The objective of the OC Restaurant Association, Inc. is to illuminate the Orange County restaurant industry. Pam Waitt is best known for launching “Orange County Restaurant Week” in 2008 which is the region’s most celebrated dining event and brings the county together through food. She is known for her visionary spirit and leadership abilities along with a commitment of bringing people together through food. Pam is the executive producer and creator of the Golden Foodie Awards. The association is also the company behind the Pacific Wine and Food Festival. Pam believes that food has power and connects us all. She enjoys creating innovative, fun events that appeal to all palates.
According to Cathy Thomas, part of the fun of cooking and entertaining is creating delectable dishes without spending hours in the kitchen. That’s been the focal point of her cooking classes and award-winning newspaper features for over two decades. Her quick-to-prepare recipes showcase flavorful ingredients, relying on fresh fruits and vegetables to make each dish colorful and delicious. Cathy is the food columnist at the Orange County Register. Her weekly columns and food features are nationally distributed on the McClatchy Tribune News Wire and frequently appear in newspaper food sections across the country. She won the first place award as the best food columnist in the nation from the Association of Food Journalists. She pioneered the use of culinary-based videos on the Web, taping in her home kitchen with legendary chefs such as Thomas Keller, Stephen Raichlen and Marcus Samuelsson. Cathy has released two books, “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce”. Her third book will launch in 2012.
Simon Majumdar is an author, food & travel writer and broadcaster. He has traveled to over seventy countries and every state in America following his quest to “Go Everywhere, Eat Everything”. He has written two bestselling books cataloging his adventures, “Eat My Globe” (Simon & Schuster 2009) and “Eating For Britain” (Hachette 2010) and is currently working on his third book, “Fed, White & Blue” which will be published by Hudson St. Press in 2015. He has also contributed features to many well known newspapers, magazines and websites, including Ask Men, The London Times, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Independent and The Spectator. As well as his writing, Simon has become well known for his many appearances on The Food Network on shows such as The Next Iron chef, Iron Chef America, Extreme Chef, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Back in Time For Thanksgiving and, the current hit show, Cutthroat Kitchen. He is already planning his next great adventure.
Born into a large family of seven kids and raised by loving parents in Southern California, Neil Saavedra started his career in radio in 1990. Armed with curiosity and a desire to talk about things that truly interested him and hopefully others, Neil embarked on a path to his first radio show on KDAR 98.3 FM in Ventura. Throughout the early 90’s, Neil continued to explore talk radio on other stations in the southland like KKLA 99.5 FM and KBRT 740 AM. Neil came to “America’s most listened to” news talk radio station, KFI AM 640, in March 1994 as an intern and has never looked back. Currently Neil “produces” the unique and wildly popular “Jesus Christ show” heard every Sunday morning from 6 - 9 on KFI (the show is also nationally syndicated in over 50 cities). From 2004-2008 Neil was the co-host of the television show, “Breakfast Lunch and Dinner” where his two loves of food and talking collided in a talk show where celebrities and everyday folks discussed current affairs over a meal.Neil now hosts The Fork Report on KFI, a show that talks about everything food, every single Saturday from 2-4PM.As an avid home cook and a self admitted “food geek”, Neil is always trying new restaurants and eateries and purchasing new cooking gadgets, but he is also quick to point out, he’s not a food expert…he’s a food enthusiast! Neil’s philosophy is; food snobs should relax and foodphobes should go on a culinary adventure and explore new flavors and textures. Neil is a native Angeleno and thinks Southern California has some of the best culinary experiences in the country.
Gina Mims is the owner of Inspiro Brands, Inc. She specializes in Branding and Graphic Design for the Restaurant & Lifestyle Industries. She has developed restaurant brands throughout Orange County including JT Schmid’s, French 75, Bluewater Grill, The Winery Restaurant and Bruxie Waffles. In addition to all design for OCRA events such as OC Restaurant Weeks, Kids Week, Happy Hour Week and Golden Foodie Awards.
Daniel Mattos is currently Chef Director of the Culinary Arts & Hospitality Conservatory, educating 9th-12th grade students and inspiring the next generation of leaders of the hospitality industry.
