The story of Iva Lee 1915-1997


Iva Lee was born and raised in the South and came from a long line of Southern women who passed down recipes since their arrival in America in 1640. Iva Lee was my beloved grandmother. She took pride in preparing a wide variety of Southern meals and classic dishes from New Orleans for family and welcomed friends. Unlike most Californians, I was raised on grits, gumbo, okra, sweet potatoes, biscuits and pecan pie. My husband and I decided to honor her by sharing some of her finest recipes and savory dishes with you. Enjoy!

— Lisa and Eric Wagoner



Lisa and Eric Wagoner are husband and wife and are co-owners. Iva Lee’s Restaurant was designed and built by the couple. Lisa Wagoner has spent her career in the restaurant industry. She worked at the Surf and Sand Hotel at Splashes restaurant in Laguna Beach for six and a half years. At 24, she fulfilled her life-long dream when she opened her own restaurant, the Ramos House Café, in The Historic District of San Juan Capistrano. Wagoner was involved in all aspects of the operation from 1991 to 1998. The Ramos House Café received many accolades during her tenure including Best Restaurant in Orange County. Her next mission is to make Iva Lee’s the Best Restaurant in Orange County.


Iva Lee’s Restaurant has an innovative and talented chef, Chef Christopher Starr. Starr creates dishes that are based upon concepts and cooking techniques that he feels would best represent the flavors of the South and the tastes of Iva Lee. He takes classic Southern recipes and adds a modern twist on them. He takes great pride in preparing and serving delicious meals for the enjoyment of welcomed guests. 

Starr was born and raised in California. At an early age he knew he wanted to become a Chef. During high school years, he interned at the Dana Point Resort where he learned a series of advanced cooking techniques. He started at Iva Lee’s Restaurant shortly after its opening in 2002. Starr was quite the star in Iva Lee’s kitchen. After hard work and quickly rising up the ranks, Starr decided to increase his culinary education by attending school at the Culinary Institute of America, regarded as the best cooking school in America (and possibly the world).

Once Starr graduated, we asked him  back to Iva Lee’s Restaurant as our Executive Chef. We are overjoyed that he has returned for Starr loves to challenge himself in discovering new ways to cook Southern and Creole cuisine.