Food, golf and France – Chef Ross Pangilinan


Cooking was something I was interested in before I was interested in anything at all. I was four or five when I started watching the Frugal Gourmet. My grandparents lived with us and always cooked amazing Filipino food. When I was a kid I use to pretend I was on my own cooking show and make recipes my grandparents made. One of my favorite simple things to do was put pieces of potato with butter and garlic salt in the microwave for a few minutes, the crispy almost-burned pieces were my favorite.
My dad is a foodie and took us to all kinds of restaurants growing up, from authentic Chinese in Chinatown to French fine dining. This combination inspired the passion I have today.
After culinary school I had no real idea where to go. I went to a country club near my house looking for a job (I am a big time golfer). The chef recognized my passion, told me to aim higher and sent me to Big Canyon where Jean Pierre Lemanissier was the chef. I was very lucky to be sent to him and work for him. He is one of the remaining chefs out there who worked for Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
After a year or two he sent me to work in France for Gerard Vie, a 2-star Michelin restaurant in Versailles. When I got back, I again didn’t know where to go and Jean Pierre sent me to work with Florent Marneau and the Patina Group. This is what opened all the doors for me. I was promoted to sous chef, then went back to France for a second time, later transferred to Patina at the Walt Disney concert hall to work for chef Theo Schonegger, I did some stages in New York, I was the opening sous chef for Sinatra at the Encore in Vegas, and then the opportunity for my first executive chef position opened Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge at the Segerstrom center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.
I love writing my own menus and executing service with the team I put together. Some days are more technical than others. We could have a la carte service, a wedding and other private events all going on at the same time. Those days get interesting.
My team and I are always motivated to get better in all aspects of the restaurant. There is a saying in the kitchen, “If you’re not getting better then you:.” well let’s just say you probably don’t belong in the kitchen. I was asked if I am a self starter, the answer is of course’ and I do my best to translate this, not only to the food and service, but to everyone in the restaurant.