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Diatribe with Dave: 10 Years at Santora with Chef Diego Velasco


Ten Year Plan, and not the one you tell everyone else:

Ten years might be too soon, but in about 15 years, I would say the plan would be to move to Northern California. My family and I spend a lot of time in and around the Bay Area, a place we never get tired of and one that I deeply miss since graduating at the California Culinary Academy in 1994 just before opening Memphis Cafe. We have a dream to open a small restaurant in semi-retirement with Arie running the front and me in the back, either in the city or in wine country somewhere. Nothing big, under 2k square feet but something special. A place for family and friends--old and new.

No bull, best fellow chef in the OC:

I'm not sure about the best. There is a lot of new talent out there today which fluctuates and tends to make that decision hard to pinpoint, however, Florent Marneau of Marché Modern is one of my go-tos but here is someone I am really impressed with right now... I just had the pleasure to stumble upon Daniel Hyatt at Juliette Kitchen. I remember him from his days at Nesai, a restaurant owned by my friend Shima's mother. Wow, his cooking has matured. I really enjoyed everything my wife and I shared. Really focused and fresh, great flavor combinations, risky and fun but made sense. You get the feeling that his experience and travels are really playing into a cuisine he can have fun with as well as enjoy manipulating and putting onto the plate, casserole dish, mini Staub braiser, paella pan or whatever the case may be.

Closed restaurant you miss:

Since this is a local rag, I would have to say La Brasserie, which was on Main Street at Almond: old school French/Continental cuisine. I only dined there once but it was the perfect spot for date night with the missus. The owner was a jolly Frenchman from Lille, a city in the north of France which my wife and I have had the pleasure of visiting. He would greet you, float around from table to table, sip his wine--classic. We would usually just cozy up to the dark, swank bar, order a bottle of Champagne and nosh on escargot, duck pâté and smoked salmon with proper garnishes and toast points. Bummer...

Simple, embarrassing meal you like best:

I wish I could find something embarrassing about it... My wife's simple chicken & rice. She takes bone in, split chicken breast and puts them in a zip lock to marinate with sliced garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice and Lawry's. She pan roasts them till caramelized, serves them over rice and adds the pan drippings and crispy garlic. Usually a simple salad is served with a vinaigrette along side. She's really come up with her cooking. The chicken is done just right. Maybe embarrassing because she's doing it better than me.

Gentrification of DTSA? How do you feel about it?

Santa Ana is a city with a rich history of ups and downs. There have been many 'golden eras' so to speak, as well as some lows. I think that improving a district that lies in the county seat so that it can become again what it has been in the past is important but also, realizing an unlimited future potential is phenomenal. The downtown is on the verge of realizing its greatness again. Memphis at the Santora has been downtown for over 10 years now. We have seen a slow rebirth in those 10 years, which has recently picked up steam. That can only be good, not only for the city and its residents, but for the good of our county and State. There's dignity in that.

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diego_velasco_dave_mau.jpg
Photo by Dave Mau
El Jefe with his favorite slinger

Tonight is going to be great, and on Saturday Johnny Sampson and I will be manning the main bar and the talented Jeffrey Van Billiard will be slinging drinks as well. Both nights will feature lots of music from friends, old and new. Come down for either or both.

While swimming through a sea of martinis and floozies at The Bristol Sessions many years ago, a common occurrence was to hoist a round and proclaim, "God bless Dan Bradley!" for starting the whole Memphis thing. Well, as I write this, I am hoisting a tasty Manhattan and proclaiming "God bless Diego Velasco!" for a fine follow through.

Want more of Dave's rantings/ravings/ramblings? Check out www.dinnerwithdave.com for the latest!


Location Info

Memphis At The Santora - CLOSED

201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA

Category: Restaurant

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