At a magazine as intensely focused on the local dining scene as Orange Coast, accomplished chefs exist in a realm somewhere between legend and superhero. We may behave like fussy Simon Cowells while we assess their innovations and critique their experiments, but we actually track them like a horde of ravenous groupies.
Of course, we know they’re human, and we appreciate that they step onto a thin tightrope every time they open their restaurant doors. Foodies are notoriously fickle, always looking for the next big thing, always wary of the bad meal or careless waiter who can besmirch a reputation that a chef worked years to build. But to us, Orange County’s best chefs are brave, daring, and entirely capable of magic.
Which explains why the creation of our Top 10 Restaurants list this year, as well as our Class of 2012 photograph, caused such a stir around our offices. We’ve been writing about some of them for years; others we met for the first time. We spend hours parsing their work, judging not just their food but everything about the way they conduct their business. During the past year, all of them dazzled us. And it was our privilege to have the hard-working men and women behind the county’s best restaurants actually roaming our halls, comparing notes, and talking shop with one another and senior editor Chris Christensen. It was like having Adele sing the national anthem before our staff softball game.
We appreciate them making time in their breakneck schedules to participate in what we hope is a photograph they’ll cherish. This year, they became members of an exclusive club of 10 culinary masters. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the club is as dynamic as the dining scene itself. No one can predict who’ll be in our Class of 2013 photo. Auditions already are under way, and for us, that’s the best part of all.
Martin J. Smith
Illustration by John Ueland