It’s about time Orange County talent was tapped for Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.” And it couldn’t have happened to a more formidable competitor: Amar Santana. Santana, chef-owner of Broadway in Laguna Beach and soon-to-open Vaca in Costa Mesa, will appear on the 13th season of the cooking-competition reality show, starting with a two-night premiere Dec. 2 and 3. Rather than a single city location this year, the show is taking the cheftestants on an epic California road trip, hitting San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Oakland, San Francisco, and some fabulous desert resort or another—the itinerary states only the nonspecific “greater Palm Springs area.”
Jenn Levy, Bravo Media senior vice president, says, “Amar is a talented, driven and inspiring chef. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, he knew at an early age exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He brings that same determination and focus to ‘Top Chef’.”
The high-stakes reality TV situation required any questions I had for chef Santana to go through Bravo TV reps, lest anything to do with the competition be given away before broadcast. His answers appear below. One more thing: GO AMAR!
What does your being cast in “Top Chef” say about Orange County’s restaurant scene?
A lot has changed since I first came to Orange County 8 years ago. Over the past few years I have seen a big increase in people traveling from L.A., San Diego, and other cities to dine in O.C. People who live in Orange County used to travel to L.A. for special occasions, but not anymore—now, they stay in Orange County. Being on “Top Chef” is just going to put Orange County on the map even more as a food destination.
Can O.C. food compete on a national stage?
We’re very serious about food in Orange County. My goal is to do whatever I can for people to think about it just like they think about the San Francisco or New York food scene.
What’s the biggest takeaway from your “Top Chef” experience?
It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had the chance to cook alongside amazing chefs from all over, and cook for amazing judges.