Show 357, January 25, 2020: Chef Jason McClain, McClain Chophouse and Philly Jay’s Steaks

Jason McClain of the Jonathan Club and Philly Jay's SteaksAfter 8 years as the popular Executive Chef at the prestigious Jonathan Club (Downtown Los Angeles and on the beach in Santa Monica) Jason McClain has amicably departed to pursue some culinary adventures on his own. At Jonathan Club Chef McClain took traditional club fare in the elevated direction of fine dining at a highly rated, independent restaurant.

On the horizon is McClain Chophouse, an ingredient-focused premium steak house and, just for fun, an authentic Philly Cheesesteak food truck (Philly Jay’s Steaks.)

“Chef McClain received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY and honed his skills under the tutelage of some of the USA’s great culinary talents in Philadelphia and Miami. He has evolved his menus by focusing on one thing : ingredients.”

“At Jonathan Club Chef Jason joined forces with a local urban farming company to plant a 42-bed rooftop garden. Four times each year he used his expertise to contribute to the surrounding neighborhood by inviting underprivileged youth to visit the Club to learn the value of growing fresh ingredients firsthand.”

We’ll get an “a la minute” update from Chef Jason.


Show 349, November 30, 2019: Chef Jeffrey Hayashi, Head Chef, Team USA at 2021 Bocuse d’Or Culinary Competition

Jeffrey Hayashi is the head chef for the 2021 Bocuse D'OrMent’or BKB foundation, based in New York, sponsors, guides and mentors Team USA which competes biennially (every 2 years) in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or international culinary competition held in Lyon, France. On November 11th at the Culinary Institute of America’s Copia campus in the Napa Valley three noteworthy finalist teams of a Head Chef & Commis competed to head Team USA 2021. Chef Jeffrey Hayashi (most recently the Chef de Cuisine at Honolulu’s Senia Restaurant) prevailed and we’ll meet him.

“The three finalist Team USA 2021 teams competed over a five hour and 35 – minute period, following the rigorous format of the actual Bocuse d’Or competition. The platter theme was Whole Chicken, from Palisades Ranch in California, and the plated theme was Ratatouille.”

“Chef Jeffery Hayashi and Commis William Barrera will now begin the rigorous journey to the Bocuse d’Or as Team USA 2021, relocating closer to the training facility at Copia in Napa, California and dedicating the next fourteen months to prepare for the 2021 competition. During this crucial training period, Ment’or will support Team USA, with the Foundation’s esteemed Chef Council continuing to play an invaluable role in mentoring them.”

“I feel very fortunate for this once in a lifetime opportunity,” shares Chef Hayashi, who previously competed for Team USA in 2019. “Any one of the competing chefs could have won. To now officially be on the road to Lyon for Bocuse d’Or is surreal, and I’m incredibly thankful for all the support.”

“Hayashi, originally from Oahu, moved to Arizona at age four and spent the bulk of his upbringing on the mainland, though visited his grandparents in Hawaii throughout his childhood. While culinary arts were not his passion in his formative years, he spent his time focused on building, art, and creating things with his hands, which led him to study architecture at Arizona State University. After realizing that architecture wasn’t his path, Hayashi serendipitously was introduced to French-Australian Chef Philippe Padovani, who had made a name for himself in Hawaii. Philippe, who had learned cooking by fire in the kitchen, encouraged Hayashi to come and work for him as an apprentice, as Padovani opened his namesake, Padovani Grill. Hayashi, who had never worked in a kitchen before but liked hand crafts, worked for Padovani as an apprentice for a year and a half before moving to Vintage Cave as a commis under Chef Chris Kajioka.

“Kajioka then convinced Hayashi to join him on the team for Chef Mourad Lahlou’s new restaurant in San Francisco, Mourad, in 2014. Hayashi worked as Executive Sous Chef at Mourad for four years, at which time the restaurant earned one Michelin star, among other awards and accolades for its Moroccan fine dining cuisine. In 2018, Hayashi headed back to Hawaii to work at Senia, the elevated Hawaiian restaurant opened in 2016 by both Kajioka and Chef Anthony Rush, where Hayashi served as the Chef de Cuisine.”


Show 348, November 9, 2019: Chef Lane Warner, Executive Chef, La Fonda On the Plaza, Santa Fe, NM

Lane Warner of La Fonda at the PlazaLa Fonda on the Plaza’s executive chef, Lane Warner, is a culinary juggler, keeping his kitchen, staff, menus, room service and banquets running smoothly and professionally, making it look effortless and fun. A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, he trained under a series of renowned chefs and joined La Fonda in 1993 as executive sous chef. Six years later, he was promoted to executive chef and has earned several awards and accolades, including cooking dinner at the James Beard House in New York.”

“Chef Warner is an active member of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and attained the ACF Certified Executive Chef level. In addition to winning numerous medals in ACF competitions, he was voted Chef of the Year by the New Mexico Restaurant Association and Chef of the Year by ACF Chefs of Santa Fe.”

