Little Sparrow’s menu, which utilizes influences of California, Japan, Mexico, and the Mediterranean, is getting a fresh take from its new chef, Melissa Ortiz. Ortiz, who was born in Orange County, did not take the typical culinary route, but rather served for seven and a half years in the U.S. Army. During her deployments in Africa, she would cook for her fellow soldiers by using ingredients found at the local markets. One evening, while cooking on the beach, she realized this was her passion and followed her dreams by enrolling in the Art Institute of Orange County upon returning to the U.S.
After graduating, she completed her chef stage at Melisse, the Michelin two star award-winning restaurant in Santa Monica. Before coming to Little Sparrow, she worked at the Imperator Hotel in Nimes, France, and The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
“Serving in the military was a great way to transition into the culinary industry. It taught me to have a lot of discipline, structure, and take criticism. I’m grateful for all the experiences and real life training the military gave me,” Ortiz says.
Expect to see influences of Ortiz’s culinary education, travel in the military, and her ethnic heritage comprised of Mexican, Portuguese, and Spanish, in her cooking style. Highlights of Ortiz’s menu include: Galbi Hangar Steak with Kimchi emulsion, radish, and eggplant puree;Yellowtail Carpaccio with a coconut aguachile, Serrano, and cucumber; Banh Mi with pork belly, pickled daikon, carrots, jalapeno, and cilantro; Loco Moco with ground beef, brown gravy, fried egg, and garlic rice;Half Fried Chicken with spiced bourbon glaze, and biscuits.