Dishing on Favorites

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Local chefs share which recipes they enjoy preparing in their personal kitchens.

By Ashley Ryan


The notion of dining out has been ever-evolving during the last year, with locals unsure of which restaurants are open for outdoor dining, which are offering takeout only and which are closed completely. On top of that, many are still spending a good deal of time at home.

While cooking restaurant-quality meals at home isn’t the easiest thing to do, Newport Beach chefs do just that on the regular. With their tips and tricks—and some highly coveted recipes—we’re making it easier than ever for you to dine like a pro this spring. Read on to determine how you can re-create some of their favorite dishes in your own kitchen.


Matt Vaillette_by Olea, Cellar-Craft-Cook
Matt Vaillette | Photo by Olea, Cellar-Craft-Cook

Matthew Vaillette | Olea, Cellar-Craft-Cook

Born, raised and currently living in Fullerton, Matthew Vaillette—chef de cuisine at Olea, Cellar-Craft-Cook—has not always resided in Southern California. In 2008, his love for cooking led him to New York, where he studied at The Culinary Institute of America before heading to Las Vegas to work for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. A couple years later, he made his way back to Orange County, where he worked for The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon. In addition to climbing the ladder to become sous chef at the steakhouse, he managed the owner’s nearby farm. He also, afterward, ran his own catering company.

Vaillette has been with Olea for two years now, overseeing and developing the eatery’s wine country-inspired fare. But he also loves to cook at home, preparing dishes like carne asada paired with homemade salsas, sourdough focaccia pizza and chicken mole, complete with fresh corn tortillas. But when spring rolls around and the weather starts to warm up, he and his wife, Jennifer, love to enjoy his charred hearts of palm ceviche, a light, healthy option that still provides plenty of flavor (and is vegetarian/vegan friendly). The main ingredient is better fresh than canned, according to Vaillette, in order to achieve a firm, crunchy texture. Find seasonal hearts of palm at local farmers markets or specialty stores to create the unique dish yourself.

Charred Hearts of Palm Ceviche_by Matt Vaillette
Charred hearts of palm ceviche | Photo by Matt Vaillette

Charred Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 pound hearts of palm

1 tablespoon canola oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 red onion, julienned

2 serrano chiles, seeded and thinly sliced

2 avocados, diced

1 container cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 limes, juiced

1 lemon, juiced

1 orange, juiced

3 red radishes, thinly sliced (for garnish)

Tortilla chips

Preheat grill or grill pan at highest setting. Remove hearts of palm and blot with paper towels to dry. Toss hearts of palm in canola oil, then season with salt and pepper. Cook hearts of palm on grill until evenly charred. Let cool, then cut them into bite-size pieces (tip: cut lengthwise into quarters, then cut across in 1/4-inch chunks). Place hearts of palm, red onion, serrano chiles, avocados, cherry tomatoes, cilantro and all of the lime, lemon and orange juice in a large bowl and toss until evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for two hours or longer to marinate in the citrus. Garnish with radish slices and serve with tortilla chips.


David Shofner_by Kyle Fierro
David Shofner | Photo by Kyle Fierro

David Shofner | Fable & Spirit

Having already partnered with co-owners Darren and Jean Coyle on two projects in Mission Viejo, Dublin 4 Gastropub and Wineworks for Everyone, David Shofner has already made Fable & Spirit a hit. The eatery, where he serves as executive chef, won best new restaurant at the Golden Foodie Awards in 2019, was named one of Michelin Guide’s 25 Inspector Discoveries in California in 2020 and has continued to push the envelope ever since, with innovative menus spanning dinner, lunch and, most recently, brunch. Though the Coyles and the decor are decidedly Irish, and Shofner’s background is classically French, Fable & Spirit’s culinary delights are inspired by cuisine from all over the world, but with a modern American flair.

“When I do have an opportunity to take a Sunday off to spend with the family, we keep our meals fairly simple and straightforward,” Shofner says. “In the cooler months, I really love one-pot meals. … As temperatures begin to rise, I head outdoors—one of my favorite things to do is spark up the grill and do a little barbecuing.” While he often turns to smoked baby back ribs, prime wagyu or dry-aged rib-eye for grilling, he recently crafted a bone marrow dish that is grilled before being finished in the oven.