“Under his tenure, La Fonda’s La Plazuela dining room has garnered rave reviews and is now earned the reputation as a sophisticated destination dining experience. Chef Warner’s seasonal menus celebrate the bounty of New Mexico and its rich culinary history. He is a master at taking old favorites and adding New World influences and showcasing authentic New Mexican cuisine.”

“Warner’s passion for food is equaled only by his love of the great outdoors, hunting and fishing. He spends endless hours training his Black Labrador for the upcoming waterfowl seasons. He is also an avid bow hunter for big game – elk, whitetail deer; you name it.”


Show 310, February 9, 2019: Chef Robert Sulatycky, Head Coach, Team USA 2019, Bocuse d’Or Continues…

Robert SulatyckyAfter over a year of intensive training, Team USA, comprised of Chef Matthew Kirkley, Commis Mimi Chen and Head Coach Robert Sulatycky, represented their country in Lyon, France on January 29th at the world’s most prestigious culinary competition, the Bocuse d’Or. Team USA was defending the Gold statue from 2017.

“Every two years, the heart of the Sirha trade exhibition in Lyon, France beats to the beat of the final of the prestigious Bocuse d’Or contest. After many months of preparations, twenty-four of the most promising chefs in the world experience two days of intense competition during which they will have to give their very best in order to try and win the most beautiful trophy in the world of gastronomy.”

For Team USA it’s now looking ahead to 2021. Applications will be going out in April for 2021. Finalists will then be evaluated and selected. A competition will be held late this year in Las Vegas or Napa to then select Team USA 2021 and the training will start anew in the ment’or BKB Bocuse d’Or training kitchen at CIA’s Copia campus in Napa.

Ment’or BKB welcomes your contributions in support of Team USA and young culinarians.


Show 307, January 19, 2019: James Trees, Executive Chef / Proprietor, Esther’s Kitchen, Las Vegas

James TreesJames Trees is a chef in the best, old school meaning of the word. Currently he’s the chef/proprietor of Las Vegas acclaimed Esther’s Kitchen in the Arts District adjacent to Downtown. Previously Chef James spent some time in L.A. cooking at high profile establishments. He serves up his own blend of elegant Italian comfort food. Recently added is Weekend Brunch.

“While Chef Trees is descended from Jewish Austrian wine merchants, growing up he spent a lot of time at his best friend Alfio’s house. “I love Italian food because of Alfio and his family,” says Trees. “That’s the food I grew up eating. My mom was always working and didn’t have time to make dinner, so whenever we were hungry we went to Alfio’s house. They’d be making lasagna or braciola, and pasta – there was always pasta. That’s my comfort food.” “

Who is Esther? “Great-aunt Esther was a tough, smart, no-nonsense type who cared about people and gave good advice. “She was a big support to my mom when I was growing up, and that was huge,” says Trees. “She was always there for us.””

“Esther wrote the check that sent Chef Trees off to the CIA (after all, someone had to get him out of Alfio’s kitchen). When she passed in 2016 she left James a nest egg – the money he needed to finally open his own restaurant.”


Show 279, June 30, 2018: “A Gringo in Mexico’s” W. Scott Koenig, Seven Days in The Valle: Baja California’s Wine Country Cuisine

W Scott KoenigNewly published is Seven Days in The Valle: Baja California’s Wine Country Cuisine by W. Scott Koenig. Koenig is known for his blog and alter ego, A Gringo in Mexico, where he reports on food and culture in the state of Baja California — just across the US Mexican border. In Seven Days in The Valle, he focuses his camera lens and writing on the cuisine of the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s main wine-producing region.

“Chefs in Baja California have been experimenting with recipes combining Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican influences with local ingredients for nearly two decades, creating a unique cuisine.” Koenig explains. They often grow their own vegetables and herbs, source meat from area ranches and enjoy a supply of fresh seafood from the nearby Pacific.

Koenig conceived Seven Days in The Valle while assisting the Culinary Institute of America on a seven-day trip through Baja California as they filmed a documentary. “I had hundreds of images from that experience and a backlog of past photos and interviews; I felt it was time for a book on the Valle de Guadalupe. My goal was to tell the story of this magical place through the experiences of its chefs – whose restaurants are some of my favorites anywhere.”

A Gringo in Mexico’s Scott Koenig joins us.


Show 260, February 10, 2018: Young Yun, Executive Director, ment’or BKB Foundation

Young YunThe late Chef Paul Bocuse (Lyon, France) had a profound impact on creating and inspiring the ment’or BKB Foundation. Always a friend of the USA, he fortunately lived long enough to see his dream of Team USA winning the Gold at the 2017 Bocuse d’Or International Culinary Competition. He even flies the American Flag at his flagship restaurant in Lyon. Young remembers the celebrated “Chef Paul.”

The ment’or BKB Foundation oversees, and funds, the USA’s participation in the biannual Bocuse d’Or International Culinary Competition. Inspired by Team USA’s unprecedented Gold Statue at the Bocuse last year ment’or is now funding, and building, a dedicated training kitchen for Bocuse d’Or Team USA located at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia’s campus in Napa. Scheduled to open in Spring 2018 ment’or’s hope is that this kitchen will become a permanent home for the Team.

The targeted fundraising goal is to raise $250,000.

