Featured Chefs

Chef Michael Cimarusti, providence

Chef Michael Cimarusti

At his much acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant Providence, Co-owner and Chef Michael Cimarusti has created elegant and contemporary seafood-centric cuisine for a decade. The chef and the restaurant have earned national accolades that include several James Beard Award nominations and two highly coveted Michelin stars. He combines his extensive knowledge and appreciation for seafood, with an advocacy for sustainable fishing practices that is evident in each dish he creates. “Seafood has inspired me in a personal way from the very start,” he says. “It is my duty to staunchly support its conservation and best practices, and it’s my privilege to have the opportunity to showcase it on a nightly basis.”

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Cimarusti cultivated his reverence for ingredients in his experiences leading up to founding the restaurant in 2005. Prior to Providence, he dedicated six years to serving as executive chef at downtown L.A.’s famed seafood restaurant Water Grill, earning both glowing local reviews and a national reputation for his masterful approach to seafood. The New Brunswick, NJ, native was first lured to L.A. by Wolfgang Puck to become chef de cuisine at the celebrity chef’s original Spago. Cimarusti also worked notable stints at fine-dining institutions in the U.S. and abroad, including New York City’s Osteria del Circo, at which he served as opening chef de cuisine; the Michelin three-starred Arpège with Chef Alain Passard in Paris; and Le Cirque, the iconic New York City establishment from Restaurateur Sirio Maccioni, at which he had the opportunity to cook with renowned French Chefs Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé, and Gérard Boyer.

His path for a storied culinary career was spurred from experience in his youth: fishing with his grandfather and learning the traditions of his Italian heritage from his grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s cooking. His most influential professional experience came just after graduating with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, when he headed down the Hudson River to New York City to cook at An American Place with Chef Larry Forgione. Working garde manger, the young chef had access to the leading edge of the farm-to-table movement that would soon transform American cuisine. “Much of the reverence I have for ingredients came from my experience with Larry,” Cimarusti says. While working in Forgione’s kitchen, he also met his future wife and business partner, the talented pastry chef Cristina Echiverri.

Today, he and Echiverri operate Providence and Connie & Ted’s, the West Hollywood eatery they opened in 2013, paying homage to Cimarusti’s grandparents and the simple, honest seafood cookery of New England. Outside of his restaurants, the chef actively supports the Special Olympics and always finds time to go fishing with his two children.

Chef Vartan AbgaryanChef Vartan Abgaryan, 71above
Chef Abgaryan is the Executive Chef/Owner of 71Above. He is a native Angeleno, and was formally trained at Le Cordon Bleu, mentoring at the iconic André Soltner restaurant, Lutèce. He returned to Los Angeles to lead the kitchens of acclaimed restaurateur Tim Goodell’s Red Pearl Kitchen, ‘A’ Restaurant, and Public Kitchen. For the next three years, Abgaryan served as executive chef at Cliff’s Edge Restaurant to great critical acclaim. LA Weekly’s restaurant critic Besha Rodell remarked, “Abgaryan’s food is composed above all else — the chef focuses as much on visual beauty as on taste.” In 2015, Chef Abgaryan joined forces with Emil Eyvazoff to debut a new, world-class dining destination on the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower.

Chef David LeFevre, MB Post, Fishing With Dynamite, The Arthur J

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 Anne Conness, Sausal, Jaffa

Chef Anne Conness

Chef Conness is managing to take time out from opening her new restaurant Jaffa to be with GrowingGreat at Farm to Table. 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.

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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.

Chef Stephanie Franz, The Strand House, Shade Hotel

Stephanie Franz

Stephanie Franz is the Executive Pastry Chef of The Shade Hotel and 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 DianaChef 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. 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.”