Seasonal, healthy cooking – Chef Mark Cleveland

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I can’t believe that it’s been seven years since we opened Avanti Cafe on 17th St. in Costa Mesa. Everyone who works in the restaurant game knows that it is hard physical work, plain and simple. What’s amazing is that cooking never gets old or tired. It’s always excitingly creative when the gorgeous local, organic produce arrives to inspire me.

I grew up in Chicago where almost everyone had a prolific vegetable garden, and growing and cooking were a part of everyone’s summertime weekend.As a kid, I loved roasting peppers on the BBQ to blackened perfection in the Italian manner.

After university I moved to Japan to explore the world a bit and ended up living in Osaka and Tokyo for 12 years. By then I was well into artisan food and the impact good, delicious food can have on our overall health. I studied Japanese, Chinese and Indian holistic cooking principles including cooking with herbs, teas and, of course, the mighty ayurvedic trinity; roots, onions, garlic and ginger combined for synergistic powerhouse effect.

Upon my return to California, cooking for a living was where it was at for me. I soon discovered South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano and we’ve been turning their bounty into Avanti menu items ever since. It’s always truly exciting to get the first case of organic strawberries each spring and plump red beefsteak tomatoes every summer. It’s a banner year when tomato season starts around the 4th of July and goes well past Thanksgiving. Recently the whole ‘ya are whatcha eat’ phenomenon has blown up in mainstream consciousness, but whole foods and seasonal cooking have been my passion for over three decades. And it’s a Win, Win, Win situation with no downside. Good for the palate, great for the body and terrific environmentally to boot.

Come visit us at Avanti Cafe soon and taste our creations. As we like to say, it’s not that difficult to make something either healthy OR delicious, but to commit to making everything BOTH healthy and delicious requires skill, creativity and experience.