Featured Chefs

John and Kari Boiler, Green Fork Award

John and Kari Boiler and Family

John and Kari Boiler have been married since 1997 and have gone from living in Portland, Oregon to Amsterdam and arriving in Manhattan Beach in 2002.

Kari made her professional mark as President of Bugaboo Americas, launching the designer baby stroller in the US from her garage with 15 strollers in 2002. She retired from this position in 2012 to secure a job as CEO of the Boiler household. She also currently serves on the Board of Heal the Bay as Marketing Chair and for Tegu, a for-profit magnetic wooden toy company.

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John’s advertising career spans over 25 years. Having just relocated from Amsterdam to Manhattan Beach, he co-founded 72andSunny in 2004 with a one-year-old, a mortgage and no job. Since then, 72andSunny has been voted two times as Agency of the Year for Ad Week and Ad Age. It has also been voted two times by Fast Company as one of the Top 50 most innovative companies. 72andSunny now has offices in LA, NY and Amsterdam, and over 700 employees. John and Kari also like to stay active with their alma mater, University of Oregon.

Aside from professional success, they value most their time grilling and chilling with their two kids, Charlie and Jp, and two dogs, Ned and Tonka. They also love spending time with their neighbors and friends in this incredible community.

Maria Beltran and Destiny Celio, Leadership Award

Destiny Celio and Maria Beltran, Leadership Award

The most gratifying thing that I have done, alongside my friend Destiny Celio, was to create a school garden. It is all thanks to GrowingGreat that I believe this will be the most special mark I will leave on my school when I graduate next year. – Maria Beltran

Maria Beltran is currently a junior at St. Pius X St. Matthias Academy in Downey, California. Her hobbies include spending time with her friends, and her favorite thing to do, besides helping others, is going to Disneyland with her family. Being involved in school activities is extremely important and is what she believes to be her stress reliever and way of expressing her creativity. Clubs and activities such as Relay for Life and KIWIN’S have allowed her to do things she never deemed possible. Throughout her freshman and sophomore year, being able to have a voice of her own and expressing herself was difficult due to the fact that she was very shy and afraid of speaking up. With the help of friends and teachers she gained the confidence to run for vice president of the KIWIN’S club and committed to creating, as well as being a co-captain for, the school’s Relay for Life team. These new titles of leadership came with long days and weeks of hard work and dedication that has made her into a more responsible and outgoing person.

Destiny April Celio loves art, painting and drawing. Her favorite color is green, and her favorite subject is math. She is the oldest child in her family. She graduated from St. Helen School in the city of South Gate and is currently a junior at St. Pius X St. Matthias Academy. She has been in the National Honor Society for three years. She is a captain, with two other friends, for Relay for Life. This is her second year relaying. She is the President of the KIWIN’S club at her school, a club that promotes service and leadership.

Chef Anne Conness

Chef Anne Conness

Anne Conness brings an impressive roster of executive chef positions at iconic Southern California restaurants to her position as Executive Chef of her first solo project, Sausal. A native Floridian, she attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she earned a degree in English Literature, eventually following her creative right brain to stints in painting and television production at Warner Bros. in Los Angeles, CA. It was amidst her work at the studio that she was inspired to explore a new canvas, the kitchen, and entered a professional chef program at Los Angeles’ Epicurean School of Culinary Arts on the side. She was immediately hooked – and the rest is (delicious) history.

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Conness left the television industry after graduating from culinary school and proceeded to work for a who’s who of Los Angeles-based chefs, including Michael Cimarusti at Water Grill, Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Campanile, Mako Tanaka at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois on Main, and Alex Scrimgeour at both Saddlepeak Lodge and ALEX. In 2002, she took her first Executive Chef position at EM Bistro in West Hollywood, where her contemporary brand of American comfort food earned accolades from Bon Appètit, Gourmet Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Los Angeles Magazine. After a successful run at the celebrated eatery, Conness then accepted the challenge of turning around the flailing, 250-seat Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, CA, where she crafted a seasonal, farmers’ market-driven menu; her reinvigoration of the concept not only earned back the business of disheartened guests, it brought critical, citywide acclaim back to the restaurant. The next step in Conness’ culinary journey came in 2007, when she partnered with Southern California restaurateur Mike Simms to open Tin Roof Bistro, a casual eatery that bridges the gap between Wine Country cuisine and everyday comfort food, and Simmzy’s, a craft beer and burger joint, in Manhattan Beach. Both were instant hits, garnering a fiercely, loyal legion of regulars as well as rave reviews.

