Some of the Greatest Chefs in the World are found in Orange County, California.
Chef Katy Smith
What is your first food memory?
I was on vacation with my family in high school and has a chilled cucumber soup. The idea of a cold soup blew my mind. It was refreshing and delicate. It was the first time I ever got excited to cook and I spent a few years trying to recreate the soup.
Did you grow up in a cooking family?
I absolutely did. My mom cooked basically every night other than Friday nights. Her father was an amazing Chef and had taught my mother, however I never had the patience to sit through a cooking lesson from my mom.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
Chef Rick Bayless is my mentor and really gave me this love of Mexican Food. The only way that we could be successful doing this (despite some cultural appropriation) is to show a deep respect for the ingredients and traditions of Mexican cuisine.
Why did you become a chef?
I first started cooking because I loved to eat and couldn’t afford to go out and eat the way I wanted to. But once I started cooking I began cooking for friends, and that feeling of creating something that will make people happy is the ultimate experience.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
At preschool graduation I stated that I was going to be “A Mommy, a model, and a movie star.” That’s real, we have it on tape.
If I weren’t a chef, I’d be:
A teacher. Once I realized the model and movie star thing wasn’t going to pan out I decided that I wanted to teach high school English.
Who are your favorite chefs?
Renee Erickson, Fred Morin, David Macmillan, Nancy Silverton, Jeni Britton Bauer, Barbara Lynch.
Which seasonings don’t you respect?
Any spice mix other than Old Bay!
Restaurant: Puesto | Restaurant Website
Which spices are underrated?
Old Bay! Go Ravens!
Are there any culinary trends you like right now?
Live fire cooking and vegetable focused menus!
What do you think is the next worthwhile food/dining trend? Seeds!
What food is your guilty pleasure? Cheez its!
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
I’ll eat anything, but I always feel bad eating Octopus. They are just so damn smart.
Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home? Eggs and Hashbrowns.
Your worst kitchen nightmare?
My first job as a prep cook I was rendering duck fat and started a fire. I still have nightmares about that.
Best cooking tip for a novice?
Get a great knife!
What’s your last meal on earth?
Wine, oysters, and eggs? Maybe sounds weird together, but those are my favorite foods.
Give us one reason why Orange County’s food scene rocks.
Orange County has a small but super supportive group of Chefs.
What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
Folk music maybe, or really anything I can sing along to.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
My grandfather. He loved cooking as well. He passed when I was young, and I would have loved to cook with him.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a customer?
I was cooking a 5-course wine dinner and a guest showed up and said, “I’m not really eating food right now. Can I just have fruit?”
What’s the best part about being a chef?
I think that getting to constantly create is an incredible gift but mostly, feeding people and making them happy is the best job in the world.
What’s the most challenging part of being a chef?
Physically, I’d say that it was long hours on your feet. However, on a bigger scale, there are a lot of challenges in this industry. The profit margins are small, and the amount of work that people do is massive. The desire to pay people what the deserve and the realities based on profit margin are a constant issue.
Just for fun, what is your favorite color? Turquoise!