First generation born in America, Chef Mattos finds his roots in Portugal. Growing up in a traditional Portuguese family, home-cooked meals incorporating seasonal garden vegetables and fruits from the backyard were tradition. Natural quality and freshness was an everyday staple. At the age of 15, Chef Mattos embarked on a career in the hospitality industry, working a myriad of positions in the restaurant business. Through this experience, he developed a passion for the culinary arts, which ultimately led him to Johnson & Wales University where he completed an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a Business degree in Food Service Entrepreneurship. Chef Daniel impressive resume includes Bristol Hotels and Resorts, the acclaimed Stanhope Hotel in New York City and four-star Bisque Restaurant. As the Executive Chef, Bisque Restaurant climbed one and half stars to a four-star restaurant. Eager to build his skill-set and expand his career, Chef Mattos decided to start a new chapter, teaching the culinary arts. At the highly praised Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, Chef Mattos taught health-supportive vegetarian cooking integrating classical cooking techniques. In 2004, Chef Daniel relocated to Southern California and began teaching culinary arts and eventually became Chef Director at the Art Institute of Orange County. He helped grow the program from 300 students to 800. In 2011, the nationally recognized Orange County School of the Arts recruited Chef Mattos to design the curriculum and facilities for their new culinary program. http://www.ocsarts.net/culinaryarts
Sarah Bennett is a journalist, editor, designer, independent publisher and educator living in Long Beach, Calif. She is currently an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Santa Ana College and has been a freelance writer and editor for over a decade, most recently covering food and drink in Orange County for the L.A. Times. She is the former food editor at the L.A. Weekly, a weekly columnist for TimesOC, a monthly columnist for Beer Paper L.A. and a frequent contributor to the OC Weekly, Thrillist, Beer Advocate Magazine and more.
A food service liaison for Melissa’s Produce, Stacy travels the county talking with the best chefs about how to incorporate Melissa’s extensive line of exotic and fresh produce into their culinary dishes. She can routinely be found discussing produce in the kitchens of some of the top chef-driven restaurants in the OC, as well as at many of the food events and cooking demonstrations that comprise the county landscape. Stacy and Melissa’s Produce have poured countless hours into supporting the Orange County food scene and community, including organizations Share Our Selves and March of Dimes. Stacy’s passion for sharing images of crave-worthy food often extends to capturing photos of Melissa’s Produce items at the top sport and entertainment venues in the region. A Huntington Beach native, Stacy graduated from USC with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and keeps close ties with her Trojan network.
As the Executive Vice President of Sauté Magazine––the region's premier periodical for food enthusiasts––Borgatta is expected to keep her finger on the pulse of everything hip and happening in the food world and dining industry in Orange County and beyond. With its signature collection of recipes, interviews with notable chefs, stories on emerging food and dining trends, and regular pieces penned by the celebrated Food Network star Simon Majumdar, Sauté has established itself as the go-to magazine for foodies.
Before joining the team at Sauté, Borgatta held editor roles at Modern Luxury, OC Metro and OC Menus magazines, and Orange Coast magazine. She's worked at periodicals and newspapers across L.A. and the Inland Empire, holding staff writer and editor positions at the Daily Pilot, the Los Angeles Times and the San Bernardino County Sun. And she’s taught journalism at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Orange Coast College and Chapman University.
The Golden Foodie Guild is made up of culinary industry leaders. The Guild plays as an advisory role offering feedback, guidance and advocacy.
Lee Healy was born in New York City to a Lebanese mother and Irish father. Her love of hospitality was formed in childhood from her family’s culinary traditions—from elaborate mezze to classic corned beef and cabbage. Her father’s career in aerospace led to a move to Los Angeles and as a teen subscriber to Gourmet Magazine, she would prepare elaborate dinners for her family. While earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCLA in European History, Healy worked many jobs in the restaurant industry, segueing to corporate management positions in training, supervising restaurant openings and marketing/PR.
Healy formed her eponymous boutique firm in 1998. Current clients include Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, The Catch, and AnQi by House of An. For 14 years she has been the restaurant consultant for renowned luxury shopping center South Coast Plaza. Besides her association with Asian fusion pioneers Roy Yamaguchi and Helene An, Healy has worked with leading chefs associated with South Coast Plaza such as Charlie Palmer, Michael Chiarello, David Myers, Nancy Silverton, Marcus Samuelsson and Cat Cora, as well as highly respected OC chef-restaurateurs Amar Santana and Florent Marneau. Healy was named “Best P.R. Agency” in OC WEEKLY’s “Best of O•Sea 2016!” Her favorite pastime is going on girls’ getaways with her daughter Corey.