The new space will replicate the kitchen at the Bocuse d’Or, so that Team USA can practice to compete as they would on the actual competition day. Most importantly, the kitchen will be outfitted with the necessary equipment to ensure that Team USA can continue to succeed on this international culinary stage. In addition, guests will be able to visit the training space to see the physical platters, tools. Photos, and memorabilia encompassing Team USA’s storied history and growing legacy.

Ment’or BKB’s Executive Director Young Yun provides the details.


Show 232, July 15, 2017: “Stu and the Kids” 2017 Fundraiser, Founder Stuart Skversky Continues…

Stuart SkverskyThe annual Stu and the Kids Fundraiser returns to Vibiana on Sunday afternoon, July 30th. Stuart Skversky is the Executive Director/Founder of Stu and the Kids and the Host Chefs at Vibiana are Neal and Amy Fraser the principals of Redbird.

Proceeds will fund scholarships for at-risk Hill Tribe kids in Chaing Mai. Thailand. Last year’s Benefit raised an impressive $110,000!

In 2009, Stuart Skversky, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a rising- star chef, made a dramatic life change by giving up a promising chef career in Los Angeles to move to Chiang Mai, becoming a full-time volunteer at the Wat Dan Chan (a local Buddhist temple), teaching local children English, cooking and baking.

Recognizing a need to help prepare these high-risk Hill Tribe kids following their graduation, he founded Stu and the Kids to better prepare them for adulthood, helping them get into a university or technical college and giving them the tools for an independent future. Proceeds from this event go directly to the children’s education, school uniforms, supplies, housing, food and tuition for higher education.

Now in their ninth year of fundraising throughout the world, Stu and the Kids has raised over $300,000 for the charity, including last year’s astounding record of $110,000 accumulated from the LA festival, fundraising on the east coast and online donations during 2016. Stu and the Kids supervise seventeen kids, including fifteen who have earned four-year scholarships to university and a seven and fourteen-year-old that is supported with rent and food due to family hardship. The charity hopes to increase the awards to twelve four-year university scholarships in the coming year.


Show 124, May 30, 2015: C-CAP Los Angeles’ Eric Boardman & Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza

Eric BoardmanEric Boardman continues his coverage of C-CAP’s 2015 Scholarship Awards for L.A. County.

“Hard work, good grades, and a lot of broken eggs paid off for Hannah Chang of Hoover High School and Jose Gordillo of Manual Arts High School, who both received full-tuition scholarships in Culinary Arts. Jose will attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY and Hannah Chang will study at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI come fall. Isabel Castro of Carson High School received the Art Institute National Scholarship.

Bricia LopezBricia Lopez, the engaging co-owner (with her brother and sister) of Guelaguetza in Koreatown is back with us. On May 4th she was in Chicago at The James Beard Foundation Awards at the Lyric Opera to receive the America’s Classics Award. This is an especially noteworthy honor as the Award for Guelaguetza was the only Beard Award received by a Southern California chef or restaurant this year.

The America’s Classic Award is an honor given to regional establishments, often family-owned, that are treasured for their quality food, local character, and lasting appeal.

Guelaguetza, founded by Fernando Lopez in 1994, is the center of Oaxacan life in Los Angeles, and the setting for countless quinceaneras, weddings, and anniversaries. A sprawling restaurant located in Koreatown, it features live music on a bandstand every night. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant attracts both homesick Oaxacans and foodies in search of honest Oaxacan foods.

We’ll hear about her once-in-a-lifetime adventures in Chicago with her Family (including dinner at Paul Kahan’s The Publican) and alongside the true luminaries of the food world. Perhaps a bit of Champagne enjoyed along the way…



Show 119, April 25, 2015: Executive Chef Riko Bartolome, Montage Kapalua Bay, Maui

Riko BartolomeSan Diegans fondly remember Chef Riko Bartolome as the chef/proprietor of the highly regarded Asia –Vous in Escondido. Chef Riko is now the executive chef of Montage Kapalua Bay in Maui where he oversees all culinary experiences there including the resort’s signature restaurant, Cane & Canoe. With extensive Hawaiian experience, Bartolome created a menu at Cane & Canoe inspired by the Island’s multicultural heritage serving modern Hawaiian fare, with Asian influences.

Known for his signature Asian fusion style Chef Riko graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and began his career at Hyatt Regency Aventine in La Jolla, CA. Bartolome has directed culinary programs at luxury hotels including Grand Wailea Maui, Hawaii, as well as Hotel Nikko’s Pangaea (Los Angeles), Hotel Del Coronado’s Crown Room, W Hotel, and Asia-Vous, all located in the San Diego area.

Earlier in the year Chef Riko participated in the Maui Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s “cultural chef exchanges” series. The culinary tour sent top Maui chefs to the West Coast to join chefs in their own kitchens in Los Angeles and San Francisco to create joint food experiences.

Chef Riko is a big supporter of encouraging local Maui farmers. He even foresees the day when premium chocolate is produced “bean to bar” on Maui from cacao pods grown there. Hawaii is the only state in the USA where cacao trees can grow.

Chef Riko joins us from Maui.