Monthly Industry Insights

Hear from industry leaders their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.

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January's Featured Interview: Amanda Martin, Chef de Cuisine, Leoness Cellars

Chef Amanda Martin is the Chef de Cuisine at Leoness Cellars in Temecula. She recently presented a culinary demonstration at the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo.

What made you want to become a chef? 
I was raised in the kitchen by my mother, who even though was just a home cook gave me the passion for all things culinary.  Throughout my childhood, I spent many nights in our kitchen laughing and getting messy preparing dinner.  I would have to say that the world of cuisine has intrigued me as early as I can recall. 

To answer your question "Why do we do it?" I do it because I enjoy it and the people I work with, I am truly blessed in this area - we are a family in every sense of the word.   It’s going home at the end of the day and hearing "You guys did an outstanding job", watching the look of a guest take that first bite, or simply getting to be creative with the food I produce.
For me, it’s much more than a passion for good cooking. It’s a passion for the industry as a whole. I love the chaos and the fast pace of a busy kitchen and I love the challenges of running a restaurant. This is hard work, so you have to love hard work if you want this as a career.

Simply put, I do it because I love doing it.

What was your favorite class in culinary school?
This is a tough one.  I enjoyed all my lab classes from Fundamentals, where you are building your foundation or your culinary education, on up to Art Culinaire, where you are cooking along with some of the most amazing Chefs of our time.  However, I was truly captivated by Classical European. With good reason, France is considered the touchstone for all western cuisines. We were enabled to assimilate the skills and knowledge learned previously and become familiar with characteristic ingredients, methods and dishes from Provence, Burgundy, Normandy and many more 

What’s the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator? 
What may be strange to some is completely normal to others.  At our restaurant, we pride ourselves with offering seasonal and fresh ingredients.  All products are made in house, from soups, sauce and stocks.  With that being said, even the meats are tended to with extreme care down to the dry aged whole Muscovy Ducks that are currently “hanging around” in the walk-in.

If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
The French Laundry is a once in a lifetime experience that foodies and wine lovers must try to experience!  Even though I have yet to have this pleasure.  Thomas Keller, amongst many, has been a huge creative influence to me.  Every dish is a beautifully artful creation of skill and color.

Is there one comfort food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
Chocolate and Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream, Cherry Garcia to be exact.  There is never a shortage of either in my home.

What’s your favorite meal to cook for friends?
I don’t really have a favorite, I just enjoy the company of my amazing friends and of course a good bottle of wine.

Who was your mentor as you were becoming a chef?
I was fortunate to have an amazing mentor who has been a constant support through my culinary career.   I want to express my deepest gratitude for Executive Chef Daragh Matheson for believing in me and having enough faith to share his work, dreams and visions.  He has shown me the value of honesty, sincerity and trust.  I realize the knowledge can be learned anywhere and the passion has to come from within, but he has always shown patience in answering my thousands of questions without fail and fostered my spirit and passion.  Thank you for all the opportunities and excepting me with all my eagerness.  So thank you - my mentor - my friend.

If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
I have had the honor and privilege to cook and dine with an amazing Chef and legend, Certified Master Chef Ferdinand Metz.  I must say at first it was truly nerve racking being told who was coming to my restaurant, then I was awed and finally extremely humbled.  I was invited to participate, by CMC Metz,  in this year’s Western Food Expo by Chef and had the privilege to sit on a discussion panel celebrating Women Chef.  Certainly a few highlights of the year, and hope more to come.  

More about Chef Amanda Martin: 

Chef Amanda is the Chef de Cuisine at Leoness Cellars in Temecula, as well as Crush & Brew and Temecula Catering. Amanda is also a Culinary Chef Instructor at The International Culinary School at the Art Institutes.


November Insights - Michelle Noble, Le Cordon Bleu
October Insights - James McGuinness, Keiser University
September Insights - Norman Van Aken, NORMAN'S
August Insights - Richard Pink, Pink's Hot Dogs
July Insights - Keith Breedlove, Culinerdy Cruzer
June Chef Insights - Rob Valencia, Great Performances
May Chef Insights - Marc Murphy, Benchmarc Restaurants
April Chef Insights - Megan Johnson, Casellula
March Chef Insights - Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, TV Personality

February Chef Insights - Barret Beyer, Hell's Kitchen
January Chef Insights - Anton Testino, Mulberry Street Cafe
November Chef Insights - David Binkle, Los Angeles Unified School District
October Chef Insights - Alan Ogard, Lexington Hotel
September Chef Insights - Barbie Marshall, The Farming Chef
August Chef Insights - Cal DeMercurio, Corporate Executive Chef, Black Bear Diner
July Chef Insights - Johannes Bernau, Executive Chef, Who Song & Larry's
June Chef Insights - Ryan Vargas, Chef de Cuisine at Emeril's Tchoup Chop