WAHOO'S FISH TACO™Wing Lam, Co-Founder/Partner As the eldest of the three founding brothers, Wing co-founded Wahoo’s Fish Taco in 1988 and has more than 37 years of experience in the restaurant industry. Wing actively supports many national and local community-based events and serves as a board member of various non-profit organizations including Share Our Strength, Juvenile Diabetic Research Foundation and Surfrider Foundation. Wing makes repeat appearances as the guest speaker/panel at events such as the IEG Conferences and has been featured by some of the nation’s top campuses like Yale, UCLA, and the USC MBA Program. He has also received much recognition from prestigious corporations and publications such as Ernst & Young’s 2002 Entrepreneur of the Year nomination, Orange County Business Journal and OC Metro Magazine. Wing holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and a minor in Spanish from San Diego State University. He is also a part-time Adjunct Professor for Concordia and Chapman Universities' MBA programs. www.wahoos.com
Chris Christensen is a career journalist who fled the harsh winters of Ohio for the West Coast and has spent much of the last 25 years writing about food – and winning awards for it. As Orange Coast Magazine’s Senior Editor/Style, she oversees dining, fashion, and home-design, a dream job for someone wild about beach cottages and cashmere sweaters, and who hasn't met a margarita she didn’t like. Food editor and columnist for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and The Oregonian in Portland, she was a James Beard Award finalist, and has won two Best Column and Best Section awards from the Association of Food Journalists, for both the Portland and Long Beach papers. Chris, who has written for the Los Angeles Times and Vegetarian Times, learned to cook and develop recipes at an early age, in the kitchens of her Italian mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
Producer and co-host of the “SoCal Restaurant Show” with Chef Jet Tila heard on Saturday mornings on AM 830 KLAA. The live, fast-paced, 90-minute editorial program showcases food, restaurants, beverages, and travel.Harris has produced successful and well-reviewed food, restaurant, libation, and travel shows on the major heritage AM radio stations in greater Los Angeles since 1998, including KFI-AM 640 (the most listened –to station in the West,) TalkRadio 790 KABC and KFWB NewsTalk 980.For 17 years, through 2008, he wrote the "Dateline" Los Angeles column covering area restaurant happenings in Los Angeles and Orange counties for "Beard Bites" now published biweekly as an e-newsletter by the prestigious James Beard Foundation (the producers of the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the food world.)In 1983 and 1984 Andrew Harris, as an employee of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, organized (and created the quality control monitoring system for) the food service for the public at all of the ticketed 1984 Olympic event sites in three states.
Jennifer Morris is the founder of Ajenda Public Relations in Southern California. She learned to send a text message while still in diapers and her first words were filet mignon. Her first job was at an old fashioned A&W (yes, roller skates and all), she put her way through college working at some of the best restaurants in Orange County, and is a self-proclaimed foodie. She enjoys working with a variety of restaurants and food brands including The Halal Guys, Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen, Ways & Means Oyster House, Rooftop Lounge, Old Vine Cafe and OC Chef's Table just to name a few. In between sending pitches and posting mouth-watering photos to Instagram she enjoys baking and playing with her three dogs.
For more than 20 years, Mr. Cho has been instrumental in building Orange County’s hospitality industry. His clients include some of the county’s most well known chefs, restaurants, bars, hotel resorts, golf courses, stadiums, breweries and wineries as well as wholesalers and distributors of food and beverage products. He advises business owners, investors and franchisees seeking to expand their businesses and brands through scouting new locations and acquiring other operations. Additionally, Mr. Cho counsels business owners, including chef-driven restaurants, on general business operations including menu development, business structures, acquisitions, leasing, due diligence, land use entitlement and conditional use permits related to the service of alcoholic beverages. Mr. Cho is widely known as the go-to attorney when it comes to securing an alcoholic beverage license due to his long-standing relationship and impeccable reputation with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Having handled more than 3,000 alcohol license transfers, he has experience representing investors with the purchase and sale of businesses with alcoholic beverage licenses as well as the background to provide advice on the acquisition, sale or valuation of alcoholic beverage licenses.
Judy Walker began her career in hospitality in the beautiful wine country at the Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. . From there Walker transferred to The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel where she was the Social Catering Manager and spent the next three years selling weddings to the most discriminating brides and their mothers. With a love for learning and assisting others, Walker transferred into Human Resources where she spent the next two years in Training and Development. Ready to tackle the next challenge, Walker accepted a position with the California Restaurant Association as the Executive Director of the Educational Foundation. Walker was responsible for leading a statewide industry education strategy, culinary scholarships, food safety, producing their annual fundraising gala, culinary competition and multiple regional golf tournaments. Walker has spent the last ten years which began as the Western Regional Director and then Director of Market Development for Share Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry Campaign. Engaging the culinary industry, corporations and individual donors around the fight to end childhood hunger.
