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CHEF DU JOUR

Kaitz's Romano Chicken: It's Good for You

February 25, 1993|MIKE SPENCER | Mike Spencer is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff

Don't be surprised the next time you're at Sfuzzi if a woman in a white hat comes over to admonish you to finish your meal or to tell you what's good for you.

"It's the Jewish mother syndrome, I'm afraid," says executive chef Susan Kaitz. "I like to feed people and make sure they're eating well and are happy."

Kaitz, the only female chef in the 16-restaurant chain, has played a major role in the company's success, helping design the overall menu and the four to six daily specials.

When she joined the company, it had only five restaurants, and she has had a hand in opening the remaining 10, starting in Denver and finishing up in Austin, Tex., before heading for Costa Mesa late last year.

"Here I plan to stay," says Kaitz, who was born in the state of Washington and raised in Colorado. "Like everyone else in the country, I've always dreamed of living in Southern California, and I love it."

Her route here was a circuitous one. "I've loved to cook as long as I can remember," she says, "and, frankly, showed a lot of talent for it, although I resisted the idea of making it a career."

She says her parents initially suggested she might look at chef's training, and her high school chums listed her as a famous chef or restaurant owner in the "Where Will They Be in 10 Years?" section of her yearbook, but she rejected the notion ("part of that rebellious youth thing," she says with a laugh).

But then she got serious and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and after graduation moved to Europe for some really intense training in restaurants in Belgium.

When she returned to America, she "worked around" in restaurants in New York and then joined a hotel chain where she came to the attention of Sfuzzi.

The chain's chefs get together once a year for several days to make changes in the menu. From those sessions come Sfuzzi's signature dishes--four or five items that are standard in all of the sites. One of them is the Romano-crusted chicken breast below.

"It's very popular, easy to make and it's good for you," Kaitz says in her best Jewish mother voice.

ROMANO CHICKEN

2 eggs

4 boned chicken breasts, lightly pounded to flatten

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Beat eggs and dip each chicken breast to cover. Mix flour, bread crumbs, cheese and basil in a bowl. Dip each breast to cover, shaking off excess. Heat oil in non-stick skillet and cook chicken until golden brown on both sides.

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