The shifting sands of downtown Santa Ana dining… it’s probably safe to say that, as with the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expected this: chef Jason Montelibano is returning to Chapter One. He starts, restarts, this Friday, Sept. 9.
Montelibano began at the very beginning with Chapter One—when it opened, on St. Patrick’s Day 2011. He was a dishwasher, a position he held for two weeks. The rest, as he says, “is history.” And it is quite a trajectory—Montelibano had ascended to executive chef by the time he left in November 2014, to take the helm of then-newly-revamped Eats Kitchen & Bar in Hotel Irvine. His stint at Eats has been “such an amazing time,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot through my tenure—the hotel has been great to me.”
But the allure of returning to the edgy, indie Chapter One “environment of creativity and collaboration” proved irresistible. “I want to come back and be an impact on a restaurant, with no restraints,” Montelibano says. “Santa Ana is more of a home for me, and I always feel welcome there. Being a part of building up the city is what excites me—there’s a lot of talent here and I feel humbled to be back and be a part of it again.”