From Impoverished childhood to ‘Top Chef’ contender

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Sipping cappuccino on the patio of Vaca on a recent morning, chef Amar Santana ’02 savors the calm before crowds descend on his wildly popular Spanish-themed restaurant.

But the quiet time enjoying a foamy elixir is cut short when a friend shows up with a gift from a weekend hunt: a 120-pound wild boar. A giddy Santana, wearing a baseball cap that covers his familiar curly mohawk, hoists the skinned beast – hind legs first – from an ice chest.

As the boar is carted into his Costa Mesa kitchen with its prickly head detached, the newly minted “Top Chef” finalist revels in the unexpected moments of his rags-to-riches life.

“Just another day in the life of Amar Santana,” he said.

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