“Be sure you have good music playing—it’s definitely an integral part of any recipe,” Shofner says. “My grilling soundtrack involves a little old-school punk, which I’ve loved since my youth, and I’ll probably put on Beach Boys radio when it’s time to eat. Last but not least,  … the company you surround yourself with during your meal is of the utmost importance, and nobody is more important to me than my family.”

bone marrow_by Moxxe PR
Grilled and roasted bone marrow with pickled shallot, frisee and parsley leaf salad | Photo by Moxxe PR

Grilled and Roasted Bone Marrow

Yield: 3 servings

3 tablespoons kosher salt

4 quarts water

6 canoe cut marrow bones

Olive oil, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinot noir compound butter (recipe follows)

2 or 3 yellow onions

Loaf of Italian or French bread

Pickled shallot, frisee and parsley leaf salad (recipe follows)

Combine kosher salt and water, and allow the bone marrow to soak in the mixture overnight. Preheat the grill, then coat the bone marrow in olive oil, salt and pepper before placing marrow-side down. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. (Note: Once the marrow has grill marks, flip over and continue cooking, or transfer to an oven heated to 400 F to finish. Cook until marrow is clear and no pink is left.) After 10 minutes of cook time, spread pinot noir compound butter on bone marrow; repeat this process right before it is done cooking.

Meanwhile, julienne the onions then add them to a pan preheated with olive oil. Add salt, then saute on medium heat for 30 minutes or until onions are a caramel color, stirring often to avoid burning. Slice the loaf of bread, brush each slice with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then grill.

Plate with bone marrow, compound butter, caramelized onions, bread and salad. (Note from Chef Shofner: “The interactive dish incorporates sides meant to complement the marrow. Try each on its own, then spread desired elements on toast.”)


Pinot Noir Compound Butter

1 tablespoon shallots, diced

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

Olive oil, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 tablespoon thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1/2 cup pinot noir

1 pound European-style, high-fat butter

1 ounce red wine vinegar

Saute shallots and garlic in a little bit of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Add chopped herbs for 10 seconds, then remove and deglaze pan with pinot noir. Reduce slightly, then let pinot noir mixture come to room temperature. In a mixing bowl, cube butter and let it come to room temperature as well. Add pinot noir mixture, red wine vinegar and more salt and pepper to the butter, then mix until incorporated. (Note: Compound butter can be chilled if made ahead of time, but needs to be at room temperature for bone marrow recipe.)


Pickled Shallot, Frisee and Parsley Leaf Salad

1 shallot, peeled and sliced

Pickling liquid (recipe follows)

1 bunch baby frisee, extra yellow in color

1/2 bunch Italian parsley leaves

1 ounce olive oil

1 ounce fresh Meyer lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place thinly sliced shallot in chilled pickling liquid for 24 hours or longer. Later, in a mixing bowl, combine pickled shallots, frisee and Italian parsley. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.


Pickling Liquid

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar

3 1/4 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Whole peppercorn (optional)

Dried bay leaves (optional)

Thyme (optional)

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine ingredients in a small pan. Bring to a boil, then chill.


Markus Hagan_by Wales Communications
Markus Hagan | Photo by Wales Communications

Markus Hagan | The Cannery and Louie’s by the Bay

As the executive chef of both The Cannery, which has been a Newport Beach staple since the 1970s, and newer venue Louie’s by the Bay, Markus Hagan often incorporates seasonal items and fresh produce on these local menus. His “from scratch” approach to fine dining started after his training at the now-closed Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco, at which time he began working as a sous chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant. He spent time with International Bay Clubs Inc., owner of Balboa Bay Resort and Newport Beach Country Club, before landing at The Cannery in 2018.

According to Hagan, his at-home cooking style is typically Italian, with a focus on the dishes that pay homage to Old World flavors. “Typically, when I cook at home, I like to remember the memories of my past,” he says, noting that one of his favorites is a creamy lobster bisque that has long been in his family. During the most recent restaurant shutdown, Hagan turned the soup into a sauce to top pasta—and, upon reopening, decided to add it to the menu at Louie’s by the Bay. “I love seafood and pasta, so I often play at home with the combination of the two and incorporate unique sauces until I find a real winner,” Hagan explains.

