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Founder/Chef James D'Aquila

Chef James D'Aquila

Chef James D'Aquila

Chef James shares his favorite recipes:

Born and reared in Connecticut, James D’Aquila grew up in an Italian kitchen. Sundays and every special occasion always included cooking, eating, music, and a multi-generational family gathering around the table. It was always more than just a meal. Each dish was a gift of the heart. It is the essence of his mantra, printed on the bottom of his menus, which reads:

“Food prepared from the Heart, with the Soul in Mind.”

Maybe that’s why The Wild Artichoke’s menus are innovative and spontaneous, changing daily with a few rotating favorites. Nothing is ordinary with James D’Aquila. The best of ingredients and the best of himself is in every dish. He believes that food is to be shared and enjoyed, dynamic like music, a performance of the palette. Everyone perceives it differently with an individual ear, but with a little improvising he hopes to touch each guest at their own level like a memorable song.

As soon as James worked in a restaurant, he was bitten. At the age of 17, he joined the staff of Saybrook Fish House in Connecticut and simply had to learn every facet of the hospitality industry. From there he attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, then apprenticed at a 4-star French restaurant, Fin Bouche, under the direction of the highly imaginative Chef Steve Wilkinson, a great inspiration. In 1990, James moved to Southern California, where his brother was living, and continued his restaurant management education at Engine Company 28 in Los Angeles for six years as a bartender, and at 555 and Parker’s Light House, both in Long Beach, as a bar manager. Simultaneously, he pursued his love of music, writing and singing his original material in jazz clubs. In 1997, James worked as a server at Pinot Provence in Costa Mesa under renowned restauranteur Michael Jordan, now the General Manager of Napa Rose, while formulating his business plan to open The Wild Artichoke in Yorba Linda, a community that reminded him of his hometown.

The Wild Artichoke, which opened August 2000, fulfills James’ lifelong dream of creating a great neighborhood eating place with fine cuisine. For him, all the elements must be present: taste entwined with smell, the pairing of food with wine, presentation, and excellent service. A fusion of food and song from the heart.

Each of The Wild Artichoke’s signature dishes come from a place in James’ past. His food has a history, derived from his childhood, from years of practice. The Wild Artichoke is a way of sharing his heart with his generation. He mixes new and traditional to create his innovative style. Each dish is a part of him, a song from him.

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