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Newport Beach’s Up-And-Coming Chefs

September 19, 2019

The Newport Beach dining scene is a constellation of culinary stars. We’ve got restaurants highlighted in the first-ever California Michelin guide. We’ve got an outstanding pizzeria by the likes of Nancy Silverton, and a world-class Japanese restaurant by Nobu Matsuhisa. But we’ve also got something equally important—young chefs making big moves in the kitchens of Newport Beach restaurants.

Chef Riley Huddleston at The Mayor’s Table Pacific Pub + Kitchen

After leading culinary and beverage programs at a slew of elite hotels in Chicago, Chef Riley Huddleston turned his pitch-perfect resume into restaurants here in Newport Beach. Working alongside chef Janine Falvo, he’s an executive chef partner at Lido House—which houses The Mayor’s Table, Topside rooftop bar and Crew Coffee + Creamerie—arguably one of the hippest hotel concepts in the area. As a chef drilled in both classic French and modern cooking techniques, he found a way to weave his signature style into The Mayor’s Table repertoire. The pub-style, seafood-forward menu (the place gives a nod to its coastal location), features standouts like a bright and flavor-packed spicy tuna on a slice of olive-oil grilled bread. There’s also the petit filet, served on a bed of creamed corn and topped with foraged mushrooms. Oh, and the truffle fries, which will have you reaching for more. 

Chef Jared Cook at OLEA

It’s impossible to skirt around the fact that a man with the last name “Cook” ended up, as fate would have it, doing just that. But as much as he is a deft cook, Chef Jared is also an avid gardener. He’s quick to mention his San Clemente garden, where he grows ingredients that often star in the dishes he rustles up at his three restaurants: OLEA’s Kitchen, as well as its sister concepts Vine and Ironwood. Hailing from the rustic, wine-centered region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Chef Jared drew upon that ethos when dreaming up OLEA’s wine-country-inspired menu. Think: duck drumettes with a glaze made with Meyer lemon and orange juice, honey and red chili paste. Also think: a terrine of mostly bacon, bourbon and a little bit of duck liver, served with grilled ciabatta, pickles and mustard—all good reasons to settle into a table and unfold a napkin across your lap.

Chef Kevin Monahan at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

It’s telling that Chef Kevin Monahan was only 20 years old when he first joined the kitchen at Fleming’s flagship location in Newport Beach, having just completed a stint working under the likes of José Andrés at The Bazaar. Enticed by José’s way with molecular gastronomy, Chef Kevin now inflects every dish he invents with that same spirit of innovation, particularly when it comes to his “Chef’s Table” offerings. On his curated fall menu, you’ll find a heroic cut of wagyu ribeye served alongside sautéed greens, roasted garlic with demi-glaze. You’ll also spot bone marrow paired with arugula, radish and pickled red onion, and a creamy pea-and-parmesan risotto you’ll be looking forward to eating again.

Written by Mariam Makatsaria

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