Chef Victor Avila


By Taylor Roll
May/June 2009

Victor AvilaSpaghettini’s Executive Chef Victor Avila has worked his way up from his humble beginnings in the dish pit over the course of 19 years. The single father of four spends his time in the kitchen creating and preparing dishes while supervising a crew of 14. When introduced into the restaurant industry by his brother, Victor knew it was a perfect fit as soon as he stepped through the doors.

The fond memories of learning how to cook from his brothers at Spaghettini, continues to motivate this self-taught chef to learn and gain as much knowledge and responsibility in the kitchen as possible. Co-owner Jon Tilley (who has also worked alongside Avila since the early days of Spaghettini) remembers working early mornings with Victor teaching him about the importance of inventory and the ordering and receiving process. When asked about Victor, Jon said, “his best quality is that he never turns down a challenge. He likes rising out of his comfort zone whether it be to learn something new or to go out of his way to please our guests.”

At one time, the owners of Spaghettini considered sending Victor to Culinary School so he could further his formal education, but after speaking with academic counselors, they decided that Chef’s self-motivation and willingness to learn on his own were the key characteristic that set him apart from other candidates.

Victor has worked hard to create a very close-knit “family feel” in his kitchen at Spaghettini. He wants all of his co-workers to feel comfortable at work and to be eager to walk in everyday. A tradition that Spaghettini holds for their staff is a family meal. Victor feels that it’s important not to waste any food, especially in these tough economic times, so he turns leftovers into a meal that kicks off the night and brings the staff together to enjoy good food and company and the remainder is offered for team “take-out.”

Chef Avila annually participates in Orange County’s Probation Office programs working with troubled teens.He uses his own life experiences to help get teens back on track by inspiring them through his cooking. He brings kids into the kitchen to demonstrate how hard work and dedication are necessary not only in the kitchen, but in life. Victor is a great role model because he is someone who has overcome diversity and teenage challenges and is a perfect example of hard work and integrity.

Traveling is becoming a hobby for Victor. Over the past couple of years he has traveled to San Francisco and New York with friends and co-workers from to catch a glimpse of what other chefs are experimenting with around the nation. He draws inspiration from mentor chefs like Michael Anthony and Thomas Keller who have helped him understand the importance of hard work and integrity while creating tantalizing unique cuisine in the kitchen.
Victor’s love and passion in the kitchen has been handed down to his son Daniel, who has plans to attend the culinary institute in Pasadena this fall. Victor has taught his son to “work hard and to take his position in the kitchen seriously, focusing on the jobs and tasks at hand.”Even though Daniel is starting out at the dish station and helping out with prep, he draws inspiration and direction from his father knowing that he started in the same position. Though still in high school, he spends most of his off days soaking in as much as he can about the culinary industry. Who knows maybe one day Chef Victor will be handing the reigns over to his son?

Executive Chef Victor Avila
What best describes your culinary style: Exceeds their expectations
Average work hours a week: 55
First food related memory: Learning how to cook from my brothers.
First Hospitality Job: dishwasher age 16
Favorite kitchen appliance: Pasta maker
Favorite type of cookware: All-clad
Favorite Condiment/Spice: sage & lavender
Biggest myth about the kitchen: It easily leads to your own restaurant.
Signature of favorite dish to make: Pommerey Shrimp
Favorite OC Restaurant: Napa Rose
Years of culinary education: 0

Spaghettini Grill & Jazz Club
3005 Old Ranch Parkway
Seal Beach, California 90740

Sun-Mon 5:30pm-9:30pm
Tues-Sat 5:30pm-10pm
Sunday Brunch: 10am-2:00pm

Average cover including beverage:
Lunch: $30 Dinner: $45

Butternut Squash Risotto with Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops

1 Butternut squash – small
4 T Butter
2 Cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 Shallot -finely chopped
1 1/2 CItalian Arborio rice
1 C White wine
3 C Chicken stock
3 Diver scallops wrapped in Prosciutto
1 T Parmesan cheese – grated

To prepare the butternut squash slice it in half, remove seeds and place both halves on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees in the oven for 20-25 minutes until inside of the squash is soft. Spoon out the flesh into a bowl.
Heat 3 T butter in a medium saucepan.Saute garlic and shallots for 1-2 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and saute 1-2 minutes. Add white wine and 1 C chicken stock, bring to a boil and then simmer stirring frequently. As liquid is absorbed slowly add remaining chicken stock and continue stirring until rice is soft and mixture thickens. Once most of the liquid is absorbed add 6 T of butternut squash, stirring in to mix well.
Heat 2 T olive oil in a separate saute pan until hot, add the Prosciutto wrapped scallops. Sear until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side. Place them on top of the risotto, and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top.