With two national wins on The Food Network under her belt, Chef Rina Younan has a lot going for her — and she’s hungry to continue her success. So, why is she the Executive Chef at the Oakmont of Roseville when she could be working anywhere else in the world? Younan is passionate about people. She says she lives for that happy reaction Oakmont’s residents can’t hide on their faces when they take those first bites of a dish she’s put out. Food-lovers can’t put her creations down, and that’s exactly how I felt when I took my first bite of meal she’d prepared.
I met “Chef Rina” in the large, classically decorated hallway at Oakmont Living on Secret Ravine Parkway. After a few seconds of walking towards the kitchen I couldn’t help but notice the Younan’s charm: I expected a bit of cockiness, but instead I was speaking to a very humble and motivated chef.
Younan recently won a cooking competition on the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. Not to long ago, she also won a clash on the nationally televised Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell.
“It was hard — Anne is tough, she knows what she wants and she pushes you,” Younan said while giving me a tour of Oakmont’s stainless steel, industrial-sized kitchen.
Watching how Anne Burrell moves on television, and listening to how firm she speaks, showcases the very attitude that can make a chef break down and lose it all: Unless you’re like Younan and can take a verbal hit while staying focused under pressure.
When not on television, Younan is in her domain among a friendly team of co-workers. Oakmont Living’s kitchen is equipped with a massive grill and a walk-in filled with fresh local meats, fruits, and vegetables. Younan feels like creativity is at her fingertips everyday; and the residents who live on the grounds are grateful.
“I just want to make sure people are eating well and they are getting what they need,” Younan explained, acknowledging she tries to focus on each resident for who they really are.
There are no serve-yourself, craft service tin pans lit by catering candles at this kitchen. No one is getting the same scoop of gooey oats and soggy pancakes with a glass of canned tomato juice either. Oakmont of Roseville has a full menu, rotating specials, and of course, vino.
I sat down with Younan on Oakmont’s outside patio, “How is it?” she asked, watching me take the first bite. My response was that I felt privileged and I already knew it was going to be a memorable meal. The first dish was an almond-crusted salmon that was garnished with crispy parsnips. The salmon was laid on a bed of a parsnip puree, which sent my taste buds through the roof. Placed to the side of the fish was a caracara orange marmalade. Then, with the juices of the oranges, Younan made a vinaigrette to top a vibrant salad with asparagus, shallots, caracara orange slices and tarragon. Younan calls this creation a Cali Salad.
The second dish was a rib eye prepared at a perfect medium rare and covered in blue cheese crumbles from Point Reyes. The rib eye was served over a bed of pave potatoes. The dish was garnished with crispy brussel sprouts and roasted cauliflower: Next to it was a paintbrush stroke of Argentinian pesto, accentuating all the flavors the chef had carefully conjured.
So what can we expect in the near future from Younan? With possible expectations to one day open her own restaurant, and with the continued goal of winning food competitions, “Chef Rina” is a star on the rise.