In 2014, Conness began to pursue the creation and stewardship of her own concept, Sausal, full-time. Named after the vast farmstead that once encompassed Los Angeles County’s South Bay, Rancho Sausal Redondo, the restaurant is a reflection of her unmatched expertise in elevating everyday comfort food, as well as her deeply personal passion for the bold, earthy flavors of Mexican cuisine. Christened “Nuevo Rancho,” the menu’s style draws inspiration from the foundational elements of traditional Rancho cooking (wood fire, smoke, and slow-roasting) while paying deference to local bounty. By marrying traditional Hispanic ingredients with the best of what’s homegrown in the area, she hopes to continue doing what she does best: offering an original and unforgettable dining experience to the community at large. A Certified Cicerone, Conness will also be using her vast knowledge of ales to curate the restaurant’s unique craft beer selection.

When Conness is not manning the kitchen (and wood-burning grill) at Sausal, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and cheering on her favorite local sports team, the LA Galaxy.

Chef Michael Fiorelli

Chef Michael Fiorelli

Michael Fiorelli is the Executive Chef at Love & Salt, an Italian-inspired restaurant in Manhattan Beach that has garnered critical acclaim for Fiorelli’s thoughtfully-composed, California-centric interpretations of Old World classics. Since opening in November 2014 with Owners Guy and Sylvie Gabriele, the father and daughter team behind SoCal icon Café Pierre, Love & Salt has received three-star reviews from Los Angeles Magazine and LA Weekly, was named one of Angeleno Magazine‘s top ten openings of the year, one of New York Observer‘s top twelve LA openings, one of Los Angeles Magazine‘s top ten openings of the year, and has acquired national attention for its progressive menu.

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A seasoned chef with extensive experience in some of the country’s top kitchens, Fiorelli’s culinary resume includes stints at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, Mark’s City Place in West Palm Beach, Simon LA in Los Angeles, and mar’sel at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Chef Stephanie Franz

Stephanie Franz

Stephanie Franz is the Pastry Chef of The Strand House, the modern, oceanfront restaurant reminiscent of an elegant yet welcoming beach house with breathtaking ocean and pier views in Manhattan Beach, where she crafts the restaurant’s mouthwatering desserts complementing Executive Chef Greg Hozinsky’s modern heirloom cuisine.

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Prior to joining the team at The Strand House in 2013, Franz was the Executive Pastry Chef and co-owner of Cupcakes Couture of Manhattan Beach from 2009-2013. Franz represented the bakery on two episodes of “Cupcake Wars,” winning one contest in August 2011. Franz brought the company from a small startup venture to celebrity status, which included recognition in high level publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot and Inside Weddings.

From the time she was young, Franz has had an interest in anything and everything hands-on. She dreamt of being a costume designer until her mother bought her an Easy-Bake Oven. From the moment she baked her first cake she knew she had found her calling. As a teenager, she would spend hours watching the Food Network and beg her mother to go grocery shopping for ingredients to recreate the dishes she saw on TV. It wasn’t until college that Franz realized that baking could be more than a hobby. After just one semester at California State University, Long Beach she changed paths and enrolled in culinary school to pursue her passion.

Franz began her career at the Montage Hotel in Laguna Beach in 2005 after completing school at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. She then moved on to become the Chocolatier at the Montage Hotel, Beverly Hills in 2008 while also making and selling chocolates and wedding cakes in her down time. In 2012 she began working as the Pastry Director at Katella Bakery in Los Alamitos, CA while still maintaining Manhattan Beach’s premier cupcake bakery. Now being the pastry chef at The Strand House in Manhattan Beach, Franz combines French techniques with her own personal style to put a modern spin on classic flavors.

