Leading Ladies: The Women Taking the Reins at OC's Culinary Frontline

For the past decade, the culinary field has been a male-dominated industry, but let’s face it — the future of chefs and restaurateurs is female. Today, women are not only running kitchens, they’re also running restaurants and other food-focused businesses. From meat-centric plates to sugary concoctions, women all over Orange County are cultivating mouth-watering dishes that will have you pulling out your best pair of stretchy pants. Here’s a list of six women that are kicking ass at manning the culinary fort here in Orange County.
 

CONNIE HO
OWNER, THE SCOTCHERY

Owner of The Scotchery Connie Ho is a natural at reinventing herself. With a trait that allows her to adapt to constant changes in the food industry, Connie knows what works best when running a successful business. Commencing with 8 Steers then renaming it Public Steak and now The Scotchery, Connie has redefined her steakhouse in to a place that welcomes casual attire without taking away its elegance. The shrimp lover and Southern California native delivers deceptively simple plates constructed with high-quality ingredients. Using USDA Prime aged beef and fresh fish, Connie has created a modernized fine dining experience paired with a vast selection of Scotch.

Interior of Connie Ho's Santa Ana restaurant, The Scotchery | photo courtesy of 100eats

Interior of Connie Ho's Santa Ana restaurant, The Scotchery | photo courtesy of 100eats

 

DEBBIE GOLDBERG
CO-FOUNDER & CMO, FRESH BROTHERS

After years of working in the television industry, in 2008 Debbie Goldberg yelled cut and switched over to the pizza scene. As the Co-Founder of Fresh Brothers, a pizzeria with 17 locations up and running, Debbie and her husband have created an establishment that prides itself in its freshness with its farm-to-fork approach. Debbie’s health-conscious ingredients created an inclusive menu that attracts all crowds — from meat lovers to vegetarians and vegans to gluten-free foodies. This restaurateur and CMO ensures that every slice is reinvested back into the community by sponsoring a combination of over 100 schools and nonprofits. Starting in Los Angeles tracing down to San Diego, Debbie has lived up to her mantra, “life’s too short to not eat pizza,” by making healthy pizza accessible to the majority of Southern California. 

Fresh Brothers' CMO Debbie grabs a slice of their newest pizza | photo courtesy of 100eats

Fresh Brothers' CMO Debbie grabs a slice of their newest pizza | photo courtesy of 100eats


ERIN WHITCOMB
FOUNDER, FRONT PORCH POPS & TREATERY

Seattle native Erin Whitcomb has successfully cultivated a frosty method to escape hades’ year-round hellfire here in Southern California. After months of recipe research and preparation, Erin opened the doors of Front Porch Pop and Treatery in 2011, and has been providing a tasteful relief to the California heat since. Front Porch Pops provides premium treats, including gourmet popsicles and ice cream with blends of refreshing strawberry basil and luscious vanilla chai. Erin holds her business to the highest standards — think real fruit, fresh dairy — delivering a pop that tastes as authentic as it looks. Front Porch Pops and Treatery is eyeing an aggressive expansion that will be soon placing its awesome products in a fridge near you.
 

Front Porch Pops owner Erin enjoys one of her handmade frozen treats | photo courtesy of OC Weekly

Front Porch Pops owner Erin enjoys one of her handmade frozen treats | photo courtesy of OC Weekly


NIKI STARR WEYLER
EXECUTIVE CHEF, MESA

Niki Starr graduated from San Diego Culinary Institute after Julia Child’s famous recipes inspired her to seek a career in food. As an Executive Chef at Mesa, a lively restaurant that specializes in high-end gourmet cuisine and exquisite cocktails, Niki understands that a chef is only as good as their latest dish. That’s why every 2nd Wednesday of each month, Niki uses fresh seasonal produce to prepare a memorable farm-to-table dining experience with her 3 course Prix-Fixe menu at Mesa. Not only that, but her style remains inexorably innovative with a custom menu she offers for guests celebrating special occasions. Talk about a bad ass woman.   

