Show 373, May 16, 2020: Chef & Partner Ted Hopson, The Bellwether, Studio City

Ann Marie Verdi and Ted Hopson of the Bellwether“After honing his skills at some of the most influential restaurants in Southern California –including The Eveleigh, Father’s Office, and Umami Restaurant Group—Chef & Proprietor Ted Hopson now brings his diverse experience and curious palate to The Bellwether in Studio City, incorporating Italian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern flavors for a culinary spread that proudly crashes borders and challenges convention.”

His Partner at The Bellwether is Beverage Director Ann-Marie Verdi. At The Bellwether (in normal times,) Verdi creates a beverage program that pleases all palates through both contemporary and classic selections.

The Bellwether reopened briefly for nighttime curbside pick-up but found it impractical to sustain. Their focus has shifted to preparing wholesome meals for frontline workers and charity groups working with Chef Jose Andres’ much-accomplished World Central Kitchen. Chef Ted and his kitchen staff (depending on fluctuating need) are preparing and delivering some 400 to 600 restaurant quality meals daily with a lot of variety.

Chef Ted brings us up-to-date.


Show 345, October 19, 2019: Alloro Vineyard, Sherwood, OR with Proprietor & Vineyard Manager David Nemarnik Part One

David Nemarnik of Alloro VineyardAlloro Vineyard in Sherwood brings Old-World allure to Oregon, just 30 minutes southwest of Portland. The 80-acre estate is a bucolic homage to Italian tradition, from its iconic Tuscan farmhouse and culinary gardens to the heirloom sheep that graze the vineyard cover crops. “Alloro” is Italian for laurel—a salute to founder David Nemarnik’s Italian/Croatian heritage, and the Laurel Ridge site itself. Holistic agricultural practices and respectful stewardship create terroir-driven wines showcasing purity of fruit with a clear sense of place.”

“David Nemarnik grew up in Portland helping his parents start a produce business, and has been fascinated with growing and fermenting his whole life. In 1999, he founded the Alloro estate to create world-class Pinot Noir in a manner that honors his family’s food & wine traditions and respect for the land. Today, Nemarnik lives on the property with his daughter, surrounded by wine grapes, culinary gardens, olive trees, chickens, sheep, and registered Hereford cattle.”

David pulls the cork on Alloro for us.


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 264, March 10, 2018: Executive Chef / Proprietor David Pratt, Brick Restaurant, San Clemente

David PrattExecutive Chef/Proprietor David Pratt of Brick Restaurant in San Clemente likes to challenge himself. He’s been very successful since opening 6 years ago with his distinctive gourmet pizzas from the wood-burning oven with a subspecialty in massive, multi-meat (beef, pork and veal) meatballs cooked in the wood-burning oven.

Chef David has newly installed an eye-popping Santa Maria-style grill and the appealing farm menu has broadened to include grilled lobster, rib-eye and hangar steals, lamb chops and whole young chicken.

“David Pratt, a visionary and true foodie at heart, is passionate about fresh, sustainable and flavorful food. He cares deeply about the food he creates, but he cares even more that people are happy with it. “I try to talk to each table that comes in,” David says. “I want to make sure everyone has a good experience.”

“His hands are in each aspect of the business, from making pasta and shopping at farmers markets to overseeing the wine list and meeting guests.  One bite into a wood-fired Margherita pizza or the house roasted Porchetta and it all comes full circle.”

We divert Chef David from working the Santa Maria grill for a chat.




Show 259, February 3, 2018: Executive Chef Dustin Trani, J. Trani’s, San Pedro Part One

Dustin TraniExecutive Chef Dustin Trani of the iconic J. Trani’s restaurant in San Pedro represents the 4th generation of Italian cuisine in the Trani Family. J. Trani’s opened in San Pedro in 1925.

He’s a big fan of pristine seafood from Alaska. Chef Justin is featured in a new video from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) educating C-CAP students (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) on how to prepare blast flash frozen, fresh, sustainable Alaska seafood. Chef Dustin is a loyal C-CAP alum himself.

In this video the C-CAP students had the opportunity to learn about two species of Alaskan seafood, how to best care and prepare frozen fresh seafood, along with tips about dish development, plating, and dish presentation.

