Armando Velazquez of Salt & Ash Brings Great Food to Placentia

Always working
Always working
Photo by Brian Feinzimer

I'd been following the progress of Salt & Ash since they opened in late 2015. However, they've gone through some changes in recent months—  the most notable being the addition of one Cody Storts in the kitchen. Sound familiar? However, the focus for On the Line is their owner, Armando. I'm here in Placentia this week to get to know the brains behind the restaurant.

What is the story behind the name of the restaurant?
We called it Salt & Ash because salt is the essential flavor builder for food. And 'ash' because we felt that we took over a restaurant space that's had some turnover, and we're trying to raise it from the ashes.

Where did you grow up, and where's home these days?
I grew up in La Mirada, down the street. And now I live in Riverside. I live near Mt. Rubidoux, which has great hiking trails, and also near a lot of restaurants within walking distance.

You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Eggs and toast every day. Eggs over easy, with whatever bread is in the bread box. Slap some Tapatio on that and down the hatch. If it's the weekend, eggs and pancakes with Aunt Jemima syrup.

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Favorite places to eat:
I don't really eat out much, so I'm really into grilling at home. I'm huge on steaks, chicken, burgers . . . .simple things.

What is your perspective on customer service?
The customer is (mostly) always right. We'll work hard to make sure we take care of our guests, but we also won't tolerate situations where disgruntled people become verbally abusive. Nobody should have to deal with that.

I hear there are plans for a new restaurant; care to elaborate?
Long Beach Taco Company is coming to Downtown Long Beach in the Arts District this spring, on the corner of Linden and 1st Street. There are a lot of hotels and residents in the area, but no taqueria to serve them. I want to do traditional tacos, and also some with a twist. Fresh tortillas, everything made in-house. Craft beer, too.

You have a whole day to yourself; what would you do?
Netflix and chill by myself. Have you seen Stranger Things? I'm impatiently waiting for Season Two.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
That all restaurant guys are drinkers and smokers. I drink; I don't smoke (laughs).

What made you decide to pursue a career in restaurants? What was the turning point?
I wanted to eat something besides eggs and toast and fried chicken. The truth is, way back before I owned any other businesses (I own separate construction and auto repair businesses) I always wanted to own a restaurant. I saved up enough money for it, and here we are. Salt & Ash opened in November 2015, and now I'm about to open my second restaurant, Long Beach Taco Company, this spring.

Your favorite childhood memory:
Riding in a helicopter over the volcanoes in Kona, Hawaii when I was about 12 years old. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot after that for quite some time.

What is your definition of happiness?
A platter of fresh oysters with my four kids and my wife around the table.

Even multi-taskers can stand still.
Even multi-taskers can stand still.
Photo by Brian Feinzimer

Hardest life lesson you've learned:
Trust no man. And only one woman.

Your best recent food find.
There's a restaurant up the street from my new restaurant project that I love called Long Beach Fish Grill. It's a walk-up counter that serves all types of different fish dishes. You pick the fish you want, and the way you want it cooked. I go with the garlic butter swordfish.

Last thing you looked up online:
Acquiring a liquor license in Orange County. We're working on some new things at Salt & Ash.

Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I love to ride Harley Davidson motorcycles. I've been riding for five years. Hauling ass down the freeway as fast as fucking possible is freeing.

Your guilty pleasure food:
Grilled chicken from El Pollo Loco or fried chicken from Popeye's. Either one; I love them both. The marinade El Pollo uses is savory and delicious, and the spice of Popeye's fried chicken is hands down the tastiest to me.

What profession would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
I'd move to Cancun and be a tourist guide. Or some other coastal beach city. That would be the life.

Salt & Ash is located at 1390 North Kraemer Boulevard, Placentia, (657) 444-2701; www.saltandash.com.


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