From the Publisher
Welcome to the sixth edition of the Anaheim Hills Review . This issue marks a year that we have brought you a bird’s-eye view of our unique community. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know dedicated residents of Anaheim Hills and reading about their various endeavors.
With each issue of the Anaheim Hills Review, we meet local individuals intent on making a difference. This is the case with Anaheim Hills Councilwoman Natalie Meeks (pg. 2) and Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Laura Cunningham (pg. 4). Read how both talented women strive to ensure the success of Anaheim.
Every great community has great food. In this issue, we visit with Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant, a fixture since 1978. Eddie Ledesma, who bought the restaurant from its original owner in 1991, has, with the help of his family, served delicious cuisine in a family-friendly atmosphere for 32 years (pg. 5).
In this issue we also meet talented pastry chef Sally Mach, who owns the bakery The Gateaux Shoppe. Though Sally only opened her doors three years ago, her pre-designed cakes and tasty pastries have amassed a following (pg. 6).
Human interest stories that put a smile on your face are the hallmark of the Anaheim Hills Review. In this issue, I’m delighted to introduce you to Canyon High School’s Special Assistant Coach Mitchell Siegel (pg. 7). A Canyon alumnus, Mitchell earned the nickname of “super fan.” Read about Mitchell’s talent for hyping up the crowd at Canyon basketball and football games.
Thank you for your continued readership. If you have any ideas for future articles, please let us know.
Stepping Up for the Hills
As a resident of Anaheim Hills for more than 25 years, Natalie Meeks can attest to the community’s unique qualities. She compares Anaheim Hills to an island with diverse cultures and core values like family, education, quality of life and neighborhood safety.
Those aspects make Anaheim Hills “a special place,” says the city councilwoman, elected last November to represent District 6, which covers the area. “I moved to Anaheim Hills when my daughter was young,” she says. “You get to know your neighbors. They play soccer with the same people. It’s very close-knit.”
Meeks spent nearly three decades working in the Anaheim Public Works department, starting as an assistant civil engineer in 1987. Her other jobs included principal civil engineer, development services manager, deputy city engineer and public works director from 20072016. Meeks was on the Anaheim Planning Commission from 20192022 (and a chairperson during part of that period).by George A. Paul
Born and raised in Garden Grove, a mile south of Disneyland, Meeks recalls watching the fireworks from her front yard in the summer. She was the first person in her family to attend college and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from California State University, Fullerton.
Meeks recalls math being a strong subject in high school. Her mother suggested a career in engineering. Once Meeks started CSUF, she found that she really enjoyed Civil Engineering. Following graduation, municipal work appealed to Meeks because of the career’s “focus on creating cities, worlds and neighborhoods, rather than just individual projects. I went to work in L.A. for a few years, then I came to Anaheim and stayed,” she says. (The city councilwoman also has a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University).
Among Meeks’ proudest Public Works achievements were
development projects around Weir Canyon Road and East Serrano Avenue. “We built thousands of houses and worked with developers to put in all the infrastructure and create neighborhoods,” she says. “It was really
exciting to create places where people were going to raise their families and have a life. That was a great opportunity.”
Another important project was transforming the Anaheim Resort with the addition of Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney. This resulted in a totally different environment.
“You went from a day at Disneyland to an actual resort area with multi-day opportunities,” she says. “I’m drawn to projects that create more than what a single project can. They’re synergistic.”
Elsewhere, Meeks played a key role in building the ARTIC transit hub, expanding the Anaheim Convention Center, and adding the East Anaheim Gymnasium and a police substation at the East Anaheim Community Center.
When former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned last year due to corruption allegations and Trevor O’Neil, mayor pro tem and previous District 6 city councilmember, sought the mayor opening, Meeks decided to run for city council.
“I was really drawn to step
Promoting Business Growth & Innovation
The city of Anaheim’s Chamber of Commerce has operated for 125 years, and its President and CEO, Laura Cunningham , recently celebrated her one-year anniversary of leading the Chamber’s newest generation.
Cunningham’s path to the role has not been typical. She immigrated to Orange County when she was just five years old and didn’t speak English.