In addition to nightly Dinner, J. Trani’s serves lunch on Thursday & Friday, and Sunday Brunch.

We’re chilling with Chef Dustin.


Show 229, June 24, 2017: Executive Chef / Proprietor Steve Samson, Rossoblu, City Market South

Steve Samson of SottoChef Steve Samson is well-known to lovers of regional Italian cuisine in Southern California. He first came into local prominence as the Executive Chef at Piero Selvaggio’s classic Valentino in Santa Monica. From there he was the opening chef at Pizzeria Ortica in South Coast Plaza. Next was branching out with his own establishment, Sotto, located near Century City. The distinctive wood-burning pizza oven there was imported from Italy and assembled inside the restaurant by skilled Italian artisans.

His newest project with his wife, Dina, is the ambitious Rossoblu in the emerging City Market South development in the Fashion District of Downtown Los Angeles. The complex of buildings was the first wholesale produce market in Los Angeles. The menu is influenced by Chef Steve’s summers in Bologna and Emilia- Romagna while he was growing up.

We’ll pull Chef Steve away from his wood-fired grill in the open kitchen for a full briefing.


Show 217, April 1, 2017: Laura Donadoni, Brand Ambassador, Franciacorta

Laura DonadoniFranciacorta is considered by connoisseurs as the luxury Italian sparkling wine. It’s a good value for the quality. The name identifies both the production method as well as its growing area in Italy. It’s also the Consorzio Del Franciacorta.

The Consortium was founded on March 5, 1990 in Corte Franca to guarantee and monitor compliance with the rules for producing Franciacorta wine. The name of the geographic region where its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc vines are grown is used to identify this wine, which is produced exclusively by the method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. In one word, Franciacorta describes an area, a production method and a wine. 

Having moved to its present site at Erbusco in 1993, the Consorzio Franciacorta has about 200 members including wine growers, wine producers, bottlers and others involved in the production chain for the designations Franciacorta DOCG, Curtefranca DOC and Sebino IGT.

Its distinctive logo with a castellated letter F distinguishes its wines and refers back to the ancient mediaeval towers that characterize 19 municipalities in the heart of Lombardy, by the shores of Lake Iseo: Adro, Brescia (part), Capriolo, Cazzago San Martino, Cellatica, Coccaglio, Cologne, Corte Franca, Erbusco, Gussago, Iseo, Monticelli Brusati, Ome, Paderno Franciacorta, Paratico, Passirano, Provaglio, Rodengo Saiano and Rovato,

The cultivation of vines has ancient origins on the hills of Franciacorta, as evidenced by the findings of prehistoric grape seed and the writings of classical authors such as Pliny, Columella and Virgil. Rich archaeological material dating from prehistoric times, such as the remains of stilt house foundations found in the bogs of Sebino, reveal how primitive populations settled here and gradually took over from the Cenomani Gauls, the Romans and the Lombards.

Vine cultivation has been a constant in Franciacorta, where grapes were grown from Roman times to late antiquity and the Middle Ages, thanks to its favorable climatic and soil conditions. Though good and bad periods alike, viticulture in these lands never stopped.

Brand Ambassador Laura Donadoni graciously pops the cork on the Italian bubbly for us.


Show 213, March 4, 2017: Executive Chef / Restaurateur Dino Ferraro, Capone’s Cucina, Huntington Beach

Dino FerraroChef Dino Ferraro is affectionately known to his many regulars as the “Godfather of Italian Cuisine” in Huntington Beach with three popular Italian/Mediterranean Restaurants located in this prominent beach community. Chef Dino’s flagship is Capone’s Cucina and his other establishments are Black Trumpet Bistro and Mona Lisa Cucina.

Capone’s Pasta and Pizza opened in Westminster in 1997. It was at this location that Dino expanded his repertoire and added specials to the standard menu. Customers were hooked on Dino’s ability to transform everyday ingredients into culinary works of art and became regulars.

He sold Capone’s Pasta and Pizza in 2000 and moved to Huntington Beach where he opened Capone’s Cucina with a goal of creating a more gourmet dining experience. In 2002, Dino hired friend and fellow chef, Francois Lieutaud to create a unique paring of French and Italian cuisine. The combination made for an old world European feel and customers loved the larger selection of dishes. Capone’s remodeled and expanded into the space next door late last year.

