Gabe Gordon of Beachwood BBQ, Part Two
Photo by Todd Barnes
Today we continue our Q&A with Gabe Gordon, chef and owner of Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach.
Stay tuned for a recipe from our chef tomorrow.
If you missed the first part, click here.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network?
I don't really watch the Food Network, so I don't really have an answer.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Puffed meal worms with cheese powder.
You're making an omelet. What's in it?
Ham and Cheese.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Six pack of craft beer.
Weirdest customer request:
A customer said they were coming in for his wife's birthday, but she didn't really like BBQ, so would we mind cooking fettuccini al fredo.
Favorite OC restaurant(s) other than your own:
We have great Asian restaurants in Orange County, so when I am not working and looking for a place to go I have several favorites:
Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley.
Koi Sushi in Seal Beach.
Boiling Crab in Garden Grove.
Lighttown House in Garden Grove.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
It is impossible to do everything yourself. It's impossible, I tried!
What would the last meal on Earth be?
Oysters at Hog Island Oyster Company in Tomales Bay. I've been going there since I was a kid. It's amazing to sit out on the ocean at a picnic table, shucking oysters and drinking Russian River Temptation.
Who's your hero? Culinary or otherwise?
John Ash from a culinary perspective. I don't think there is a single cook book that was more influential when I started cooking. To this day, when I am feeling uninspired, I go back and read his book, From Earth to Table.
What cuisine that you are unfamiliar with would you want to learn more about and why?
Ethiopian cuisine seems appealing. I've eaten at a few restaurants and I find the food delicious, a lot of stewed meats and vegetables. It predates our slow food movement.
So we've been reading that when you were first considering a restaurant for Seal Beach, Beachwood wasn't your first idea. You jettisoned a fine-dining concept in favor of it. Out of curiosity what was that first concept? And why did you decide on doing BBQ and beer?
Because of my fine dining background we wanted to open a little ten-table high-end restaurant. When we started talking to people in Seal Beach, no one seemed very enthusiastic about it. We already secured the space and I didn't want to lose my opportunity to have a little restaurant on the beach. I've always been fascinated by American cuisine, much of my cooking was taking American comfort food and making it uncomfortable. I often used smoking techniques in the past. When you take the pretentiousness out of my cooking, BBQ seemed a natural fit. We then test marketed the idea of a BBQ joint that focused on quality ingredients and products and the residents of Seal Beach were much more excited. The craft beer focus initially came from my own desire to serve good wine at my previous restaurants, so why would this be different with beer. If you are going to serve BBQ, you have to have beer; and if you are going to serve beer it should be the best craft beer on the market. It is unacceptable to serve a product that even its producers find it so unappealing they don't advertise the taste, they focus in the packaging, i.e. vortex bottle or cans that turn blue when cold.
For people who don't know what the HopCam is, care to share how it came about?
The HopCam was developed out of sheer laziness. Beachwood BBQ has a rotating beer program, where we are constantly changing the beer selection. On any given day, we change somewhere between 3 and 14 kegs. Our customers often drive from far away places and if the website is not up to date with the current tap list, they would be greatly disappointed if they expected a specific beer and while in transit the keg blew. I didn't have enough time in my day to devote to always updating the website. So, in an effort to provide excellent customer service, even before the customer walks in the door, we put a webcam up that live updates our chalkboard tap list. The HopCam turned out to be a pretty cool idea. As far as we can tell, it's the first one ever.
You do more game meats than most restaurants. Are you considering (or have you considered) even more exotic game?
Yes, I tried to order Zebra but apparently its not available in the US, I may have to get a job in Europe for a week if I want to cook with it. At least three times a year I prepare a multi-course non-bbq dinner as a way to fill my need to cook creative, eccentric "fine dining" dinners. They are always very game focused, I try to source the most exotic meats that you can legally get. The next one coming up in October is going to be a molecular gastronomy dinner, I am working on sourcing yak, wildebeest or kudu. Although, I was thinking of pairing kangaroo with a really bitter beer and naming the dish "Hoppy" (sorry bad chef humor).
So what were you doing before you started Beachwood, that is, what's your background, culinary or otherwise?
I've always loved cooking, I grew up in Northern California where food and wine was at the center of everything. I started out cooking in Santa Barbara and moved to Los Angeles, where I was an executive chef for several restaurants. I've always been in fine dining and leaned towards the more eccentric side.
What advice do you have for those that might be thinking about starting a career in food?
If you are planning on being in this business you need to think long and hard if you are willing to sacrifice all your weekends, your nights and holidays. So when all your friends are out celebrating having fun, you'll be in the kitchen. When your family is eating turkey, you'll be cooking it for someone else. When your best friend is having his/her kids 1st birthday party you can only attend if you are catering it. And if you are willing to give up all that for a hot, crowded, and relentless high pressure environment...jump in.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? 10 years.
In 5 years, same thing I am doing now, cooking great food and serving fantastic beer. In 10 years, sitting on a beach in Fiji.
Beachwood BBQ, 131 1/2 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 493-4500; www.beachwoodbbq.com. Open Tues.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Appetizers, $4-$12; entrées, $8-$23. Beer and wine.
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