The Playground is first and foremost, my dream. It is my love and passion. It’s something that I am so lucky to have at this age, at this point in my career. I know this, and I do not take it for granted. Make no mistake, my goal is for Playground to be the best restaurant it possibly can be. I have gathered a group of insanely talented young chefs, whom I expect to be the future of food in Orange County or wherever they choose to go. The menu at Playground is by no means all my influence. Each person on staff comes with an incredibly different expertise and is required to contribute to our recipes. Here is a little more about each of them:
Like many young, ambitious chefs I ran off to culinary school. After graduating from the Cordon Bleu I started my career in a major culinary epicenter. The neon lights of Las Vegas caught my attention and soon I found myself behind a stove on the strip. I ultimately decided that my heart is set on the food and styles of Southern California: Fresh, seasonal, flavorful and influenced by the culinary traditions of the myriad cultures that make up this unique place. I left the desert for Orange County and cooked in Orange for a year before opening the Vizzi truck in Los Angeles, a gourmet food truck featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients. I moved from the food truck life to one of Southern California’s premier California modern restaurants, George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. My time at George’s reinforced my commitment to honoring the seasonal bounty of California and has caused me to think locally when picking out food for the day, and to reflecting on the seasons. The Playground’s commitment to these principles is part of what made me want to join Jason’s team.
My passion for food and the feast began at a very early age. The buffet tables at our large Filipino family gatherings were what I looked forward to, and recall the most. Since those early days, my path has taken me to so many amazing places including The Art Institute where I attended culinary school and my life as a cook began. My love for pastry started at Osteria Mozza while working under James Beard nominee Pastry Chef Dahlia Narvaez and I haven’t looked back since. In my career I’ve been very fortunate to have studied under and worked for some of the most notable and inspirational chefs and pastry chefs in LA and Orange County. I am thrilled, grateful and humbled to be working alongside Chef Jason, the exceptional culinary team at Playground (or my “brother bears” as I like to call them) and the Quinn family. In my free time you’ll find me hanging out with my man-friend Sean and our boxer Bull, singing classic rock and Motown tunes or shopping for headbands. Thank you to everyone who dines with us for allowing me to express myself and do what I love for a living! I can’t wait to feed all of you!!!
After falling in love with craft beer on my travels across the country, I spent two years working for one of the best new breweries to open in years, The Bruery, in Placentia, CA. I spent my time at The Bruery learning about how inventive and expressive beer can be. I advanced to become the Staff Manager at The Bruery Provisions, a bottle and cheese shop in Old Town Orange, where I further delved into the beer culture, augmenting my knowledge of beer with a new found love for food. I worked on beer and cheese pairings, beer and dessert pairings, and even crafted specialty sandwiches to pair with The Bruery’s beer. When Jason shared his vision for a new restaurant back in 2011, I became employee no. 1 at The Playground and set to work building one of the premiere beer bars in Orange County. I keep our 15 taps rotating with California craft brews and a bottle list 60+ bottles deep with some of my favorite craft beers from around the world covering a broad range of styles. I am a certified cicerone and level-one sommelier.
Rhett is a level-two sommelier who is helping us build a strong wine program. He is also the host of 2.0, our new 17-seat restaurant culinary theater. We’ll get a more complete bio up soon.