Most recently Walker founded Golden Rule Charity. Golden Rule Charity is a nonprofit based in Southern California inspired by the diligent restaurant employees who may find themselves in need of an emergency crisis grant such as medical, food, shelter and transportation. Because we know even the little things can be overwhelming, Golden Rule Charity will also grant small joyful grants. A prom dress for that special young lady, Thanksgiving dinner for a family who would otherwise go without, a cub scout uniform so that every child has the opportunity to be included.
One of the most effective ways to introduce consumers to a beverage alcohol brand is to offer them a taste of both the spirit itself, and the lifestyle it represents. And the best way to do that, is at an event. As National Events Director at The Patrón Spirits Company, Pam Dzierzanowski leads the company’s three-person events team to create memorable and impactful and consumer experiences.Pam is also responsible for cultivating relationships with like-minded brands, and evaluating sponsorship opportunities that best align with Patrón’s luxury brand position and strategy. She and her team plan, develop and execute creative events and meetings across the country – everything from determining strategy, all the way to coordinating those small details that consumers see when they come in contact with Patrón’s portfolio of ultra-premium spirits, and event activation. Pam is driven by the passionate goal that every event, every meeting, and every gathering that involves Patrón brands must be absolutely perfect, every time.Before joining Patrón in 2007, Pam spent 13 years managing events for companies in the drinks industry, including roles at Seagram, Diageo, and Absolut.
Named as one of Orange County's most influential people to watch in 2016 by the Orange County Register, Mona Shah-Anderson, owner of Moxxe PR, stands out in the OC business world because in 2004, when her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she made the decision to leave her position as Media Relations Director at a successful OC-based PR firm to spend time with him. The decision was simple for her - family first. Over the next year, she started freelancing for multiple clients and, before she knew it, she had started her own boutique PR firm, which she ran from her father's bedside. After he passed away, she made the decision to build the PR firm and to carry on her father's legacy. He was a successful orthopedic surgeon, who possessed an MBA, and was always striving to continue growing. Her goal was to make Moxxe successful - not into the biggest agency in Orange County, but the BEST. Although she services a wide variety of clientele, she has found her niche as an OC restaurant publicist and has created a reputable name for her company, Moxxe PR.
Moxxe's Mona Shah-Anderson sits on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Restaurant Association and promotes OC's largest culinary event, Orange County Restaurant Week. Her PR experience comes a wide range of positions, from being the PR Director for the Miss Universe Organization and coordinating initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa with the Harvard Aids Institute, to working on the 84th/86th/87th Annual Academy Awards and the 72nd/73rd Annual Golden Globes, and coordinating publicity for high-profile individuals such as President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Laura W. Bush. She has also been a contributor for Orange Coast Magazine and the Newport Beach Independent, and is a member of the OC Press Club. She is an active member of the LA/OC chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier International, on the committee for the March of Dimes OC Signature Chefs Auction, and an advocate for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.
As co-executive producer of the Golden Foodie Awards, Tricia was an integral part of the successful launch since the inaugural event in September 2012. Prior to joining the OC Restaurant Association team in 2010, Tricia was director of marketing and PR for Orange County’s largest culinary school, The Art Institute of California – Orange County. During her tenure, she led the California Initiative Marketing Group; worked with more than 30 charity events; created and executed numerous award-winning food, fashion, music and art events, including the highly lauded Rock the Runway; and oversaw the development of innovative online initiatives. A veteran marketing and advertising professional, Tricia has also worked with national brands, including Del Taco and La Victoria Salsas, and DGWB Advertising.
Michael Jordan is Director of Global Key Accounts for Jackson Family Fine Wines. Previously Jordan served three years as vice president of food & beverage for Anaheim’s award winning restaurant and live music venue, THE RANCH Restaurant & Saloon (Zagat 28-29-28). Prior to that Jordan was president of The Beachcomber Restaurant Group. Before that he served as Global Manager of wine sales & standards and Wine Educatior for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts® Worldwide - and nine years as general manager of the world famous Napa Rose restaurant at Disneyland Resort® in Anaheim. In his career Jordan has been involved with the opening of seventeen restaurants including Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa and was general manager/sommelier of Pavilion at Four Seasons Hotel Newport Beach when it received AAA’s Five Diamond Award. Jordan grew up working in the kitchens and dining room of his father’s famous “Celebrity Hangout” Matteo’s Italian Resaurants in LA and Honolulu where his father served six US presidents and a solid celebrity clientele for the past fifty years. Jordan holds a Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as a Certified Wine Educator diploma from the Society of Wine Educators and is one of only 15 people in the world to hold both these diplomas.