Intuition is a remarkable thing. It can protect someone from harm, help find the keys to the car, or simply be a gift that is shared with others. Chef Miriam Ramirez of Quattro Caffe at South Coast Plaza is considered by her peers to be a very intuitive person and professional.
She learned how to cook at an early age from her mother in her home land of Mexico. The more time she spent in the kitchen, the more she became enamored with being in the kitchen, cooking, and seeing satisfaction on the faces of those she served. Her innate connection with food and her love of people made the restaurant business an ideal place for Chef Ramirez to be. With her mind made up to work in a restaurant, she set out for better opportunities in the United States. Her intuition helped guide her to Armani Cafe, which was later to become Quattro Caffe.
Chef Miriam began her career as a waitress and slowly worked her way into the kitchen to begin the ubiquitous task of prepping food. Her attention to detail, consistency, and the great care she took in preparing food led her quickly to becoming a cook. As luck, or her good intuition, would have it, she happened to have begun her budding career as a cook when some authentic Italian chefs were brought into Armani to help get the restaurant going. These chefs showed all of the cooks how to prepare the dishes to recipe and how to make them delicious and consistent. Chef Miriam took full advantage of the few weeks the Italian chefs spent at the restaurant; for her it was like going to culinary school. She already had the knack for cooking, she just needed to be shown proper techniques. The guest chefs not only started the restaurant, but they also kick-started Chef Miriam’s career.
Chef Ramirez immediately recognized that Italian cooking was not that much different than her native Mexican style of cooking. Each style utilizes similar ingredients: tomatoes, garlic (Miriam’s favorite ingredient), peppers, onions, and fresh herbs, a fact which worked very much to her advantage. She began to incorporate many ideas from her Mexican heritage into her Italian style of cooking to prepare dishes as fresh and delicate as possible. She wants her patrons to recognize the quality and flavor of the food, and to feel content when they leave. Chef Miriam believes that without fresh, delicate dishes, she would not be able to achieve this goal.
Her intuition inside the kitchen is as remarkable as her ability to be in the right place at the right time. When given a recipe, Chef Ramirez immediately recognizes the ingredients in the dish and knows instantly how to better prepare it in order for the dish to be more light and flavorful. During her ten years at Quattro Caffe, Chef Miriam has built a crew of cooks in her kitchen who share her ideals as a chef. Her kitchen staff, some 15 or so workers, is comprised mostly of women, but not because she has anything against men. Chef Miriam thinks men are great line cooks because they can grind out running the line on a day-to-day basis, but she prefers women in the kitchen because they have a more delicate hand when it comes to seasoning and a better eye for plating. As a male and self-proclaimed foodie, I began to protest. Just as I began my objection, several plates of food were placed before me; one elegantly plated dish after another. I sampled each, and then I sampled them again. Somehow I forgot what it was I had disagreed with; men, apparently, are easily distracted with food.
The next time you find yourself at South Coast Plaza and a pang of hunger sets in, let your nose and intuition guide you to the Quattro Caffe. The restaurant is busiest during the day and especially during the weekend, so be sure to plan accordingly. The intuitive mastermind, Chef Miriam, will surely be there creating subtle, fresh dishes with a great deal of feminine flair.
AVERAGE COVER FOR ONE GUEST, INCLUDING BEVERAGE: Lunch: $26.50; Dinner: $33.50
AVERAGE NUMBER OF HOURS YOU WORK IN A WEEK: 65
1st COOKING OR FOOD-RELATED MEMORY: Growing up at home I would watch my mother prepare wonderful dishes for the family.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB: Ceramics.
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY: Since I enjoy working with people and I love food, the restaurant industry was a natural choice.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB: Food server.
IF NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? My schooling prepared me for a position in the business world, so I would most likely be an executive secretary.
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: Tongs.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Mixer – Hobart.
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: All-Clad.
FAVORITE CONDIMENT/SPICE: Garlic.
MOST RECOMMENDED KITCHEN TOOL AND SOURCE FOR HOME KITCHENS: KitchenAid mixer – can be found in all stores.
MOST RECOMMENDED FOOD INGREDIENT SOURCE FOR FOODIES: Kosher salt and ground pepper – can also be found in all stores.
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT WORKING IN THE KITCHEN: That it is an easy job:most people don’t realize the 3 or 4 hours of prep time required before the restaurant even opens and it’s a challenge to keep the menu current and fresh.
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: Linguine Vongole.
OTHER CUISINES WORKED WITH: Mexican, Japanese.
FAMILY INFO: Married with two daughters.
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Although it’s very rare that I go out to a restaurant, I do enjoy Morton’s.
FAVORITE DISH TO EAT: Seafood Pasta
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Tacos
FAVORITE FAST FOOD: El Pollo Loco
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Prosciutto
DO YOU WATCH FOOD TV? IF SO, WHAT PROGRAMS ARE YOUR FAVORITE? Molto Mario on the Food Network and I also like Barefoot Contessa.
FAMOUS CHEFS YOU’VE MET: None
CULINARY HERO: Mario Batali
WHAT OTHER PUBLICATIONS HAVE YOU BEEN FEATURED IN? Orange Coast Magazine, Daily Pilot, Dining Out, AAA Westway, OC Register
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: Two years
SCHOOL: Escuela Secondaria Federal
OTHER EDUCATION: Personally trained by Chef Cavalle for six months who was flown in from Italy.
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE & LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES: San Francisco
YEARS IN BUSINESS: BOH: 15
WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE: Fresh, Highest Quality, Consistent
PREVIOUS INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS: Armani Cafe
3333 Bristol St. #1201
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Frutti di Mare
2 TKosher salt
1 CWhite wine – dry
1 TPeppercorn – whole
1 CLemon Juice
1Onion – small white
1 tOregano – dry
In a large pot, add water then other ingredients and bring to a boil.
3 TLemon juice – freshly squeezed
5 T Olive oil – extra virgin
Pinch Salt and Pepper
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking until it is completely incorporated. Set aside.
Frutti di Mare
5 ozShrimp – white Mexican 51/60
5 ozScallops – baby
2 TRoma Tomato – diced
2 TCarrots – Julienne
1 TParsley – chopped
2 TLemon dressing
1 ozOrganic baby mixed greens
Place the calamari inside a wire basket and lower into the court bouillon for 5 minutes. Remove the basket of calamari and submerge in an ice water bath for a few minutes. Drain and set aside. Repeat for the shrimp for 3 minutes of cooking time and set aside. Repeat the process for the scallops with 3 minutes of cooking time as well. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add the chilled seafood, carrots, parsley and tomatoes. Mix gently together and add lemon dressing to taste.
Plate the organic baby mixed greens and place your frutti di mare mixture on top. Pepper to taste.