team of N9NE Steakhouse at the highly anticipated Palms Resort Casino in 2001.”

“In 2017, N9NE Steakhouse closed it’s doors after 16 years to make way for a new concept, which Chef Dakake facilitated. As Executive Chef for Scotch 80 Prime he played an instrumental role in putting the restaurant on the Vegas dining map. Since then Chef Barry has joined with Yassine Lyoubi, Marco Cicione and Donnie Rihn to bring the ambitious Barry’s Downtown Prime to life at Circa Las Vegas.”

Chef Barry continues with us, fresh Maine lobster in hand.


Show 191, October 1, 2016: Anita Lau, Mad Hungry Woman blogger

Anita Lau of Mad Hungry WomanThe Mad Hungry Woman blogger, Anita Lau, joins us with a gem of a San Diego County dining discovery in Del Mar. This is Tasting Room Del Mar with both outdoor and indoor seating.

Earlier in his career the chef there, Steven Lona, was part of the opening team at both Marche Moderne in South Coast Plaza as well as Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdales in South Coast Plaza. No wonder the food is first-rate.

The standout dish for Anita was the Pork Belly “because it is absolutely fantastic.” The full review is available on her blog.

Anita also shares her first impressions (especially the libations) of the long-in-the-works El Mercado Modern Cuisine in Santa Ana. This is a new concept from the chef/proprietor (Daniel Godinez) of the highly regarded Anepalco.


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 164, March 19, 2016: Food Journalist Anne Marie Panoringan

Top Chef on BravoThe incredible 13th Season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” has just concluded in dramatic fashion in Las Vegas. The final showdown for the title of “Top Chef” was between Orange County’s Chef Amar Santana (Vaca and Broadway by Amar Santana) and Chef Jeremy Ford, the Chef de Cuisine at Miami’s Matador Room by Jean-George. The winning cheftestant takes home a cool $125,000 and a feature spread in Food and Wine magazine.

Local food journalist, Anne Marie Panoringan (OC Weekly) has been penning an entertaining weekly recap of the series all season. Anne Marie provides us with observations and commentary of Season 13th.

Even if you’ve heard who won Top Chef it’s well-worth catching the engaging episode On Demand or reading Anne Marie’s thorough recap.

One of the two big surprises in the Finale is that the two celebrity chefs who mentored Chefs Amar (Charlie Palmer) and Jeremy (Jean-George Vongerichten) join the episode to assist their proteges.


Show 134, August 8, 2015: Chef Amar Santana, Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach

Amar SantanaIt’s safe to say Chef Amar Santana of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach has created quite a following for himself in Orange County. He was recently recognized by the Orange County Register as one of the five top toques. Not bad for a 33-year old who immigrated to the United States when he was 13.

Broadway by Amar Santana, located in the heart of beautiful Laguna Beach, opened in 2011. The restaurant evokes the culinary style and ambiance of New York City where Chef Amar received his early culinary training.

Inspired by the legitimate theaters in Manhattan, award-winning Chef Amar along with his partners Ahmed Labbate and Rich Cadarette, create an atmosphere where the food becomes the main show. The restaurant’s menu is inspired by the creativity of Santana and his version of Modern Cuisine of The Americas. It features top quality ingredients, with a focus on local farmers who can provide the menu’s seasonal requirements.

The interior reflects an industrial New York look with an open kitchen that is center stage. There are six coveted seats at the chef’s table overlooking the activity of the kitchen. One of the restaurants’ distinctive features is an intimate speakeasy cocktail bar with master bartenders and classic libations.

Labbate is Chef Amar’s partner and runs the front-of-the-house. They worked together previously at Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales. Chef Amar gives him a lot of credit in achieving the success that Broadway is.



Show 134, August 8, 2015: Chef Amar Santana, Broadway by Amar Santana, Laguna Beach Continues

Amar SantanaThe most talked-about restaurant opening of the year in Orange County is Amar Santana’s Vaca in Costa Mesa. It’s possibly his take on either a Spanish tapas spot or Spanish steakhouse. Details have been securely under wraps. We’re sure Chef Amar has spent a lot of time in Spain studying the cuisine.

We’ll find out a lot more with Chef Amar Santana…

Chef Amar shares that Vaca is a hybrid concept. It will be an authentic Spanish tapas restaurant and a steakhouse with premium, dry-aged beef from around the world cooked on a wood-burning grill. A dry-aging room will be a feature of Vaca. With a bit of luck it looks like a possible late November opening if all goes well.