In addition to this dish, which incorporates thin, loosely cut lasagna sheets, he loves to create a Maryland-style seafood chili, filled with everything from Dungeness crab and rock shrimp to chopped clams and diced bacon.

Stracci Lobster Pasta_by Wales Communications
Stracci lobster pasta | Photo by Wales Communications

Stracci Lobster Pasta

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 1/2 pound uncooked lobsters

1 medium leek, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 medium fennel bulb, diced

5 Calabrian chiles

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons garlic, minced

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 cup Arborio rice

1 cup white wine

1 quart heavy cream

2 cups clam juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon saffron

1 package of pasta


Remove the meat from the lobster shells and set both aside. Saute leek, carrot, fennel and Calabrian chiles in olive oil on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste and rice, then cook for 5 more minutes. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by half. Add heavy cream, clam juice, fish sauce, water, bay leaves and empty lobster shells. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Remove lobster shells and bay leaves. Add saffron and stir until smooth. Set aside.

Prepare pasta per the directions on the package. While it cooks, saute lobster meat in butter. Place lobster meat on top of pasta and cover in lobster cream sauce, then enjoy.


Florent and Amelia Marneau_by Dylan + Jeni
Florent and Amelia Marneau | Photo by Dylan + Jeni

Florent and Amelia Marneau | Marché Moderne

As one of the most popular French eateries in the region, Marché Moderne has a loyal following, thanks to the talent and creativity of its chefs, Florent and Amelia Marneau. The husband-and-wife duo helm the kitchen together, with Florent serving as head chef and his wife, Amelia, whipping up delectable desserts. Despite having both worked at restaurants in Paris, the couple met here in Orange County, at the now-closed Aubergine restaurant. Since first opening Marché Moderne at South Coast Plaza in 2007 (though it is now located within Crystal Cove Shopping Center), the Marneaus have offered pristine authentic French cuisine.

While Florent does most of the cooking in the restaurant, he says that Amelia does most of the work at home. “She cooks all the great French country food that my mom used to make, including this pork-belly stuffed tomato dish that I love called tomates farcies,” he notes. One dish that he does enjoy cooking, though, is poisson cru. “I have fond memories of having this dish in Tahiti,” he notes. “It’s a great blend of French Polynesian flavors and is so enjoyable when the weather gets warmer. It’s basically a crudo with a coconut-lime vinaigrette and … crispy chicken skin for extra flavor and texture.”

Amelia says that she especially loves to cook on Sundays, and often fills their home with the scent of fresh baked bread. But one of her very favorites to make is a berry Pavlova. Named for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, the dessert doesn’t require complicated ingredients. “While the efforts are minimal, you do need to have some patience to whip the meringue mixture and it does need to be baked in the oven for a while on low heat for evenly baked meringues,” Amelia says. “Then, once they’re cooled, you can top with whatever fresh berries you have on hand and I love some Chantilly cream to make it feel a little more luxurious.” She says this light treat is great for when the weather warms up or after a rich meal. She says the recipe can also be adjusted depending on the season: While berries are great for spring, they can be replaced by a tropical fruit or a stone fruit, like peaches, in the summer, while citrus or chocolate is ideal for wintertime.

Poisson Cru_by Julie Chung
Poisson cru | Photo by Julie Chung

Poisson Cru

Yield: 4 servings

4 tablespoons yuzu juice

1 tablespoon yuzu kosho paste

1 lime, zested and juiced

1 tablespoon white shoyu

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 pound bigeye tuna

1/2 pound Japanese fluke

3 or 4 pieces crispy chicken skin

1/4 cup water

Lime zest, for garnish

Avocado spheres, for garnish

Breakfast radishes, curled, for garnish

Green onion, sliced, for garnish

Micro cilantro, for garnish

Lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish

Smoked sea salt, for garnish

In a large bowl, mix yuzu juice, yuzu kosho paste, lime zest, lime juice, white shoyu and sugar to create a coconut vinaigrette. Whisk in coconut milk, then add olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add salt and pepper, then set aside. Cut the bigeye tuna into slices that are 2 by 1 inches; repeat for Japanese fluke, but cut this into 2- by 1/2- inch slices. Set aside. Take chicken skin and place in a small skillet. Add water, then season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low until fat renders out and the skin is crisp. Set aside on a paper towel. On each of four dinner plates, spoon the coconut vinaigrette onto the middle then spread it with the back of a spoon. Top each with two slices of tuna and two slices of fluke. Top with lime zest, then add the rest of the garnishes: crispy chicken skin, avocados, radishes, green onions, cilantro, olive oil and sea salt. Serve immediately.