“I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic, working-class neighborhood in Orange,” she says. “I had the good fortune to encounter a series of opportunities and to rise through hard work and constant learning.”
In the years leading up to her role at the Chamber, Cunningham gained experience in both public and private work, taking up government and business owner positions.
“I’ve run a small business, worked in the California State
Senate and Assembly, served as Chief of Staff to a county supervisor, and have run public outreach campaigns for multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects,” she says.
It’s clear that Cunningham has the experience and drive necessary to lead Anaheim’s Chamber of Commerce, and she thought the position was the perfect blend of her past work.
“I joined the Chamber in 2020 just before the pandemic started and knew I would be able to combine my legislative past with my experience as a small business owner,” she says. “I was honored to be named President and CEO in December 2021.”
In her role over the past year, Cunningham has cemented her belief that Anaheim is a dynamic region with a constant flow of activity. There is always more work that needs to be done, and the Chamber promotes growth and advocacy within local businesses.
“Anaheim is a very vibrant area, and our business community is much more than just our resort and entertainmetn venues,” she says. “There are always plans for growth, expansion and innovation in our city.”
Anaheim’s busy nature is precisely why Cunningham finds her job so fulfilling. She is constantly finding new ways to re-engage the community and advocate for policies that allow businesses of all sizes to flourish.
“I get to meet and help entrepreneurs starting new businesses or growing existing ones, making the American Dream come true for themselves and their families,” she says. “I work with a great team that comes to work every day ready to serve our community.”
Jim Cain, Director of Operations at Anaheim Hills Community Council, found that Cunningham’s expertise and
experience revitalized the Chamber and provided a new outlook to the community.
“Laura is a breath of fresh air to the Chamber staff and members,” he says. “She’s very involved in community events to show the Chamber’s support, especially with the 4th of July celebration that has been running for 33 years.”
The annual Anaheim Hills 4th of July Celebration is a big priority for the Chamber, and Cunningham plans to continue spotlighting it and other community events in 2023.
“I’m excited to partner with the Anaheim Hills Community Council for the 4th of July celebration, which attracts more than 30,000 people each year,” she says. “In this new year, we’ll also continue focusing on connecting local businesses with opportunities for growth, helping them reach new customers.” •
Tasty Meals & Sweet Treats
Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant
Since 1978, Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant has stood as an authentic Mexican eatery in Anaheim Hills, with a committed base of fans and diners. One such diner is Eddie Ledesma, who purchased the restaurant in 1991 after spending years in the food service industry himself.
“A few of my family members were working at the restaurant, and it felt like a good opportunity to pursue my own business,” says Eddie. “From the day I purchased the restaurant, our customers have been so great and so loyal to us.”
For the past 32 years, Eddie has worked to transform Antonio’s into a true family-owned and operated business. The staff is a small crew of just family members, like Eddie’s wife and brother, and they have cultivated a homey environment for their customers.
“Most of our customers have watched my children do homework in the dining room throughout the years and have continued to see them grow up and help out in the restaurant,” he says. “We like to present ourselves as a family business, and that’s the atmosphere you’ll find here.”
Eddie’s daughter, Melissa Ledesma, has grown up and does not work at the restaurant as regularly as she once did, though she is often still recognized by customers.
“Antonio’s has always been a small, closeknit place, and the customers have been going there since before I was born,” says Melissa. “It’s very special how
everyone has followed our lives, and I think it gives the restaurant so much character.”
Melissa’s favorite dish is the carne asada burrito, and she always finds time to stop by Antonio’s to grab one. The rest of the menu is filled with classics like tacos, wet burritos and enchiladas.
“I love to come by the restaurant after work and grab freshly made tortilla chips from my family,” says Melissa. “All their food is so special and authentic, even with something as simple as a taco.”
As Eddie and the Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant team enter their 32nd year of operating the business, they hope to continue meeting new customers and welcoming regulars. From Melissa’s perspective, customers come for the delicious Mexican food but
stay for the personalized, warm service from Eddie and her family.
“My dad always puts his customers first, and he does that because he cares so much,” says Melissa. “His goal is to provide quality service, and he does that daily with a huge smile on his face.”
Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant 5771 La Palma Ave. / 714-779-2637
The Gateaux Shoppe
Step into The Gateaux Shoppe in Anaheim Hills, and you’ll be transported to a world of sweet delights crafted by Sally Mach, who won an episode of Food Network’s “Winner Cake All” show with her twin sister, Sherry.
With her prize money, Sally opened up The Gateaux Shoppe, an Anaheim Hills-based bakery that serves custom and pre-designed cakes and other pastries.
“My baking journey started with wanting to do something nice for my family and friends, so I would bake cakes as birthday gifts,” says Sally. “I later went to culinary school and was inspired by French pastries and their way of baking.”
It was initially Sherry’s idea for Sally to attend culinary school instead of business school like she had planned. Sally went on to train at Le Cordon Bleu and studied French culinary techniques, which she now uses to make the croissants, macarons, cakes and other desserts she sells at her shop. She even named her shop after the French word for cake, gateaux.
Sally has been running The Gateaux Shoppe for almost three years now, and while she specializes in visually stunning custom and pre-designed cakes, diners can order everything from chocolate-covered strawberries to cinnamon rolls. The cakes themselves have intricate and imaginative decorations, from a whimsical Disneyland-inspired
cake to an elegant butterflythemed cake.
“We also added an espresso machine so customers can stop by to enjoy coffee with their pastries,” she says. “We’ve been so blessed with how the community has chosen to support us, and we’re incredibly grateful for all our customers.”
As Sally and her baking crew head into 2023, they hope to expand their offerings to include cake decorating and pastry classes.
Sally’s husband, Brian Torres, helps at the shop and is excited about the opportunity to support customers in cultivating their own
“We want to establish ourselves more in the community, and I think the decorating classes will be a great way to do that,” he says. “There’s a lot of opportunity there, and many people want to learn cake decorating, and similar skill sets so they can do it on their own, or maybe even as a future profession.”
Running a business in the pastry industry is never an easy job, and Torres recognizes the undeniable dedication Sally has to her craft.
“Sally can pretty much do anything, and I’ve seen her put her whole heart into this shop,” he says. “It’s not just a nine- to-five job for her, and she’s extremely passionate about her work.” •
At any game played by the Canyon High School studentathletes, you’ll likely hear one fan cheering the loudest or leading the crowd in a spirited rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” Mitchell Siegel, a Canyon alumnus, is the school’s “super fan” and a zealous supporter of the athletics department.
Although he graduated almost 10 years ago, Mitchell’s dedication to Canyon and its athletes remains stronger than ever. He has supported the basketball and football teams in every capacity, from student manager to announcer to special assistant coach.
“I love watching the Canyon teams grow and helping the coaches out,” he says. “They all teach me to become a better man and person.”
Mitchell has always been a sports follower, rooting for local teams like the Anaheim Ducks and the University of Southern California’s football team, but it wasn’t until he became a student at Canyon that his admiration blossomed into something more tangible.
“When I was younger, I really loved being a part of a sports atmosphere,” he says. “Now I love being a part of the Canyon sports community and seeing how all the teams get into the game.”
Mitchell works at Disneyland, but Canyon’s sports teams are his number-one priority when he’s not at the theme park. His role has morphed from a super fan to a special assistant coach, but his commitment to hyping up the crowds has never wavered.
His nickname was originally coined by Manny Alvarez, a sports writer for The Orange County Register, who worked as a Canyon announcer when Mitchell was a student. The name caught on, and Mitchell’s devotion was recognized by the school itself when he was inducted into Canyon’s Hall of Fame in 2020.
“When Mitchell shows up to any game, the student section goes crazy and starts responding enthusiastically to everything he does,” says Alvarez. “He absolutely changed the culture of Canyon High games.”
The appreciation goes both ways. Mitchell might have changed how Canyon and its students interact
Super Siegelby Yuki Klotz-Burwell
Canyon High School’s varsity basketball team surrounds Special Assistant Coach Mitchell Siegel (center) and Coach Nate Harrison (right). Siegel’s devotion to Canyon’s sports teams has earned him the title of “super fan.” Siegel has heavily supported the basketball and football teams throughout his more than 10 years of involvement with Canyon.
always keeps me positive.”