Chef Amar has been running paella specials (4 to 5 styles) at Broadway to get his culinary staff trained for the upcoming Vaca. Some of the team will move over there from Broadway as well as former cooks from Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales. Large paella pans and small kitchen…

Surprisingly he was disappointed with the paella he sampled in Spain. Chef Amar was far more inspired about what he tasted in Morocco!


Show 133, August 1, 2015: Bobby Navarro,

Bobby NavarroBobby Navarro left a decade of work in the hospitality industry to fully commit to his own event planning and culinary promotions company, He cooked with Amar Santana at both Charlie Palmer’s in South Coast Plaza (now closed) and Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach.

Bobby’s passion for branding and business keeps him visiting hundreds of restaurants across the country, stemming from his original feat of dining at 100 restaurants in 100 consecutive days.

Bobby’s affection for the hospitality community and similar industries led him to create, an organization that gives thousands of dollars annually to connecting passionately driven individuals to the things that inspire them.

He also contributes to Foodbeast and Locale.

Bobby provides us with a preview of Chef Amar’s eagerly anticipated new restaurant in Costa Mesa, Vaca, a Spanish Restaurant.

We’ll meet Bobby…


Show 129, July 4, 2015: Chef Johnny Church, MTO Cafes, Las Vegas

Johnny ChurchDowntown Las Vegas is not an easy market for independent restaurants. You’re competing with all the dining options available in the large Hotels and must appeal to visitors, conventioneers, and the discriminating locals. Not an easy task.

Shift Hospitality has overcome the obstacles with their highly successful MTO Café serving breakfast and lunch. They have recently opened a second branch in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin. It’s also open for dinner.

The MTO Cafes serve fresh comfort food in a highly personal, everyday atmosphere. The goal is to position the MTO Cafes as the locals’ neighborhood go-to.

Chef Johnny Church is the culinary talent behind MTO. Named 2014 Culinarian of the Year by the Nevada Restaurant Association, Chef Johnny is an up and coming star on the dynamic Vegas food scene. His career path has taken him through Rick Moonen’s rm Seafood & Rx Boiler Room, Charlie Palmer’s Aureole at Mandalay Bay, Andre’s at the Monte Carlo, Alize at the Top of the Palms, Paris Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower Restaurant and the former AJ’s Steakhouse at the Hard Rock Hotel. He was part of Bradley Ogden’s opening team at Root 246 in Solvang, CA. Earlier in his career he was chef for Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Chef Johnny is a big fan of the Intuitive Forager, Kerry Clasby, who is the cornerstone of the award-winning Las Vegas Farmers Markets.

MTO’s Chef-Partner Johnny Church is our guest.


Show 102, December 20, 2014: Chef Brent Omeste, CUCINA Enoteca, Newport Beach

Brent OmesteCUCINA Enoteca, a California-inspired Italian kitchen and wine shop, opened earlier in the year in 8,300 square feet in Fashion Island. It’s a venture of Tracy Borkum’s San Diego-based Urban Kitchen Group. The very popular sister restaurant is located in the Irvine Spectrum.

Leading the day-to-day kitchen operations in Newport Beach as Chef de Cuisine is Orange County native Brent Omeste, a rising culinary talent. The menu is a California spin on rustic Italian fare.

Earlier in his cooking career Omeste was mentored by the well-known Director of the Culinary Arts program at Orange Coast College, Chef Bill Barber (now retired.) He’s cooked for Alessandro Pirozzi, Charlie Palmer, and Amar Santana.

On the menu are variations of luxurious pastas, antipasti, creative pizzas and plates small and large, along with fresh crudos and Chef’s whim seasonal specials.

The diverse wine program features more than 250 familiar names, and rare, small-batch varietals for guests to purchase at a retail price, either to enjoy with their meal for a minimal corkage fee or to take home.

Chef Brent Omeste is our guest.



Show 40, September 14, 2013: Amar Santana, Executive Chef / Owner, Broadway by Amar Santana

Amar SantanaChef Amar Santana is very familiar to Orange County foodies. His mentor, Chef Charlie Palmer (Aureole), brought him out here from Manhattan in 2008 to open Charlie Palmer’s at Bloomingdales at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Talk about a plum assignment for a young chef…Amar was with Chef Palmer for ten years.

With the backing of one of his very loyal guests he later departed to open a venture of his own, Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. Talented chefs dream of having a place of their own but the reality is that few ever realize the dream.

Since opening in 2011 it’s been a hit with both the food critics and guests. The bar has also created its own loyal following for unusual libations and a welcoming atmosphere. Their superior Moscow Mule (not listed on the bar menu) is a thoughtful homage to the original version created in the late 30s in Hollywood and now using all fresh ingredients and from scratch ginger beer.