Chef David LeFevre

Chef David LeFevre

Chef David LeFevre, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, developed his passion for cooking as a child by helping his Mother in the kitchen. He says: “I loved the food my mother made and realized that if I knew how to cook, I wouldn’t have to wait for someone else to cook for me.” Yet as a teen he set off on the Industrial Engineering track at the University of Wisconsin, temporarily forgoing his culinary pursuits. Of course it wasn’t long beforeLeFevre left the Engineering world and, after working in various restaurants, enrolled at the renowned Culinary Institute of America. It was during this time that he interned at Chef Charlie Trotter’s celebrated restaurant in Chicago and made such an impression that he landed a job as tournant at Trotter’s Las Vegas, where he worked until it closed in 1995.

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LeFevre seized the opportunity to travel to France and hone his classical skills in some of the world’s most distinguished kitchens. This experience enhanced his resume with a list of apprenticeships that include the late Bernard Loiseau’s restaurant, La Côte d’Or, Restaurant Jean Bardet and Roger Vergé’s Le Moulin de Mougins. Upon returning to the United States, LeFevre moved to Chicago to once again work with his mentor Charlie Trotter where he quickly advanced to become Executive Sous Chef.

In 2004, LeFevre was recruited as Executive Chef of the Water Grill, downtown Los Angeles’ seminal seafood restaurant. Under LeFevre’s six-year culinary leadership, Water Grill earned a coveted Michelin star and further solidified its reputation as one of Los Angeles’ premier destination restaurants.

At his first restaurant Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post), LeFevre returned to his roots with a highly personal and soulful restaurant offering a more rustic menu of playful, artisanal dishes complemented by artfully-crafted cocktails and small production wines. Opened in April of 2011, M.B. Post was named one of Los Angeles Magazine’s 2011 Best New Restaurants, 10 Most Memorable Meals by the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila, and 10 Best Dishes of 2011 by LA Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold. M.B. Post was also a semifinalist for the 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards in the Best New Restaurant and Best Chef Pacific categories.

In 2013, LeFevre opened Fishing with Dynamite, a celebration of summers spent on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and SoCal’s vibrant beach communities. Fishing with Dynamite has been celebrated for serving only the most pristine seafood with accolades that include “Best Oyster Bar” by Los Angeles Magazine and again earning LeFevre a James Beard semi-finalist nomination for Best Chef West in 2013.

Most recently LeFevre opened his third Manhattan Beach Restaurant, The Arthur J in June of 2015. The Arthur J is a modern steakhouse featuring a wood-fired grill and LeFevre’s own take on retro steakhouse favorites. Like M.B. Post and Fishing with Dynamite, The Arthur J is a reflection of LeFevre’s roots, his travels and his three culinary touchstones – preparing food that is artisanal, soulful and handcrafted.

LeFevre has been featured on such shows as The Cooking Channel’s Road Show with G. Garvin and Unique Eats, and made regular appearances as a judge on FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef. He is also a regular contributor to cooking segments on CBS’s THE TALK. When not in the kitchen, LeFevre enjoys riding his bike around his Manhattan Beach neighborhood, studying design, and turning up the volume on some great tunes.

Award Nominations:

• James Beard Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant 2012
• James Beard Semifinalist for Best Chef West 2013

Chef Diana Stavaridis

Chef Diana Stavaridis

Chef Diana Stavaridis has been working in restaurants around the world for most of her life. In February 2015, she moved to the South Bay and gave GrowingGreat a call. Her restaurant, Manhattan House, has been a welcoming, home-away-from-home for GrowingGreat families ever since. Local elementary school students know her as Chef D and love working with her in their school gardens. Chef D has been awarded Rising Star Chef of Los Angeles by StarChefs and appeared on several television shows such as Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” KTLA’s morning show, Channel 5 News and as a guest judge on “The Next Food Network Star.”

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The GrowingGreat Jr. Chefs program is the latest partnership with Manhattan House. Chef D works with fifth-grade students from all five Manhattan Beach Elementary Schools to create student-inspired dishes featured on the Manhattan House menu. The program includes a restaurant field trip, recently featured in the Easy Reader and Beach Reporter. The students’ dishes include fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown in the school GrowingGreat garden.