Inspired by the diverse culinary regions of Mexico, Chef Deborah Schneider is taking Southern California’s Mexican cuisine back to its roots. Chef Schneider got into the restaurant business for the “glamor and high pay” following a career as a mag-
azine editor and sports writer. While traveling in Europe, Chef began cooking on yachts and discovered a real passion for the craft. After a six-month period of schooling at Le Cordon Bleu, she began talking her way into stationary restaurants and was cooking profes-
sionally by 1980. She often found herself working along side Mexican chefs and learned about traditional dishes through the food they made for themselves from their grandmas’ recipes. This sparked a love for Mexican food and culture that drove her to make Mexican cuisine the focus of her culinary endeavors.
Today, she works in about six restaurants spread out from San Diego to Arizona and has used her previous writing experience to produce over five popular cookbooks that delve into Mexican culture and cuisine. Her book Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta was nominated for a James Beard Award. One of her books, as well as her restaurant SOL Cocina in Newport Beach, is influenced by Chef’s many trips to Baja California. Chef Schneider likes to visit Mexico twice every year if possible, to keep her ingredients and menu selections authentic and strongly tied to Mexico’s culinary history. Chef prides herself on her “nerdy” fascination for the history and anthropology that has shaped all the amazing dishes of the many neighboring regions of Mexico. Holding the integrity of dishes sacred,
Chef Schneider takes inspiration for her restaurants from each of Mexico’s unique twenty-six states.
She is truly creating her own path in the American food scene by bringing a completely authentic and unadulterated supply of Mexican dishes to the forefront of an industry that has a tendency to favor trends of tradition.
At SOL Cocina, they use native ingredients and make their own masa. Chef gives her teams cultural training at all of her restaurants so that they understand not only how a dish is made, but why it is made that way. Chef Schneider has been an innovator in Mexican cuisine and has shaped the expectation for similar restaurants over the past ten years. She values the one on one experience with customers that creates loyalty and trust. Fifteen to twenty percent of the menu in each of her restaurants changes about twice a year, to keep the returning customers’ favorite dishes while introducing them to other Mexican dishes they may not have encountered before. With Chef Schneider, gone are the days of fashionable fusion food. What’s trending now are the untouched, tried and true traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
CHEF DE CUISINE
From the Chef’s Mouth
SOL MEXICAN COCINA
SOLITA TACOS & MARGARITAS
Sol Newport Beach-July 2009
Sol Scottsdale-March 2012
Solita Huntington Beach-December 2013
Solita Valencia-May 2015
Sol Playa Vista-January 2016
Sol Denver Cherry Creek-August 2016
Mon – Thurs: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Fri: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sat: 10 am – 11:00 pm
Sun: 10 am – 10:00 pm
- KITCHEN TOOL My knives, period
- KITCHEN APPLIANCES Blender, instant pot
- COOKWARE Matfer black steel pans / castiron/ le creuset /grills
- CONDIMENT/SPICE Besides salt? Garlic
- OC RESTAURANT Gabby’s
- JUNK FOOD Mr. Frostie in Pacific Beach
- RAW INGREDIENT Seafood
- FAST FOOD Any pho restaurant
- FOOD TV Tony Bourdain doing anything.
- 1ST FOOD-RELATED MEMORY Seeing my very first gourmet magazine in 1970 and falling in love with the photos, food, recipes, travel… My first cooking attempts were old-style gourmet recipes, with the ingredients embedded in the directions. I still collect them.
FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB I was a cocktail waitress while in college in the Friars Bar in downtown Toronto. There were Elvis impersonators. We had to wear miniskirts and fishnet stockings and made lousy money.Then I bartended and worked as a server.
YEARS IN BUSINESS FOH: 3 years; BOH:
38 years (yeah, that long)
DESCRIBE YOUR RETIREMENT DINNER
All my favorite line cooks and kitchen friends gather at sunset. Foie gras, hot
and crusty, aigre-doux, toasts. All we can eat. Next, a ritual freeing of captive live
lobsters and dungeness crab. Live free, my hard-shelled friends! Then one or two
rounds of really good champagne followed by rounds of Casa Noble single barrel for
the toasts, which will be endless. Loud music, possibly some dancing. Then, unicorn en cocotte with chanterelles. I have no intention of ever retiring. I will leave
the kitchen feet first.