Featured Chefs

Chef Nyesha Arrington

Chef Nyesha Arrington
Photo by Jim Sullivan

Chef Nyesha J. Arrington has been in love with the kitchen since age five, cooking alongside her Grandmother. Born in Southern California, Nyesha was introduced early to diverse foods such as bulgogi, octopus, and homemade kimchi. These first stages of culinary experiences definitively shaped Nyesha’s palate development and her ideas about cooking. By integrating flavors and techniques from around the world, Nyesha is able to create a global style that is both personal and unparalleled.

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A graduate of the Art Institute of California in Los Angeles, Nyesha’s resume includes work with legendary French Chef Joel Robuchon at his Michelin and award-winning Las Vegas restaurants, L’Atelier and The Mansion, as well as renowned Chefs Raphael Lunetta and Josiah Citrin of Santa Monica, CA. Nyesha is celebrated for her advocacy of using farm fresh, locally, and responsibly sourced ingredients. She is also confident enough to use essential products from around the world as the best way to draw global inspiration when creating her works of art.

During Chef Arrington’s tenure as Executive Chef at Wilshire restaurant, she was named a “Rising Star” by Brad Johnson, restaurant critic of Angeleno. In 2011, Nyesha appeared as a “cheftestant” – on Top Chef and Food Network’s series, Chef Hunter, where she won the competition. In 2012, Nyesha was recognized by Zagat.com as one of the 30 Under 30 – LA’s Hottest Up-And-Comers as well as Where LA’s top talent under 30. She was also profiled in LA Weekly’s People issue as one of the most 69 interesting people to watch in 2012. In 2013 she won the cooking competition show Knife Fight on Esquire Network and later returned to Knight Fight in 2014 as a Guest Chef Judge.

Chef and entrepreneur Arrington offers food experiences including a dinner installation titled “Food is Art”, hosting cooking demonstrations and events worldwide. In 2015, Nyesha crafted the creative cooking vision behind Progressive California Cuisine at LEONA, in the heart of Venice, CA. During her tenure with LEONA, GQ Magazine named Arrington’s Hibiscus-Cured Yellow tail dish “ Most Sexy of 2016 ”, and Nyesha was also awarded the title of ” Chef of the Year ” – EATER LA. In 2016 Chef Arrington was awarded “Top 10 Dish of Los Angeles 2016” – Jonathan Gold. Currently, Nyesha continues to innovate by drawing inspiration from her diverse cultural background and French-technique while maintaining her mission to spread the message of love through food using every plate as a new canvas of creation.

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 Ray GarciaChef Ray Garcia
As a native Angeleno, Ray Garcia draws his culinary inspiration from the city’s rich culture, Southern California’s produce, and his classic training. As chef/owner of Broken Spanish and BS Taqueria (both opened in 2015), he incorporates all of these things cooking bright, bold, and ingredient-driven food that expresses a Mexican-American narrative. For this, he, his team and both restaurants have received national recognition and overwhelming hometown support – in a city that has finally drawn critical focus and praise on an international level. Most notably, he was recognized by Esquire magazine as Chef of the Year.

Garcia originally set out to become a lawyer. However, after graduating from UCLA with degrees in political science and business economics, he paved a new path by enrolling at the California School of Culinary Arts. His first job was at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, a five-star and five-diamond hotel with a revered fine dining program. He would further his training with and seek mentorship from chefs like Douglas Keane of Cyrus. During this time, restraint in technique and a deep respect for the integrity of his ingredients became intrinsic, no more evident than from his six-year tenure at FIG in Santa Monica.

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He has been consistently recognized for philosophies on environmental stewardship, and commitment to responsible farming and food production, honored with StarChefs “Rising Star” Award for Sustainability in 2010. In 2014, Ray took home the title of “King of Porc” at Cochon 555, an event celebrating the heritage breed pig.

In 2013, Jonathan Gold wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “If you could design a perfect chef for Los Angeles, he might seem a lot like Ray Garcia, an Eastside guy who seems to spend almost as much time proselytizing for healthful eating in local schools as he does in the kitchen. Garcia’s menu manages to be satisfying to both the transgressive big-meat guys and the Gaia-conscious vegans; the carb-lovers and the gluten-free.”

Broken Spanish is Garcia’s flagship where he translates a robust menu, showcasing preparations rooted in long-established traditions refined with a modern sensibility. Since it opened in June of 2015, Broken Spanish has earned countless accolades and recognition as one of the best new restaurants of the year by Esquire, USA Today, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine.

The critical success of BS Taqueria, considered the little sister to Broken Spanish, underscores Garcia’s contribution to a burgeoning dining scene in Los Angeles. The taqueria concept provides a relevant opportunity to elevate Mexican cuisine, reinforcing the ideology that ethnic food should not automatically be relegated into a particular price bracket. Without proselytizing, Garcia hopes to usher in a new understanding and appreciation for Mexican food with quality sourcing and precision cooking.

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 Aaron Robbins

Chef Aaron Robbins

Executive Chef Aaron Robbins brings over 15 years of fine dining and culinary experience to Sea Level restaurant and lounge, located on the grounds of the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach.

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Born in Santa Monica and raised in Eugene, Oregon, Aaron fell in love with the culinary arts while in high school. Upon graduation, the lure of the vibrant culinary scene and quintessential coastal vibe brought him back to Los Angeles to pursue his passion and establish his place in the profession.

Throughout his career, Aaron has served as Executive Sous Chef at celebrated California based restaurants including Parkway Grill in Pasadena; Hinoki & The Bird in Century City, where he worked under David Myers; and Executive Chef of O Bar Restaurant in West Hollywood. Most recently he served as Director of Culinary Operations for Culinary Lab, a Los Angeles based restaurant group that owns and operates Hinoki & The Bird, Pizzeria Ortica and Rosaliné. Through his experience, he has developed his signature style of balancing unique flavor profiles, textures, and artistic plating presentations. His preference for simple and robust flavors infused with Asian influence will elevate the menu concept of California Coastal Cuisine with a twist at Sea Level restaurant and lounge.

When Aaron is not developing culinary creations in the kitchen, he can be found spending time with his wife and 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter or expressing his creative abilities in the art of sculpting. As a lover of everything related to the ocean, including the best in fresh and quality seafood, Aaron also raises live coral.

In his role as Executive Chef at Sea Level restaurant and lounge at Shade Redondo Beach, his vision is to develop a relatable, California Coastal Cuisine menu that is aligned with the luxury and contemporary style of the Shade brand and aims to provide guests a memorable and elevated culinary experience.

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.