OC Restaurant Week – Meet the Chef


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Meet the Chef – Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales

Who or what inspired you to become a chef?

My mother raised us healthfully as an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Natropathic Doctor and a vegetarian caterer while I was growing up. Raised as a vegetarian, pescatarian, raw, gluten free, sugar free, juicing… anything you can think of, we made everything from scratch, we ate organically and never had anything artificial introduced to our palates until old enough to make our own choice. This was a big part of my desire to cook I think, and that I know the difference of what good food tastes like to me by keeping things fresh and simple, I can only thank her for instilling that fresh clean taste into my palate. My grandmother and I as well just loved food and we would camp out with our obsession of learning how people cooked from as far back as age 7. I was fascinated with watching cooking channels and seeing how effortlessly things came together. When I began my training, I found great inspiration from female chefs like Alice Waters, Mollie Katzen, Cindy Pawlcyn, Martha Stewart, and the unforgettable Julia Child and that they have impacted the way that many people see female chefs not as homemakers, but as staking a place in the commercial kitchens and making an impact while doing so.  For this, my ability to do what I love is only heightened to make a difference in my community and be thankful that I found what I love to do and am able to be successful because the road was already paved for me.

Where did you learn your craft?

At age 18, I began having more drive towards cooking as a career and after returning back to California at the holidays from living in Northern California, New Mexico and Kauai, my grandmother and Aunt suggested that I sign up at OCC for culinary school and I never looked back! The great benefit I have now is that making dishes with a more natural approach to classics that are great for you and that tasted great constantly inspire my menus.

Did you cook growing up?

Yes every day. My fond memories were things like my sisters and I sitting with sheets of phyllo dough making fresh sponikopita, shelling peas, shucking corn.

What was your first restaurant job?

I had my first job at age 15 ironically as a Barista at Renaissance Café in Laguna Beach and then grew to learn to expedite food and serve desserts with Chef Paul Buchanan. My first official role in a restaurant kitchen however was at Pascal Olhats Brasserie by Pascal at 20 years old as a Pantry Cook.

What is your most popular dish?

For the last almost 2 years it has to be our Loup De Mer Sea Bass with Browned Butter and Lemon, sautéed French Lentils and Mixed Vegetable Medley.

Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget?

Can’t say that I really have just one. A good Shun santoku 7” knife, a Kitchen Aid Mixer, A straight edge Kuhn Swiss peeler, a slotted spatula and a blunt edge spoon.

What annoys you most in the kitchen?

A big Ego or a know it all…. I think that food is to each person’s personal taste and things are always evolving and we have to relearn and adapt to this. There is always something new and we will never know it all…

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

That when we feed someone, and they love it, I feel validated that I am doing what I should be doing. Plus having my own restaurant has enabled us to give back by doing what I love and it makes me feel like I am making a difference in our community and to those that need help.

Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to like?

Organ Meats. I am just not into that…. Coming from being a vegetarian, I am not the adventurous eat anything cook.I am actually quite a bit discerning in what I will eat.

What are some of your favorite restaurants?

I am really the wrong person to ask this… Being a chef and running my own restaurant and then on time away being a mom, I don’t really have much of a clue what is out there right now! I should but my son loves Indian at Natraj (in Shady Canyon), Sushi at San She go with Yuji, Thai at Starfish and then a quicker meal like 5 guys burgers and fries. I am good with this if I don’t have to cook and we eat something different than we have at the restaurant to eat every day!

When you’re not in the kitchen what are you doing?

Everything it takes to run a restaurant!! Plus I love being a mom and we have a 5 year old son Diego that was born 4 months after opening our second restaurant so life has always been exciting! The new hobby he and I share is raising chickens… We got 6 heritage breed chickens at 2 days old and are just about to get our first round of eggs at 22 weeks. We should have a rainbow of colors from dark brown, green, blue, tan and cream… Plus we are able to feed all our kitchen scraps and compost the manure. Our next project in Spring is planting a large plot we cleared for a home garden.

Last meal on Earth would be??

Ice Cream… I am a sucker for Ice cream, pregnant, late at night, in the afternoon; I am game for any of it.