Kids Cook with OC’s Best

by • February 3, 2014 • 2014, Community, Cooking & Dining Out, February 2014, People & Profiles

Orange County is home to some of the most exciting and progressive cuisine in the country, and a lot of it is inspired by kids. We caught up with some of Orange County’s finest to see who they cook for… and with.



Executive Chef/Vice President Food and Beverage, Lazy Dog Café – Brea, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Orange

Chef Gabriel Caliendo with his children (and fellow chefs) Kaden and Makayla

Chef Gabriel Caliendo with his children (and fellow chefs) Kaden and Makayla

Gabriel Caliendo helped found the concept of Lazy Dog Café in 2003. Since then, his menu has been an instrumental factor in Lazy Dog’s recession-defying success, and his own children serve as inspiration for the family-pleasing cuisine for which the OC-grown franchise has come to be known. Chef Gabriel’s parents, who are immigrants from Naples, Italy, are in the deli business and taught him how to cook from the time he was a child. It’s a heritage Chef Gabriel has handed down to his own son Kaden (12) and daughter Makayla (10), who can often be found in the kitchen with Dad.

“I cook anything and everything with my kids,” says Chef Gabriel. “We boil water for pasta or make crown racks of rabbit.  We make toasted pumpkin seeds every Halloween and we butcher and cook fresh seafood all year long from our catches off the coast of southern California. We grow lettuce and make salads and dressings from scratch, and together we scramble eggs from our backyard chickens every morning.”

“Start with what your kids are interested in,” Chef Gabriel suggests for those who want to get cooking. “If they eat pasta, make pasta. If they eat baby carrots, peel your own and cut them into sticks. If the kids are happy, the parents are happy. When my kids were younger we used a chef’s size plastic knife that was much safer and difficult to cut themselves with; now that they are older and we are using real knives I have them wear a safety glove made from nylon… it really reduces the chances of

Chef Lindsay's son Diego already rules the kitchen.

Chef Lindsay’s son Diego already rules the kitchen.

getting cut.”

Find out more about Chef Gabriel and Lazy Dog Café at



Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Nirvana Grille – Laguna Beach

Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales, Executive Chef and Co-Owner at the critically acclaimed Nirvana Grille of Laguna Beach, grew up in a household where words like “gluten-free” and “organic” were common before they were common. Healthy eating was a

value held by her parents, which they imparted to her so effectively that “healthy” is as much a pillar of Chef Lindsay’s menu as are “delicious” and “refined.” Today, Chef Lindsay passes on those values to her son Diego, five years old and rocking a steak knife.

“Diego and I love to make gluten-free swordfish stix together,” says Chef Lindsay, “but at

Diego enjoys the swordfish sticks he just make with his mom.

Diego enjoys the swordfish sticks he just make with his mom.

Nirvana Grille we also love serving our young guests all kinds of other healthy options that are fun to eat.” As for Diego, he’s just happy he makes “not bad flavored stuff” with

mom and that his friends can come have dinner at the restaurant where he can show them the kitchen and the “back river” (watershed ravine). Diego’s favorite task? Garnishing (i.e. making the meals look “not bad flavored”).

“Definitely don’t expect the kitchen to be clean!” advises Chef Lindsay for cooking with kids. “Try to use good food that can be hidden that they would not otherwise be willing to try – like cauliflowers in mashed potatoes, gluten-free bread crumbs, or zucchini and carrots in a Bolognese sauce. To keep your kids engaged while they help you, the best thing you can do is remember to keep it fun.”

Find out more about Chef Lindsay and Nirvana Grill at



Executive Chef, Savannah Chop House – Laguna Niguel

Chef Chris Tzorin’s story has been told countless times for its near legendary drama: a rebellious boy is forced to pay for his

Like father...

Like father…

bad behavior by doing dishes at the restaurant where his father works, where he catches the cooking fever and grows to become a celebrated head chef, serving at sleek dining destinations across Orange County. When Chef Chris found himself suddenly unemployed upon an unexpected restaurant closure, he was looking for his next steps, with a family to support, when he entered a couple of cooking competitions, both of which he won and both of which happened to be judged by famous Chef Pascal Olhats. Upon learning that Chef Chris was searching

... like son.

… like son.

for a position, Chef Pascal scooped him up as Executive Chef for Savannah Chop House, where he has totally reinvented the menu for the better.

The kids Chef Chris cooks with are mostly family – nieces and nephews Alyssa, David and Anthony and his own son, Armani. “For me, some of my most memorable moments as a Chef-Dad were watching my boy learn how to eat spaghetti or holding his spoon for the first time. I remember when I was in elementary school and my father Chef Luis Tzorin (at the time working at 21 Oceanfront Newport Beach) used to take me to the restaurant to show me how to peel potatoes and play with food in the kitchen. Those are the memories I enjoy passing along to other kids. Food is fun. It brings out the best in people, especially kids.”

Find out more about Chef Chris and Savannah Chop House at


Chef Peggy is eagerly apprenticed by her grandson Logan.

Chef Peggy is eagerly apprenticed by her grandson Logan.


Head Pastry Chef, Mead’s Green Door Café – Old Towne Orange 

Chef Peggy Jane Mead is the daughter of a baker who herself became a baker when she and her husband Gary decided, almost on a whim and on the dawn of their retirement, to open their own little coffee shop and reading room in Old Towne Orange. From that first small shop, to the full-scale restaurant in a converted church called PJ’s Abbey, to Mead’s Green Door Café now managed by her son Gary, Jr., Chef Peggy has been baking with her five children and innumerable grandchildren. On any given day at Green Door, there’s a Mead grandchild behind the counter, in the kitchen or at a table. Her 10-year-old grandson Logan has become a baking buff and can often be found in the kitchen with grandma, flour-smothered and bright-eyed.

Chef Peggy and Logan with their famous cinnamon roles at Mead's Green Door Cafe in Orange.

Chef Peggy and Logan with their famous cinnamon roles at Mead’s Green Door Cafe in Orange.

“My dad was always in the kitchen with me,” says Peggy. “He encouraged me to try anything. Of course the favorite thing for kids to learn, besides cinnamon rolls, is chocolate chip cookies. It gets them into the kitchen and motivates them to try other things. I think kids have a natural instinct for what they like to do. You can’t make them want to be in the kitchen, but if you’re there and you make it look like fun, they will want to be there also.”

Find out more about Chef Peggy and Mead’s Green Door Cafe at


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