Playa Amor, Amor Y Tacos, Ortega 120
Growing up around the flavors and aromas of his abuela's cooking, Thomas Ortega became interested in pursuing a career in culinary arts as a teenager. He graduated top of his class at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, and went on to honing his craft at top restaurants in LA and OC, including Water Grill, Aubergine, Lucques, Spago, and Patina.
Prepared to open a restaurant of his own, Thomas created his own signature cooking style of taking the flavors and techniques he learned growing up from his abuela and applying a more sophisticated, modern approach to Mexican cooking which has been called Alta California, or contemporary pocho cuisine by critics. In 2008, Ortega opened his first restaurant Ortega 120 to critical acclaim, with then Los Angeles Times S. Irene Virbila saying, "There's certainly nowhere near the beach where you can find such heartfelt Mexican cuisine."
Paying homage to his roots, Ortega opened his next location Amor Y Tacos in his hometown of Cerritos in 2013. The rustic taqueria is packed on a daily basis and Ortega has plans to take over the neighboring business to meet the demands of hungry patrons.
In 2016, Ortega opened his third and latest eatery Playa Amor in Long Beach which features a menu that is more seafood-centric. Once again, Ortega received rave reviews from the critics, including OC Register's Brad Johnson stating, "Ortega is easily one of the best chefs of Mexican food in all of Southern California."