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Dustin Ames

On the Line: Alan Jackson of Lemonade, Part One

With the exception of their pot roast, one of the reasons I appreciate the Newport Beach outpost of Lemonade is their ability to offer a menu with many, many options under the $10 mark. We're not just talking standard fare, either. Figs with arugula and blue cheese, Voodoo Indian lentils with cauliflower and mango, even cilantro mint curry chicken are offered-- and the menu changes with the seasons. Their cafeteria concept can be found throughout Southern California, but Chef Alan Jackson saw a need on this island for his Lemonade experience.

How long does it take to prepare the hot menu (stew) items? Our braised items take nine hours to cook. We cook all our pot roasts sous vide, which allows us to control the outcome, guaranteeing a perfect flavor.

How did you decide on the name? Lemonade is so perfectly symbolic of Southern California. The simple word embodies a sense of light, simplicity and playfulness . . .and this one word name explains the way I think and cook food, how we serve our customers and the way we want to make people feel. While the word is nostalgic, it is also modern and timeless.

Favorite places to eat. The Slanted Door in San Francisco, with my wife and a bottle of Rose.

Where was your most recent meal? Mr. Bones Vietnamese Food in New York. They made a crispy banana flower salad that was spicy, salty and sweet; it blew my mind!

One food you can't live without. Almost any vegetable!

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best: Tacos! Taco Rosa and Bear Flag for fish tacos!

What are your best-selling chilled Market Place (salads/sides)? The pineapple chicken, (with) roasted green beans, toasted coconut and jerk dressing.

Favorite meal growing up: My grandma would make toast and let the salted butter brown, and then she'd spread boysenberry jam all over.

Best culinary tip for the home cook: Do you remember making an outline for a school paper? Well, I'd suggest creating a cooking outline for your meals; the improvisation and artistry comes between the lines.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Gusanos de Maguey, or Mexican French-fried caterpillars. I was in the Zona Rosa in Mexico City with a friend who's a vegetarian, and she thought they were fried cactus!

You're making breakfast; what are you having? Eber skeebers with maple syrup for the kids. A perfect omelet with Comte cheese, made from raw cow's milk. A slice of heirloom tomato from my garden with olive oil, fresh squeezed orange juice and a piece of rustic bread toasted with butter, like my grandma made, then topped with boysenberry jam.

Strangest customer request (and did you do it?): This is California; requests are almost unlimited. The most challenging request is to cook without salt. I resent the challenge, but in the end I have learned to make food taste good without this wonderful ingredient.

What is your beverage of choice? Ah, lemonade! On the weekends in my yard, I'll pour a splash of Gentlemen's Jack over rocks and top with lemonade.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to make? If I had the time, and my family and business would let me go, I'd like to live in Japan for a few years to work under one of the great sushi chefs like Jiro Ono. I know cleaning rice is where I would have to start, but in the end, I would know more about myself and the simplicity that chefs like this master.

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