After graduating from Los Angeles’ Epicurean School of Culinary Arts, she worked for top Los Angeles chefs including Michael Cimarusti at the prestigious Water Grill, Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Campanile, Mako Tanaka at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois on Main, and for Alex Scrimgeour at Saddlepeak Lodge and ALEX.
Anne took her first executive chef position in 2002 at EM Bistro in West Hollywood, turning out a contemporary brand of American comfort food that earned accolades from Gourmet Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Bon Appètit Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and LA Weekly.
In 2007 Conness partnered with Mike Simms to open Tin Roof Bistro in Manhattan Beach and their Craft-Beer-and- Burger joint, Simmzy’s. Both Simmzy’s and Tin Roof Bistro were instant hits, garnering a fiercely loyal legion of South Bay regulars, as well as glowing reviews in the press, including Best Local Bar for Simmzy’s by Los Angeles Magazine.
Currently creating soul-satisfying Nuevo Rancho Cuisine at Sausal, in El Segundo, Anne’s hearty dishes sing with authenticity and refinement. Jaffa is another opportunity for her to work her magic; marrying the essence of a cultural eating experience together with fresh California ingredients and approach. A treat for the senses informed by her down- to-earth and welcoming style.
Until recently, SANTOS NAVARRO was the executive chef of famed restaurant Tin Roof Bistro in Manhattan Beach and a well-known and highly respected chef in the L.A. scene. Ask anyone, everybody knows Santos!
Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Santos moved to our beloved city in 1988 and soon started work as a dishwasher. His endless curiosity would see him move quickly up the kitchen ladder. First was a stint as kitchen manager at Matisse, in Santa Monica. Later he would hone his French cuisine skills while working under the guidance of well-known chef Jose Noel, at French Country Café in Beverly Hills. He would become Eric Klein’s sous-chef at Maple Drive, winner of “Best New Chefs” award by Food & Wine Magazine.
Santos is famous for his unwavering love of a good steak; he’s a true believer in simple ingredients, in the idea that simplicity can make a dish great, devoid of pretension or artifice.
Together, Santos Navarro and Anne Conness, first became interested in the cooking of the Middle East in 2012 while attending a chefs’ conference in Napa Valley that featured renowned chefs from around the world. Anne and Santos found themselves drawn to chefs representing the Middle East. The flavors, the colors, the spices, were at once new, and familiar. They were hooked; spending their free time learning, researching, and recipe testing at home, with their families as “tasters.” They’re both very excited to cook in this style and to continue to grow and learn.
Santos has been a Venice Beach resident for over 20 years.
A former professional ballerina, NATASHA MACALLER brings the same diligence and precision to the kitchen as she did to dancing. She’s known as the Dancing Chef. These careers may seem worlds apart –from ballerina to chef– but to Natasha, they are both performance arts, creative disciplines that demand dedication and hours of painstaking practice.
Fresh out of culinary school, Natasha honed her skills at Charlie Trotter’s with Michelle Gayer, Sherry Yard at Spago Hollywood, and at Campanile in Los Angeles where she met and worked with Chef Anne. She accepted her first Pastry Chef job at Union in Santa Monica, where she turned out a much-loved dessert menu, including her renowned Poppy Seed Strawberry Shortcake with Meyer Lemon Curd and lashings of vanilla cream.
Attendance at the First International Vanilla Food & Wine Event at Heilala’s plantation in Tonga began to shape her ideas for her first cookbook, Vanilla Table: The Essence of Exquisite Cooking From the World’s Best Chefs. Published in 2013, the book celebrates the noble vanilla bean in over 100 delicious and intriguing sweet and savory recipes.
Natasha’s second cookbook, Spice Health Heroes: Unlock the power of spice for flavour and wellbeing, was released in 2016 to much acclaim. Inspired by the spice tastes of her travels and sparked by an idea offered to her by her London publisher, Jacqui Small, Natasha explores the culinary, nutritional, and medicinal uses of more than 30 spices found in one’s kitchen cupboard, from the everyday to the more exotic. Natasha is currently working on her third cookbook centered in the world of herbs, and is delighted to be working again with Chef Anne Conness at Jaffa.
L.A. native and lead bartender ALY IWAMOTO grew up wanting to change the landscape of food, one urban garden at a time. She knew her passion lay not only in understanding how the food eco-system worked, but also in educating the world, especially her hometown, about the magic that happens when you’re able to incorporate beautif ul, fresh, and seasonal ingredients seamlessly into your everyday life.
After graduating from UC Berkley, where she majored in Conservation Resource Studies, she decided the best place to put her ideas into practice was the world of food. A naturally vivacious people-person, she quickly realized she needed to interact face to face with, well … people. That’s when she discovered bartending, which has combined the best of both worlds.
Before moving on to help open Here’s Looking at You in Koreatown, Iwamoto earned her stripes at the popular The Varnish in downtown L.A. which boasted a spot on just about every “best of” L.A. cocktails list. Jaffa is her first solo bar program and she’s truly excited about not only crafting unique cocktails, but helping to bring the story and the history of Jaffa to life - one sip at a time.
NANCY VRANKOVIC began her career as a teenager in her family’s Arizona restaurants, bussing tables to make gas money. What began as an after school job blossomed into a career that had her managing a restaurant while attending the University of Arizona. She would later learn the hotel business at the Westin La Paloma, where she worked her way up from Front Desk Management to Catering Sales Manager.
She moved to Los Angeles after she fell in love with Manhattan Beach while visiting friends and has lived in the community ever since. In 2010, she began work as Director of Catering and Special Events with Simms Restaurants. This was the perfect opportunity to combine the things she loves most –hospitality and guest services– with a chance to do something she’d never done before: build a business from the ground up. She left Simms as Director of Marketing and PR in 2016 to team up with Chef Anne Conness at Sausal restaurant in El Segundo.
Once again partnering with Anne, Nancy is energized by the opportunity to bring Jaffa to the 3rd Street community. Indeed community has long been central to Nancy’s life, serving on the Board of Directors for the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Chair of the Board in 2014-15. Currently, Nancy serves as a member of the Neptunian Woman’s Club of Manhattan Beach, working with the club to provide scholarships to young women in need and producing the South Bay Chili Cook Off every year to benefit the Manhattan Beach firefighter’s Burn Foundation.
She lives at the beach with her beautiful pug, Bella.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, MANUEL MESTA’s first introduction to the world of hospitality was at the age of 17, cooking at a Marie Calendar’s restaurant in Pasadena, California. His personable nature and impeccable work ethic would see him move from the kitchen to a server position, assistant manager, and ultimately, general manager.
A California State University business major, Mesta’s love for the world of restaurants would move him to return time and time again. In 1989, the San Diego-based company Garden Fresh Corporation-founder of the Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants-offered Mesta the position of general manager for all existing and future restaurant operations. In this capacity, he helped grow the company’s portfolio to over 112 restaurants in 10 years, including locations in 15 states.
Finally taking the plunge, Mesta opened his own restaurant in 1998, the famed Vermont in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. A contemporary American bistro, Vermont was soon a staple destination for locals and celebrities alike. The Los Angeles Zagat guide described Mesta’s restaurant as, “…a funky, fresh, class act in Los Feliz.”
In October 2009, Mesta and his business partner decided it was time to sell and he begin a new chapter working under the leadership of famed restaurateur and master chef Joachim Splichal of the Patina Restaurant Group, and which now brings him to this exciting adventure with Anne and Jaffa.