Being Canyon High School’s super fan might be Mitchell’s signature persona, but he’s known all over Anaheim Hills for his friendly personality and ability to make new friends instantly.
“He’s the most famous person in Anaheim Hills,” says Canyon High School Basketball Coach Nate Harrison, who has known Mitchell since he was a freshman. “Whenever we go to Starbucks or any local restaurant, he knows everyone who walks in, and they all love to be around him.”
Mitchell’s positivity has bled into every aspect of his life, whether through his work at Disneyland or his dinner conversations with his parents. He also shares his optimism and energizing thoughts online and has amassed over 5,000 followers across his social media platforms.
“He has a passion for people and a passion for life,” says Mitchell’s father, Ron Siegel. “He’s excited about everything that’s going on around him.”
with their teams, but the sport and community have also significantly impacted his life.
“One of the best moments ever was when Manny first called me the Canyon superfan,” says Mitchell. “I love being part of this program, and it means a lot to me.”
The collaborative environment at Canyon also allows Mitchell to destress and take a break from anything else going on in his life.
“Whenever I have something negative going on in my life, I love coming out to Canyon and keeping my mind busy,” he says. “The team
Above all, Mitchell is grateful for the opportunity to stay close to a team that means the world to him and to connect with new and old friends while doing so.
“My friends, family and the team are all my supporters, and I’m so grateful for them,” he says. “This team is my family.” •
A Foundation for
With more than 1,200 locations, Mathnasium has become a brand name throughout Southern California. Thousands of children pour into the company’s facilities every day after school. So, what makes Mathnasium work?
“The Mathnasium Method builds the foundation for math mastery, boosts grades and scores, and teaches students critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help them throughout their lives,” says Joy Strobel, Manager of the Anaheim Hills location.
Employing a multi-step assessment, Mathnasium discovers the gaps in a child’s foundational skills and determines his or her learning style and personality. Unlike in a classroom setting, where all students are kept on the same level, Mathnasium understands that knowledge can vary greatly from student to student, so the program is tailored to individual student needs.
“Parents say, ‘I want them to memorize multiplication.’ We teach children math in a way they can understand, master and love the subject,” Strobel says. “We start with the assessment, then based on that, we develop a learning plan.”
The learning plan doesn’t necessarily line up with the school curriculum, though the instructors will assist students with homework. Strobel says the goal is to help students not only catch up but get ahead.
One of Strobel’s star clients, the granddaughter of Debbie La Rosa, was two years behind in mathematics before joining Mathnasium.
“My granddaughter was struggling in math,” says La Rosa. “She wanted to do better. It wasn’t like she wasn’t giving her all, but it wasn’t computing.”
La Rosa says math was also a troublesome subject for her growing up, and she is proud of her granddaughter’s progress. “She started at Mathnasium toward the end of fourth grade. They caught her up by teaching her techniques.”
Since attending Mathnasium, her granddaughter’s scores have risen. She is currently in sixth-grade testing at a 7th-grade level and in advanced placement math.
Strobel says part of the program’s success is the student-toinstructor ratio, as well as instructor experience. There are more than 20 years of teaching experience between herself, the center director and education director alone.
“Every potential hire has to pass a test,” says Strobel. “It depends on what level of math they can do, but they can all teach Algebra 2, and four instructors can teach higher level math. Just like the students, each instructor has their own strengths when it comes to math skills. We take into account the areas in which they each excel, as well as their personalities and teaching styles. Then we pair students with instructors.”
According to Strobel, the instructors focus on connecting with the students. “They have had the same middle school math teachers, and their college majors were what the students want to study in the future,” she says. “Such connections help make students feel more comfortable knowing someone in the center can really relate to them.”
Instruction can take place in various forms, such as tactile, pictures and mental math. As skills are built, students are rewarded and motivated with prizes from a prize wheel. Each month, a progress report is sent to parents.
“The Progress Reports list topics the child has completed and mastered, topics they’re currently working on, and upcoming, yet-tobe-introduced topics,” says Center Director Jamie Tan. “Since math builds upon itself, it’s important for families to see that the skills their students are working on right now are helping to create a foundation for what’s to come.”
As the franchise grows, Strobel says her commitment to helping children excel at math has deepened. “The goal is to cultivate a warm and inviting mini-community within the center walls where students feel able to ask questions without fear of being judged, and where they are excited to work on math,” she says. “Working with Mathnasium and being a mother, I can see how much kids enjoy and learn here and gain confidence over time. Seeing the difference in what we do is an affirmation that math can change their lives, and hopefully one day, they can change the world.” •
Mathnasium: Anaheim Hills
5753 East Santa Ana Canyon Rd., Suite H / 714-307-8124 www.facebook.com/ mathnasium up,” she explains. “I felt I had the background and experience to help lead the city out of the challenge it faced.”
Stepping Up for the Hills
Anaheim Public Works Director Rudy Emami, a longtime former Meeks colleague, says, “The city council should benefit from her advanced understanding of how we operate, especially in seeking grants, strategic planning, prioritizing and coordinating projects.”
According to Emami, Meeks also has a depth of knowledge about “engineering, hydrology, traffic and other technical matters. She will do a great job representing Anaheim on regional boards dealing with water supply,
CONT. FROM PAGE 3
regional traffic and the Santa Ana River,” he says.
When it comes to Anaheim in general, Meeks has always admired the city’s willingness to try new things and move initiatives forward. Although that progressive nature might have stalled slightly, she wants to “make sure we are pushing the envelope.”
In her spare time, Meeks likes to golf, garden and bicycle along the river trail.
Anaheim City Council meetings are held twice a month on Tuesdays, 5 pm, City Hall Council Chambers, 200 South Anaheim Blvd., First floor, Anaheim. www.Anaheim.net •
EW TH EAR STAAW T YEATHE
Keeping Our Attentionby Julie Bawden-Davis
Anaheim Hill’s photographer Grant Romancia likes to prove clients wrong when they tell him they don’t photograph well. “I love bringing out the best in people during a photo session,” says the owner of Grant Romancia Photography. “I get a great feeling of accomplishment when they love their photos.”
An award-winning photographer, Romancia regularly shoots a wide variety of photos. This includes corporate events, marketing and product images, business portraits, commercial and industrial shots, as well as family portraits, graduations and weddings.
“The old saying a picture is worth a thousand words may be cliché, but it’s true,” says Romancia, who has been a professional photographer for more than 28 years. “Today’s businesses have seconds before a potential customer moves on to another website or social media page. Quality photographs help keep their attention.”
Simone LeCompte is the owner of Crave Health in Yorba Linda and uses Romancia’s services. “Grant is truly a master of his craft with a great eye for the perfect picture,” she says. “He takes my business and family photos and has a way of making you feel so comfortable in front of a camera. I am not naturally photogenic and tend to get awkward in front of the lens, but with Grant I relax and the pictures come out great. My kids are the worst to photograph—it’s a family joke—but somehow he gets these amazing shots of my boys.”
John Kalil, Founder and Publisher of OC Local, a direct mail magazine, agrees. “Grant has a special talent for making you feel comfortable in front of his camera. He is amazing at capturing not just the shot but the feel and essence behind the scene he is photographing,” says Kalil.
“Grant has a gift for seeing the best angles and lighting of all subjects and is willing to get the shot no matter what,” adds Lynn Campbell, a realtor with First Team Realty, based in Yorba Linda. “He also makes himself available, is on time, respectful and timely with getting the finished product to me.”
Romancia, who won Portrait Photographer of the Year with the Professional Photographers of Canada, got his start when a coworker asked him to photograph his daughter’s wedding. Though he initially hesitated, he finally agreed.
“The photos turned out amazing,” he says. “They were incredibly happy and started telling their friends.” Before long, he quit his job and opened his own photography company, eventually earning his Master of Photographic Arts.
Originally from Canada, Romancia moved to Anaheim Hills in 2017. This came about because he met his now wife, Lynne, on a fitness website in 2015. “We were both looking for someone who lived nearby to hike with and had set our filters accordingly to just 10 miles from our homes, but we ended up connecting anyway,” he says.
