Ben Chen has experienced his share of success in his nearly 30-year photography career?his work has been published in such publications as Cosmopolitan, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN Magazine, and he has lent his expertise to some of the nation's largest corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The American Red Cross. In 2006, the photographer began to notice that more and more novices were purchasing complex DSLR cameras, and that gave him an idea. Chen decided to share his wealth of knowledge with aspiring photographers by creating the 4-Hour Newbie Photography Boot Camp, which teaches students how to shoot manually with their DSLRs and create artistic, professional-quality photos. Since then, more than 5,000 students in 20 cities throughout the country have benefitted from these classes. In 2013, he acquiesced to student demand and created Part II of the class, which goes beyond photography basics by diving into post-production techniques. Nowadays, students can take both Part I and Part II in the same day, helping them go from student to master in less time than most action-movie montages.
After a long courtship punctuated by romantic dinners of Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, Phil Courey and his wife Mariann decided to merge their respective Mediterranean backgrounds to open a restaurant of their own. Named one of the best Greek restaurants in the area by CBS Sacramento, Opa! Opa! keeps its chefs busy dicing, marinating, and grilling succulent meats and fresh veggies for its extensive menu of classic Greek recipes, and goes through 90 gallons of hummus a month. They have also been named Best Greek Restaurant by Sacramento Magazine in 2013, Best Greek by CityVoter in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and Sacramento News & Review named them Best Mediterranean Eats in 2012, as well as Best Greek in 2011 and 2010. The eatery also bolsters celebrations with catering services, where party-size portions of its traditional fare sate partygoers at birthdays, weddings, and shadow-puppet performances of Agamemnon.
Gonul Blum grew up in Turkey amid her family’s spice business and surrounded by delicious, fresh meals. When an injury cut her career as a cardiac-surgery nurse short, she took it as a sign to go back into the family business. After attending the Culinary Institute of America to hone her skills, she started a catering company and eventually opened her own restaurant. Though her establishment evolved and changed locations over the years, it eventually grew to become Vanilla Bean Bistro, where freshness still rules in her family’s tradition, and almost everything is made by hand.
At her current space, Gonul curates a menu that combines childhood Turkish favorites—such as moroccan lamb stew and moussaka—with local ingredients and recipes, such as butternut-squash ravioli and stuffed poblano chilis. She also chose the restaurant’s current venue for its open kitchen and bar; facets which allow her to hold cooking classes and food fights during off-hours.
Nestled within Sacramento Travel Plaza—a truck wash and repair center with laundry machines, WiFi, and a game room—Silver Skillet Restaurant churns out meals 24 hours a day every day of the year, fueling guests who are driving cross-country, harvesting crops, or just strolling down the streets where they live. Both the food and the decor draw inspiration from the diners of the 1950s, harking back to a time when life was simpler and math hadn’t yet been invented. That being said, modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs help members of the current generation feel at home as well. After sliding into one of the purple booths, guests peruse a menu filled with more than 150 items, including barbecued ribs, build-your-own beef burgers, open-faced sandwiches, and classic, down-home breakfasts. Root-beer floats and old-fashioned sundaes conclude meals, evoking memories of yesteryear soda shops and the three-malt business lunch.
Vietnamese and Chinese influences coalesce at Andy Nguyen’s Vegetarian Restaurant, named among the top three vegetarian spots in the city according to CityVoter. A Buddhist-inspired ethos permeates every aspect of the restaurant, from its peaceful dining room with rich crimson accents to its dishes made from whole foods that were harvested right after being massaged.
Noodles are put to many uses in the kitchen, swirling around soups, adding heartiness to rice-paper rolls with lemongrass shiitake mushrooms, and laying the foundation for the Awakening of Faith dish with lotus rolls, sprouts, and grilled soy meat. The Ten Thousand Buddhas burger draws inspiration from Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches, with a soy-beef patty topped with tofu pâté, cilantro, vegan mayo, and carrot-daikon slaw. Loose-leaf teas and freshly squeezed juices complement the healthful meals.
The sun spills its hazy rays across tables arranged on Greek Village Inn’s outdoor patio. It’s in this warm, inviting atmosphere that diners slide into high-backed chairs to dig into authentic Greek fare such as gyros with tzatziki, moussaka layered with seasoned beef and béchamel, and flaky pieces of baklava. Chefs concoct all their traditional Mediterranean morsels with a flavorful blend of locally sourced items, including produce and meats, as well as imported Greek ingredients, such as feta cheese, kalamata olives, and extra-virgin olive oil. This dedication to assembling the best ingredients possible even helped earn the eatery accolades from Zagat and the manufacturers of World’s Greatest Grandpa coffee mugs.