Dubbed by Bon Appetit Magazine, “The reigning queen of San Diego chefs,” and recently nominated for a coveted 2009 James Beard Foundation Award for her second cookbook, Chef Deborah Schneider brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as Executive Chef and Partner of Orange Country’s Mexican cuisine hotspot, SOL Cocina. Schneider draws upon her rich culinary background and more than 25 years of professional cooking experience to bring the wonderful tastes and relaxing beach vibe of the Baja Peninsula to Southern California. Schneider’s passion for Baja was stoked by countless surf trips down the Peninsula. There, at small street stands and on pristine beaches, she discovered the flavorful, healthy cuisine, rich with fresh seafood and inventive preparations, that is at the heart of the concept of SOL Cocina.
Now to turn the spotlight on Octavio Flores, Head Chef at SOL Cocina Newport Beach
Question: How long have you been a chef?
Answer: I've been in the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old and really worked to hone my cooking skills for a number of years before taking on the responsibility of Chef at any restaurant. I've been a Chef in restaurants for 7 years now, and been with SOL Cocina since it opened in the summer of 2009.
Question: How long have you been at this restaurant?
Answer: I've been at SOL Cocina since the very beginning. I met Chef Deb in January 2009, and we opened the restaurant six months later! I consider SOL my home away from home.
Question: Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
Answer: Two of my uncles are Chefs, and I found myself following in their footsteps as I took the lead at our family barbeques growing up. As a teenager, one of my uncles gave me a job as a potwasher, which quickly led to dishwashing. Very soon after I got my feet wet in the restaurant, I was given an opportunity to try my hand at breakfast! I was given two shifts a week and when I showed I could do the job, they increased my shifts and I have worked my way up since. Even though I can utilize classic French techniques, my heart lies in Mexican cuisine, so I'm glad to have found my home at SOL Cocina.
Question: What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Answer: What I love about being a Chef is that each day is different and that keeps things interesting! What I do is directly related to customer satisfaction and I really love seeing smiles on faces as they are dining.
Question: When you’re not in the kitchen what are you doing?
Answer: When I'm not in the kitchen I'm spending time with my family. My wife and children love to go to the movies and spend time at theme parks.
Question: What is your most popular dish?
Answer: I love our wood-grilled kobe skirt steak. It's a wagyu-style skirt steak that we wood-grill and serve with cilantro sauce, tomatillo salsa, grilled cebollitas and avocado. I recommend adding grilled agave-chile shrimp to it!
Question: Your last meal on Earth would be??
Answer: Surf 'n Turf! Filet mignon and lobster, please! I'm a meat-lover to the bone -- a sucker for a good steak -- and add Lobster... I'm all set.
Question: What's your favorite item on the Restaurant Week Menu?
Answer: Garlic & Pepper Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak, with Salsa Borracha and Fried Plantains. Guests can select that item, along with a starter and dessert for $30 during the week. It's an unbelievable deal!
Check out Chef Joe cooking at SOL Cocina Restaurant