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Where to Find the Restaurants of Orange County's Culinary Stars

You’ve seen them on reality shows, now check out their restaurants.


Amar Santana was the runner up on “Top Chef” season 13 and walked away with the fan favorite award on “Top Chef: World All-Stars” season 20. He has two Orange County restaurants: Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and Vaca in Costa Mesa. Photo courtesy of Vaca
 

We’re a foodie nation and we just can’t keep our eyes off cooking shows. So, if you think you’re starting to recognize the faces of some of the contestants, you’re absolutely right.

 

As Orange County has become more of a dining destination, our talented chefs and restaurateurs have caught the eyes of television producers, beginning around 2011 with Lime Truck founders Jason Quinn and Daniel Shemtob’s win on “The Great Food Truck Race.” (Quinn went off on his own to open Playground in Santa Ana and its many iterations. Shemtob won “The Great Food Truck Race” again in 2021.)

 

From “Top Chef” repeat contestants like Amar Santana, to entrepreneurs such as Wing Lam, a founder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco, these stars are on a roll – they just keep popping up on the small screen. Heck, in a little more than a year, O.C. had three local “Chopped” winners by September 2020: Rachel Klemek (Blackmarket Bakery), Shachi Mehra (Adya) and Paul Cao (Burnt Crumbs).

 

If you’ve ever been curious as to whether their cuisine matches their TV rankings, here’s your chance to play judge. In designing this guide, we looked for chefs and restaurant owners who have appeared on national television programs whether or not they won their shows. 

 

Many of these programs still live online so don’t fear you’ve missed out if you didn’t catch them the first time around. You can simply Google or stream loads of these episodes and cheer our locals on to victory or empathize with their heartbreaking defeats.

 

When you’re done watching, note their restaurants on this map and plan a visit so you can see if their dishes are as tasty as they look on TV. 

 

Some chefs and owners founded these places, put their marks on the menu and then moved on. Others are still running the show and if your timing is right, you might find them out in the dining room visiting tables, and maybe even grab a selfie with a star. 

 

A few notables, such as Chris Tzorin (“Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown”) don’t have brick-and-mortar places yet, so we weren’t able to place them on the map, unless they’re doing regular pop-ups. And there’s really no official list gathering all O.C. personalities online, so you’ll have to let us know if we missed a favorite.

 

For now, Culture OC invites you to tuck in your bibs and make out your bucket lists. Get ready to add reality dining to your reality TV viewing.



The STARS and Their Restaurants

Click on the arrow next to the name for details.

RICK BAYLESS
JOHNATHAN BENVENUTI
RICHARD BLAIS
NOAH BLOM
PAUL CAO
ALICIA COX
STAN FRAZIER
ANDREW GRUEL
BRIAN HUSKEY
RACHEL KLEMEK
WING LAM and ED LEE
BRIAN MALARKEY
NOBU MATSUHISA
SHACHI MEHRA
MICHAEL MINA
STEPHANIE MORGAN
PETER PETRO
JASON QUINN AND JUSTIN WERNER
MICHAEL REED
JESSICA ROY
AMAR SANTANA
DANIEL SHEMTOB
NANCY SILVERTON
JASON TRIAIL
WINNIE YEE-LAKHANI

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