Chef Niki Starr garnishes one of her signature plates at Mesa | photo courtesy of 100eats

Chef Niki Starr garnishes one of her signature plates at Mesa | photo courtesy of 100eats


MI HO
CO-OWNER, THE SANDWICH SOCIETY

After picking up a fan base with the traveling food stand Hotato Potato, Mi Ho decided to create a more rooted fixture which led to the opening of Sandwich Society. With the help of her brother, Ethan Ho, Mi has built an establishment for those who are seeking an escape from the everyday blandness of the typical ‘bun-meat-bun’ sandwich. Her culturally-inspired sandwiches bring together a variety of ingredients to provide Cuban-influenced pork deliciousness, Vietnamese classics, and messy BBQ monstrosities. Mi has packed Sandwich Society with a plethora of ingredients that can be paired with their unique take on hot or cold, breaded or lettuce-wrapped creations. Mi is always incorporating new and bold flavors to bring to your buns because after all, “life is too short to eat ordinary sandwiches.”

Co-Owner Mi Ho shows off one of Sandwich Society's popular items | photo courtesy of 100eats

Co-Owner Mi Ho shows off one of Sandwich Society's popular items | photo courtesy of 100eats


DELILAH SNELL
CO-OWNER, ALTA BAJA MARKET

Do-it-yourself enthusiast, environmentally conscious and self-made entrepreneur,  Delilah Snell, has literally done everything herself. As her most recent endeavor, Delilah — along with Natasha Monnerereau — crafted a unique Mexican and American Southwest inspired deli, grocery store and educational space, Alta Baja. Her latest brain child is the culmination of Delilah’s travels through the United States’ Southwest territories and Mexico that offers an array of otherwise hard to find Mexican products. The combination of food and culture is evident from selling chiles straight from Hatch, to a menu dedicated to a line of Micheladas that are guaranteed to bring you back to life. Today the woman of all crafts has her hands in everything, staying true to the nature of doing-it-yourself, with cooking classes, pairing workshops, lectures, SanTana walking tours and more.
 

Delilah Snell (left) showcasing a display of local Mexican products | photo courtesy of Paste Magazine

Delilah Snell (left) showcasing a display of local Mexican products | photo courtesy of Paste Magazine


TIFFANY SEPETJIAN
CO-OWNER, PANDOR ARTISAN BOULANGERIE

Born-and-bred Los Angeles native and owner of Pandor Artisan Boulangerie & Café, Tiffany Sepetjian is the epitome of a Jack of all trades. A bread connoisseur by night and devoted wife and mother of three by day, Tiffany has hands for it all. After a few visits to France, trial and error, and finding the perfect team — voilà, a French inspired café was brought to the U.S. From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Tiffany brings fermented ingredients to life with her freshly baked French bread. It was her background in advertising that taught her how to lead a team and, with the help of master French bakers and pastry chefs, she’s mastered the art of savory dishes and sweet, pillow-esque pastries. Today Tiffany and her husband Raffi manage three Pandor locations.

Tiffany presents Pandor's Watermelon Bread | photo courtesy of 100eats

Tiffany presents Pandor's Watermelon Bread | photo courtesy of 100eats

 

CRYSTAL NGUYEN & ANH PHAMTRAN
CO-OWNERS, CUBED POKE

With the emergence of poke popping up all over Orange County, it was only a matter of time before someone raised the standards. Culinary duo Chrystal Nguyen and Anh Phamtran did just that with their tropical, fresh ingredients in the form of traditional Hawaiian comfort food at Cubed. The two have packed their menu with over 40 signature toppings, a wide variety of fish and unique sauces that are all individually customized in a bowl by their favorite chef — you. The uncanny selection of ingredients offered to Build Your Own Poke (BYOP) will touch your taste buds in a way you never knew existed.

Co-Owner Crystal digs into Cubed's popular PCH Bowl | photo courtesy of 100eats

Co-Owner Crystal digs into Cubed's popular PCH Bowl | photo courtesy of 100eats

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