Iliana, Judy (aka Part One), and Vicki
Iliana, Judy (aka Part One), and Vicki
Photo by Meranda Carter

On the Line: Judy Fleenor of Cafe Chiarini, Part One

There is a dynamic duo adjacent to Santa Ana's courthouse. (It's a trio if you count pastry chef Vicki Schrimmer.) Superfriends Judy Fleenor and Iliana Chiarini win patrons over with charm and a cure for everyday lunches. Part one with the soup Nazi Judy clues us in on their greatness, as well as why she tends to buy two or more of everything.

What are six words that describe your food?
Food from local farms, made from scratch, healthy.

What are eight words that describe you?
Creative, inspired and passionate about cooking fresh food.

Your best recent food find:

Ka Shabu in Huntington Beach; my husband and I have met the owners. The meat and veggies are wonderful. There are sesame seeds at each table that you grind into a sort of tahini.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Fresh lemon juice adds a brightness of flavor to almost any dish.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
I don't use recipes, so my way of cooking is hard to follow. Everything is by taste. I make everyone in the kitchen taste everything to make sure it is good every time. I like a well-organized kitchen, and there must be music playing.

One food you detest.
I detest canned vegetables. They are too mushy.

One food you can't live without:
If I have nothing in the house, I can always whip up a great pasta dish in no time.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
So many great and diverse restaurants and the best local produce.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
I love a good burger and fries, and 25 Degrees [in Huntington Beach] has the best burgers.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Keep it simple, and use fresh ingredients; the best dishes have five or less ingredients.

After-work hangout:
We are open Monday through Friday, and I have an 8-year-old son, so my after-work is picking him up from school and working on homework.

Favorite celebrity chef.
Bobby Flay is the best when it comes to outdoor cooking, and his food is so full of flavor. [Editor's Note: She also admitted hating him as a person, which sounds about right if you've read enough OTL features.]

Celebrity chef who should shut up.
Rachael Ray is a little annoying.

Favorite music to cook by:
Train. We blast our music.

Best food city in America:
San Francisco -- from Chinatown to Fisherman's Wharf, the food is amazing. Also, New York is a favorite. Third would be Las Vegas.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Fewer fast-food places.

Favorite cookbooks:
Don't really have a favorite; I don't use them. I am hooked on watching all the Food Network cooking shows. I fall asleep with it on.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Hanging out with my family, bike riding and going to the beach.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Alligator in Florida. It was a little funky.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
During the week, an everything bagel with avocado, vine-ripe tomatoes and cucumber; on the weekends, eggs Benedict or pancakes with fresh berries.

You're at the market, What do you buy two of?
I am always cooking for large groups or parties, so I always buy two or more of everything.

Weirdest customer request:
So far, nothing too weird. We try to accommodate any special requests. However, I am surprised at how healthy everyone eats. Police officers and judges love egg-white vegetable omelets, no cheese!

Like Cafe Chiarini's Facebook page.

Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook!


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >