By Chef Katie Averill
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Chef Chris Tzorin has been executive chef at Savannah Chop House in Laguna Niguel since May. He is an artistic, creative “wild child” turned great chef who is returning to his coastal, Orange County roots. Chris had a propensity for graffiti as a 13 year old. When his father, who was executive chef at 21 Oceanfront – Newport Beach followed by the Beach House chain, got wind of this, Chris found himself doing dishes lots of dishes. In a twist that could have gone either way, he caught the bug for cooking.
Chris worked his way through every station in the restaurant (with his dad overseeing him) and progressed to dinner service by high school. He became competitive about making his food well, and then strived to become better than other chefs. He decided to enroll at The Art Institute of Orange County where he attended culinary school every morning and cooked at the Beach House every afternoon until he earned his degree in 2005. At the young age of 20, he was asked to be the executive chef at the Dana Point Beach House.
By 2010, Chris was ready to experience something new and went into catering. With the complete freedom and excitement he seems to enjoy, he received very high profile catering jobs with prominent people and companies. At one point his cooking and catering crossed paths with the nightclub owners of 195, who then offered him the head chef position at the location on Anaheim Center Street Promenade. Chris loved the restaurant/night club environment. Because he resided in Anaheim and was trusted completely with back of the house operations, Chef Chris flourished and grew professionally within the community.
Chris felt compelled to give back to the community. With a father from Guatemala who had beat the odds and himself a success story, he had something to offer Anaheim. Chris felt a connection with the students of Anaheim High School, just a block away. He took some troubled students under his wing, taught them how to cook, and instilled them with values and skills that would help them see a brighter future. When 195 suddenly closed because of unforeseen lease problems, Chris was heartbroken.
Pascal Olhats, corporate chef of the restaurant group to which Savannah Chop House belongs, realized Chris’s potential after watching him win not one, but two cooking competitions. Pascal swept him up as executive chef for Savannah. Chef Chris is thrilled to be back in the beach area he grew up in. Now, paired with Sous Chef Manny Velasco, the two have become a great duo, feeding off of each other’s enthusiasm and knowledge to showcase each other’s strengths.
Chris’s enthusiasm and love of the industry creates a dynamic experience whether in a room full of kids or at a high-end catering gig. He now has creative freedom to make new dishes whenever he is inspired and has brought a “new, hip look” to Savannah’s fare. He has learned the importance of social media from his nightclub experience and knows the ins and outs of Facebook and press releasing events.
Chris has blended well into his new kitchen. The fact that he jumps in to cook and is no “pencil pusher” makes all the difference. Chef Chris is gearing up for his first Christmas season at Savannah. In a restaurant known for doing four banquets simultaneously during the holidays, he knows it will continue to be a wild ride.
Chef Chris Tzorin shares his recipes for Pistachio Crusted Halibut and Bruleed Scallops from the November/December 2012 issue of Great Taste Magazine.
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Savannah Chop House
32441 Golden Lantern
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Sun – Thurs 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri – Sat 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Bar & Lounge: Open nightly 4:30pm – closing
Average cover – $45
Executive Chef Chris Tzorin
DO YOU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT FOOD-RELATED MEMORY? When my father, Chef Luis Tzorin, won his Gold Award as Best Chef in California from Coastal Cuisine in 2001.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? Washing dishes at The Beach House in Laguna Beach.
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? The food and competition. It is an obsession of mine to always strive to be the best.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB? Washing dishes at The Beach House. My father was the executive chef there and he made me start at the bottom.
IF NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? I would probably be a tattoo artist. I love art drawing, painting, and especially graffiti.
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: A paring knife for carving and making unique shapes out of food.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: A hand blender to make foams, sauces, and dressings.
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: Le Creuset Cookware because it holds temperature and cooks food evenly.
FAVORITE CONDIMENT/SPICE: I call it my personal 5 spice garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, and shallots.
MOST RECOMMENDED KITCHEN TOOL AND SOURCE (ONLINE OR RETAIL SHOP) FOR HOME KITCHENS: Saute pan available at Chefs’ Toys.
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT WORKING IN THE KITCHEN: People think you can become a chef overnight. It’s not like that, it takes hard work and dedication.
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: Pistachio encrusted halibut
OTHER CUISINES YOU’VE WORKED WITH: Mexican, Italian, French, Asian, and my favorite California Coastal.
HOBBIES: Cars, social media, nightlife.
FAMILY INFO: Everything I do is for my son.
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: The Catch.
FAVORITE DISH TO EAT: Filet mignon.
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Big Mac and fries.
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Melissa’s Micro Greens.
WHAT THREE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Edgy, swag, new.
WHAT THREE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE? Professional, honest, passionate.
CHARITY AFFILIATIONS: Give Love Back.