Dino and Francois rejoined again and started Mona Lisa Cucina with a large variety of gourmet pasta’s and pizza’s to serve the Huntington Beach community. From their early experiments with simple, basic foods grew an appreciation for the sensuality of texture, presentation and fragrance.

The newest addition to Chef Dino’s family of restaurants is The Black Trumpet. This establishment specializes in Mediterranean tapas, small plates that bring the guest the flavors of Italy, France, Greece and Morocco.


Show 205, January 7, 2017: Executive Chef Ross Pangilinan, Mix Mix Kitchen Bar, Santa Ana

Ross PangilinanYou know Executive Chef Ross Pangilinan from his time at Leatherby’s Café Rouge in Costa Mesa at The Segerstrom Concert Hall. He’s now launched his own ambitious venture, Mix Mix Kitchen Bar (A Globally Inspired Chef-Driven Concept) in Downtown Santa Ana.

It’s an appealing, somewhat unfamiliar menu (Dinner) of global dishes with influences from traditional French and Italian to modern Filipino cuisines. Sunday Brunch has recently been added to the menu.

“The inspiration for my menu at Mix Mix comes from both the memories I embrace from childhood and techniques I’ve learned throughout my culinary career,” commented Chef Ross Pangilinan, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants across France and California. “At an early age, my father instilled in me an appreciation for diversity in food; together, we explored everything from hole-in-the-wall Chinese eateries to high-end French restaurants.”

Dishes like the Filipino Ceviche and Tropical Verrine pay homage to Pangilinan’s Filipino heritage. Among his signature dishes, the Tropical Verrine is a modern interpretation of the restaurant’s namesake dish, Mix Mix, the literal translation from Halo Halo, a traditional Filipino dessert featuring a mixture of sweets.

“The dining adventures I shared with my father sparked my inspiration for cuisine at a young age,” added Pangilinan. “To this day, I draw inspiration from the meals we shared together.”

In addition to its eclectic menu of global cuisine, Mix Mix offers handcrafted libations from its craft cocktail bar. The beverage program focuses on ‘shaken & stirred’ cocktails created with house-made bitters, syrups, and infusions, as well as French wines and craft beer from around the world.

Prominent features of the new restaurant include a succulent garden wall behind the bar and in the dining room, a 6-seat ‘butcher’s block’ Chef’s Table that peers directly into the restaurant’s open kitchen. The reservation-only Chef’s Table will offer a five-course “Oui Chef” menu that evokes a dining experience for all the senses.

Chef Ross briefly escapes from the open kitchen and is our in-studio guest.



Show 195, October 29, 2016: Andre Pinto, Restaurant Chef, Paisano’s Italian Restaurant, Pechanga Resort & Casino

Andre Pinto of Paisanos Italian Restaurant at PechangaPechanga Resort & Casino in Wine Country Temecula just off the 15 Freeway has a well-earned reputation for excellence in all levels of dining. Their signature Italian restaurant is Paisano’s Italian Restaurant. Newly arrived there in the open kitchen is Chef Andre Pinto. We’ll meet him.

Promoted from the position of kitchen supervisor for Kelsey’s restaurant, Chef Pinto, 32, showed Pechanga culinary management he possesses both the technical and creative passion for food required to be a head chef at California’s largest resort / casino. Before spending a year and one-half in the kitchen at the newly renovated Kelsey’s restaurant, Pinto spent 10 years working at two of the east coast’s top restaurants. Earlier in his career he was immersed in preparing Italian cuisine at respected establishments in the Boston area.

Originally from Salvador, Bahia in Brazil, Andre Pinto recalls helping his mother in the kitchen at home often when he was a teenager. “The other kids would be out playing soccer, and I love soccer, but I wanted to help my mom make cold feijoada (Brazilian black bean stew) and see how it came together,” says Pinto. He also tried his hand at making cakes.

“I’m so happy and humbled to have been promoted to the head chef for Paisano’s,” said Pinto. “We have a great team here, and already, it’s exciting to see some of the regulars who have come back for my dishes. My approach to food is Brazilian meets East Coast meets West Coast while still remaining true to authentic Italian flavors, though the most important thing, every ingredient must be the freshest it possibly can.”