On the Line: Brandon Stein of The Cellar, Part One
Photo by Eleonor Segura
With its themed interior and reputation for romance, we spent one Valentine's dinner at The Cellar. Jump forward 5+ years to today, and we are excited to be interviewing the chef.
Do a lot of wedding proposals happen in the restaurant? And are you asked to help execute any of them? A lot of wedding proposals happen at The Cellar. Elizabeth Taylor was proposed to (for the second time) by Richard Burton right in one of our booths. Recently I had a request to put the ring in one of our souffles. Most undervalued ingredient: I would have to say, to me, the most undervalued ingredient and most overlooked ingredient is vinegar. It's such a diverse ingredient, and can be used in so many ways. It is an ingredient I've always wanted to start making myself.
How long have you been with The Cellar, and where were you previously? I have been with The Cellar for two years, and was previously at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.
Where was your most recent meal? For my most recent meal, I was surrounded my friends at Marche Moderne. The most memorable dish in our family-style dinner was the roasted bone marrow.
You are surrounded by Downtown Fullerton neighbors with great menus. Have you checked any of them out? There are a lot of good bar programs in Downtown Fullerton. However, the only bar I eat at would be Hopscotch.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own). Korean tofu houses, Thai and anything with a little spice.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best: Orange County has the best diversity in food. It makes it fun as a diner when I have all the options of different cuisine all in one county.
Are there any challenges to cooking "underground"? The challenges to cooking underground, other than the heat, would be receiving orders. It can become a little tricky sometimes.
What is the secret to a great French soup? The secret to a great French soup is quality ingredients. At The Cellar, our base was a house made veal stock. That, combined with all of our other quality, homemade ingredients, and you have a soup not even Campbell's could dream of.
How often do souffles fall before making it out to the table? Never. One requirement of working at The Cellar is to not let the souffles "fall".
What do you recommend for first-timers? For first-timers to The Cellar, or French cuisine in general, I would suggest trying out my spin on a classic mussel dish-- mussels sauteed in fennel, white wine and herb sauce. Going for the close-to-home eats, I would pick my Calabrese salumi, Gruyere and roasted red bell pepper "Hot Pocket", featured on our revamped bar menu.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?): A professional boxer was staying at the hotel. He requested that we special order ostrich meat and kangaroo. They were the only two things he would eat the whole week he was in town.
Is there a dish that you'd like to learn how to make? I'd like to learn and perfect the craft of charcuterie-- the art of salting, smoking and curing your own meats.
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