After many friendly conversations, with neither thinking that it would amount to anything but a pen pal situation, Romancia happened to be coming to Las Vegas to attend a drag race with some friends. “I thought it’d be fun to meet, so we did,” he says. “Still, even after that first meeting, we didn’t think anything further would happen.”
But in time, the two had a simultaneous epiphany and realized they were meant to be together. After long-distance dating for a year, they got engaged and were married in June of 2017, four days after he crossed the border with a U-Haul and a Fiancé’ visa. When he relocated, Romancia opened his photography business in Anaheim Hills and continues to service clients in Canada.
“I really enjoy Anaheim Hills,” he says. “I love the people and being part of such a connected, active community. I also enjoy the beautiful terrain. Lynne and I often walk the neighborhood and go hiking, play tennis, cycle, weight lift and kayak. Anaheim Hills is a great place to live and work.” •
Grant Romancia Photography 714 406-1296
info@ GrantRomancia .com / https:// GrantRomancia .com
Late Winter Gardening
These next two months are very similar to the last two in the garden. We are still in full-blown cool season, and it’s still a great time to plant a second rotation of crops. Try different varieties of lettuce and kale but also consider new ideas like mustard, collards and snow peas.
If you are growing from seed now or any time of the year, make sure to properly store your seed packets. If stored correctly and kept dry, seeds will last at least three years and often longer. Put seeds in Ziplock bags with those little moisture absorber packets found in everything these days, or add some rice, which also works well.
By now we should all be experts on “atmospheric rivers.” All that rain means drainage is more important than ever. If you garden directly in the ground, you will know by now if your garden drained or if there is a problem with standing water. If the latter is the case, once things dry out, make sure to adjust and lower the surrounding soil height to ensure the water drains away from your plants.
If you are using raised beds,
you should see drenched soil but no puddles. Typically, raised beds, by nature of the fact they are raised, should have no problems. If you see puddling or the beds remain wet for extended periods, do a thorough inspection of how and where they drain. If everything looks in order, it is probably time for a partial or full soil replacement.
If you are growing in pots and the soil remains wet and soggy for extended periods, replace all the soil and make sure the drainage holes are clear and of sufficient size.
I have stressed the use of fertilizers in prior columns. But what exactly is fertilizer? Fertilizer is defined as, “any material of natural or synthetic origin that is applied to soil or plant tissues to supply them with nutrients.”
There are 21 different nutrients in soil, all required to some degree for healthy plant growth. Most are considered micro and can persist in the soil for decades, as they are used in very small quantities by plants. However, the macros, referred to as N-P-K, (N) nitrogen (P) phosphorus and (K)
potassium, are absorbed at a much higher rate and need to be replaced on a regular basis. Each macronutrient has a specific role. Nitrogen adds to stem and leaf growth, along with green color, Phosphorus aids the formation of roots, seeds, fruit and flowers. Potassium facilitates good steady and strong growth and helps fight diseases.
Compost is a great way to supply most nutrients to the garden naturally. Vegetative matter in compost is broken down into
usable nutrients. If mostly organic material goes into your soil and plants, mostly organic material comes out of the resulting crops. This occurs as a result of the way a lot of the micronutrients are developed during the decomposition of vegetative matter. Of course, if you’re on the planet and are eating three meals a day, consuming 100 percent organic is impossible, but anything close is a bonus. Compost can be applied by side-dressing existing plants or mixing it into the soil after harvest or prior to planting.
Now go get gardening!
For help with any garden, landscape or pest problem, contact our Master Gardener Hotline at UCCEOCMGhotline@ucanr.edu and check out our website at www. MGOrange .ucanr.edu for scientifically researched, peerreviewed information. It is a great tool for gardeners at any level. •
Brian Hale is an Anaheim Hills resident and has been a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Orange County since 1999. Over the years, he has been involved with many aspects of the Master Gardener program. Currently, he spends most of his time with the Propagation Team and is a member of the Speakers Bureau. This includes doing presentations for private and public venues.