Chef Richard Sandoval
1. When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
Watching my grandmother cook incredible meals in the kitchen in Mexico City.
2. What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being able to introduce millions of people around the world to my culture and the foods of my country. Also, being part of a group of chefs that helped Mexican food change from mostly a cuisine that was seen as very casual and inexpensive to a cuisine being appreciated around the world just like French, Peruvian & Italian.
3. You run 50 restaurants around the world, what does a typical day look like to you?
When I’m not on an airplane, I’m doing tastings with my chefs, facilitating meetings with new and existing business partners and working with my corporate team to make sure all our restaurants are functioning to the best of their ability.
4. What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef.
5. Where is home?
Downtown Denver, Colorado.
6. You grew up in Orange County and graduated from Corona del Mar High school, what are some of your fondest memories growing up here?
I think my fondest are the amazing California weather and spending time at the beautiful beaches, but mostly playing tennis for Corona Del Mar High School.
7.When you are in Orange County where do you love to eat, other than at your own restaurant?
I like to eat at Gulfstream – it’s very casual and simple, but always very good. I also like Antonello's and Vaca.
8. Where do you get inspiration?
My roots come from my grandmother’s cooking in Mexico City, but my inspiration is from my travels around the world.
9.Tell us about Raya, why is it special to you?
Raya is very special to me because it was my first restaurant that I opened in my hometown and it gave people that grew up with me the opportunity to see my work. When we first opened we were rated one of the top restaurants in Southern Cali which made me very proud!
10. What is your favorite food city in the world and why?
New York! It has super star chefs, cutting-edge restaurants and the most global influences.
11. Do you cook at home?
I’m rarely at home, but when I am I keep it simple: great proteins, veggies, olive oil and fresh herbs.
12. What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
One of my pet peeves in the kitchen is cleanliness. I'm obsessive about cleanliness in all my kitchens and I’m always enforcing it!
13. What is the hardest part about being a chef?
I think the long hours, but mainly all the time spent away from your family. I’d also have to say the pressure of opening a restaurant and having people always being so critical so fast and not giving you the time to really get things right.
14. How do you view the Orange County food scene?
I think it needs a lot of maturing and evolving. I never really see any cutting-edge restaurants opening, I think everyone really plays it safe.
15. What advice would you give to a budding chef?
To always be careful with expansion. I have expanded around the world and it’s taken its toll.
16. Do you eat fast food and where?
I love tacos so when I'm traveling, I always try to find the local taquerias when in Orange County. I like Gallo Giro in Santa Ana.
17. What do you love to do in your free time?
Spend time with my kids, play tennis, ski, hike and try new restaurants.
18. Do you have a favorite dish?
On the Raya menu, my favorite is the Ahi Tuna Ceviche.
19. Do you have a most memorable meal?
I had dinner at Lespinasse in New York City, which I believe doesn’t exist anymore unfortunately. Grey Koonz was the chef at the time, and while I don't remember the exact dishes, I do remember the combinations of flavors, colorful presentations and crisp and fresh ingredients. It was the first time I'd seen a chef combine French cooking techniques with global ingredients; that was a great inspiration to me.
20. Secret most people don’t know about you?
That I was a professional tennis player.