Anne Marie Panoringan

Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for 8 years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.

When referring to chefs as veterans, the typical connotation means having extensive experience in the kitchen. In honor of Veterans Day, this column is dedicated to those who have served in both the military and hospitality industry. These two individuals have not only represented their country, but demonstrate culinary acumen by way of their respective dining concepts.

Dominic Cagliero of Full Send BBQ

Residing with his wife Marlena (and expecting their first child on New Year’s Day) in Anaheim, Dominic Cagliero was a high school senior when he decided to enlist in the Army National Guard in 2013. “The Army afforded me the opportunity to see most parts of the world like Europe, Asia and various parts of the U.S.,” he said. Assigned the designation of an infantryman, his responsibilities focused on close combat with enemy forces. “We are the backbone of the Army, so the expectations of us were usually very high,” Cagliero elaborates.

During his time in the military, Cagliero was introduced to the slow and low style of cooking with smoke while serving in different parts of the world. Fascinated by the craft of barbecue, he took it upon himself to learn its various techniques and methods. Putting his acquired skills to use, Cagliero began cooking for neighbors back at home. 

Even with four remaining years on his Army National Guard contract, he recently started Full Send BBQ LLC, a Texas-fusion barbecue startup, while stationed at Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. “The term originates from military verbiage ‘send it,’ meaning go ahead and do it. ‘Full send’ means to execute something with 100% effort,” Cagliero said. 

He smokes his meats with post oak wood and simply seasons with salt, pepper “and love,” according to Cagliero. Signature items include “dino ribs,” large beef ribs averaging two pounds of meat, and “Thor’s hammer,” three to four pounds of whole beef shank. The fusion part of his concept refers to brining or marinating meats in more international flavors like Indian (tandoori chicken), Filipino (pork tocino) and Vietnamese (chicken satay) before smoking. 

Originally a delivery-only service, Full Send added to its repertoire by appearing on the brewery circuit with pop-ups at Anaheim’s Asylum Brewing in July and Santa Ana River Brewing Company in September. Last month, pitmaster Cagliero offered a week of special ordering that included a designated pick-up location in Anaheim. 

Learning to function on little to no sleep is a skill Cagliero didn’t anticipate putting to use in his side hustle, yet the constant focus on his craft is necessary to ensure a finished product that meets his standards. Some cook times total 14 or more hours, meaning he is sleeping a total of three to four hours spread out during the night. “Every hour or so I check on the meat and ensure we have good traits such as a good bark, fat render, etc.,” he said. It’s this level of commitment and attention to detail that produces Full Send’s quality barbecue.

Future plans are to make the business a full-time commitment. Dominic Cagliero is currently seeking investors to acquire a food truck next year. “My five-year goal is to have a brick and mortar serving up good BBQ, axe throwing and perhaps a dog-friendly bar,” Cagliero said.

Melissa Ortiz of Rose Park

I was introduced to chef Melissa Ortiz while interviewing a subject for another story over brunch in Long Beach. Ortiz, an Anaheim native, enlisted in the military out of high school and was stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as a finance specialist under the 126th finance battalion from 2004-2008. Afterward, she was serving in the reserves through 2010 which included a year in Djibouti, Africa. 

She returned stateside from her deployment the following year, wanting to utilize the GI Bill. While overseas, Ortiz spent a great deal of time cooking at the beach when she was deployed in Africa as their sleeping accommodations didn’t include a kitchen. In lieu of eating in the dining commons, Ortiz befriended the staff working in the kitchen and was granted a weekly grocery order that she’d take offsite to cook. She would set up a makeshift grill on the beach for her meals.

“Traveling the world sparked my interest in food because I was forced to shift from being picky to exploring food.”

Melissa Ortiz of Rose Park

Ortiz’s friends encouraged her to enroll in culinary school, taking courses at the Art Institute of California – Orange County campus in Santa Ana, which closed permanently in 2018.

After culinary school, Ortiz spent time honing her skills by staging (pronounced stazhjing, it’s a temporary unpaid internship) in kitchens as far away as France. Closer to home, she worked at Connie and Ted’s in West Hollywood, opened The Bamboo Club in Long Beach and spent time at Little Sparrow in Santa Ana. Most recently, she was the chef at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan for 16 months, returning in May of this year.

Local caffeine spot Rose Park Coffee Roasters is a Long Beach staple with its three branches all within city limits. Ortiz worked there prior to leaving for Kabul, becoming friends with the owners (one of whom is a fellow veteran). The 800 Pine Ave. flagship spot is the sole location with adequate square footage to house a kitchen, and she was recruited to launch brunch and dinner service over the summer.

What is the GI Bill?

Based on the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the GI Bill includes payment of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and a stipend for supplies and textbooks for up to 36 months for military veterans. “GI” is short for general issue, government issue or ground infantry; but its original translation was galvanized iron. It was also a nickname soldiers gave themselves during World War II.

Chef Ortiz describes the cuisine as a seafood and vegetable-focused menu. Ortiz stands by a belief that she should highlight her life experiences on a plate. “I think vegetables are under-utilized and I want it to be a moment for the city that I live in to experience my journey and all the years and training to see how I interpret the food,” she said.

Parallels between military service and kitchen competency are uncanny, as Ortiz explains, “It has helped with repetition for consistency because of the training I had.” The disciplined structure of the Army engrained in Ortiz contributes to her kitchen (and strict military) mantra: “Stay alert, stay alive.” She stresses the importance of setting oneself up for success with the example of being aware of one’s mise en place (preparation), “or you will drown in service,” she said.

Dinner service is offered Thursday through Saturday evenings from 5-9 p.m., with brunch service both Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Plans for extended dining hours and grab-and-go food options are forthcoming. Wanting to offer a dining experience for veterans, on Thursday, Nov. 11, Rose Park on Pine will be offering 50% off the bill to veterans and a guest.

So Cal Restaurant Show Interview

On Saturday, Oct. 30, I visited Angel Stadium for an interview on the SoCal Restaurant Show with host Andy Harris. We discussed my recent dining experiences on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas and a dinner over at Khan Saab Desi Craft Cuisine in Fullerton, among other topics. 

Links to the two segments can be found here and here. My next appearance representing Voice of OC’s food section will be on Jan. 1, 2022 on KLAA (AM 830).

Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at ampanoringan@voiceofoc.org.

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