Berry Pavlova_by Marché Moderne
Berry Pavlova | Photo by Marché Moderne

Berry Pavlova

Yield: 6 servings

Parchment paper

7 large eggs, whites only

Pinch of salt

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup fresh berries (can be
a mixture of raspberries,
strawberries, blueberries
or blackberries)

Chocolate shards, for
garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 F. Draw circles with an 8-inch diameter on parchment paper. Turn sheets over and place on rimmed baking sheets. To create a meringue filling, beat egg whites and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Increase speed to high and add sugar, incorporating a tablespoon at a time until all sugar is added. Beat until stiff, but glossy. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Place a small amount of the meringue mixture on each corner of the baking sheet as glue to hold down the parchment paper. Spoon meringue mixture around the perimeter of the circles drawn on the paper, making an uneven design with peaks and valleys 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Bake for 2 to 3 hours, until crisp but still pale. Allow to cool.

Combine whipping cream and powdered sugar in an electric mixer until thick. Place baked meringue on a plate, then use a large spoon to scoop the Chantilly cream mixture into dollops atop the meringue. Scatter the desired amount of berries on top. Repeat until finished. Top with powdered sugar or chocolate shards, if desired.


Elvis Morales_by Lily Fassnacht
Elvis Morales | Photo by Lily Fassnacht

Elvis Morales | CdM Restaurant

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Elvis Morales, the executive chef at CdM Restaurant, learned to cook by sharing the kitchen with his grandmother. Since coming to California in 2000, Morales has worked his way up in the restaurant industry. After washing dishes in an Italian restaurant, he went on to pull double duty, working as a prep cook at A Restaurant (which is owned by River Jetty Restaurant Group, just like CdM) by day and a grill chef at Mastro’s Ocean Club by night. Named chef de cuisine at CdM soon after its March 2019 opening, Morales says his promotion to executive chef in the fall is one of his greatest accomplishments.

Morales says he loves to cook for his family on his days off. “We all love pasta, so that’s what I usually cook,” he explains. “I always try to make different kinds, but our favorite is pasta picante with chicken picante.” While the chef primarily opts for Italian and Mexican dishes, he says he also enjoys experimenting with new meals as well when he’s in his home kitchen. Some of his favorite ingredients to add flavor to a meal are garlic, basil and vegetables like broccoli and mushrooms.

Pasta and Chicken Picante_by CdM Restaurant
Pasta and chicken picante | Photo by CdM Restaurant

Pasta Picante

Yield: 4 servings

16 ounce package of pasta of your choice

Olive oil

1/2 pound broccolini, chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

10 ounce clamshell of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup reserved pasta water

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Basil, chopped, for garnish

Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook the pasta per the instructions on the package until al dente. Save 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set pasta aside. Put a little bit of olive oil in a separate pan and saute the broccolini until tender. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly browned, then add tomatoes and let them cook for a while. Add white wine and let it reduce. Add reserved pasta water plus butter and let it reduce. Add pasta, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Garnish with basil and Parmesan, then set aside.


Chicken Picante

Yield: 4 servings

2 pounds chicken breast, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup white wine

1 lemon

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Season chicken breast with salt and pepper, then cook in a pan with a little bit of oil. Set aside. In the same pan, add a little more oil and saute garlic until fragrant and slightly browned. Add white wine and let it reduce. Add one lemon slice and juice from the rest of the lemon, as well as chicken stock and butter, then let it reduce. Add the chicken and red pepper flakes, then let the chicken simmer in the sauce for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper. Plate the chicken with the Pasta Picante, then enjoy.

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