For more than two decades, two generations of the Luhan family have set
the standard for Orange County’s ever-evolving culinary landscape. The
first to introduce the use of fresh pasta to the local dining scene, the
Luhans were also the first to manufacture their own line of homemade
olive oils made on the premise of their farm in Tuscany and shipped to
their OC restaurants.
The origins of the Luhan’s culinary dynasty can be traced to long before
the family opened their first establishment, What’s Cooking? Bistro
located in Newport Beach. It began with the family matriarch, Mary
Vallera, first to set sail from her homeland of Prota, Italy who
traveled to the land of opportunity - the United States.
While her three daughters often surrounded her in the kitchen, it was
her youngest daughter Lucia who displayed the most intense interest in
culinary activities. She was curious about the use of ingredients, the
fine art of pasta making and the many recipes her family used for
creating sauces. Lucia’s keen interest in gastronomy continued to
develop throughout the years.
In 1976, armed with a carefully crafted menu and a collection of Italian
design elements, Lucia opened What’s Cooking? Bistro in Newport Beach
and the restaurant became an instant success. From the very beginning
it was a family affair. While her mother Mary Vallera, was busy
preparing her homemade pastas in the kitchen, it was Lucia who
supervised the preparation of every menu item that left the kitchen and
oversaw the entire operation of the restaurant. Her two young sons and
daughter oftentimes bussed the tables, cleaned dishes and observed
“behind the scene” activities. Even Lucia’s husband, noted plastic
surgeon Jorge Luhan Sr. got into the act serving as a host and waiter.
The success of What’s Cooking? Bistro eventually prompted Lucia to open
two more restaurants, What's Cooking? Express Cuisine in Costa Mesa in
1982 and Luciana’s Ristorante in Dana Point in 1983. Luciana's, built
in the 1930's, with its classic Italian menu soon proved popular among
local culinary enthusiasts and tourists in search of excellent cuisine.
Word of mouth was so positive, in fact, that the restaurant was soon
catering to numerous world figures and Hollywood celebrities.
It was at this time that Lucia, always on the lookout for ways to
improve the quality of the restaurants for her patrons, began searching
for the ultimate olive oil. After conducting an exhausting search that
took her all over the world, Lucia realized that perfection could only
be attained by developing her own brand. The weather conditions and
overall environment in Italy seemed the most conducive for creating an
exceptional olive oil, so, Lucia bought the farm – literally! She
discovered a historic 500 year old farmhouse in the hills of Tuscany,
and immediately foresaw its potential – it would serve as a Bed &
Breakfast and cooking school, as well as the manufacturing plant for the
family’s unique brand of olive oil.
Today the second generation of Luhans remains dedicated to providing
patrons with the same unique dining experience developed over twenty
five years ago. By blending their rich, classic culinary heritage with
their ability to anticipate the ever-evolving palates of diners, the
Luhans have created a tasty recipe for success that will continue for
generations to come.
Jorge Luhan II
President and Director of Operations
The Luhan Corporation