On the Line: Brian Huskey of Tackle Box, Part One
Armed and talented
Photo by Dustin Ames
Back in June, I broke the news of Top Chef alum Brian Huskey's move to Orange County. Setting up shop in Corona del Mar, he's changing the way diners eat at the beach. I spent a lunch hour attacking the menu and learning more about Tackle Box's big picture.
You're making breakfast. What are you having? Breakfast burrito... extra bacon, egg, cheese, potato (preferably hash brown), pico de gallo. Hot sauce on the side. Fresh squeezed OJ, and a single espresso to finish.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true. BOH [Editor's Note: That's short for back of the house, a.k.a. kitchen crew] act like pirates. Work hard, play hard. Pirates-- I'd say is bit of a stretch. But work hard, play hard-- I would agree with.
Please explain the name and concept of Tackle Box. Tackle Box is the most important tool for a fisherman. It holds all necessary items of survival at sea. It also evokes a universal emotion that every person can connect with. Also, I'm trying to bridge the gap of fresh quality food at an affordable price. Redefine $20. Hence my concept is a short order stand in a perspective of a restaurant chef. That's why the menu ranges in items from a poblano quesadilla to salmon poke to Cali cheesesteak to buffalo cauliflower. Our menu, like a tackle box, has all the tools necessary to #webegrubbin. It's fresh, affordable, flavorful food for the masses.
Most popular item(s) on the menu: Cali cheese steak, salmon poke, pork belly bahn mi, buffalo cauliflower. Honestly, every dish is popular.
Where do you like to eat after work? Neighborhood taco guy or Asian soup (Korean tofu soup, pho, ramen).
Your best recent food find: I accidentally came across El Toro Bravo Tortellria in Costa Mesa recently after a trip to Smart and Final. I was super excited since tacos are a huge part of LA culture. It was nice to finally find a good tacqueria near coastal OC... convenient after leaving Tackle Box. Always down for someone to show or share with me the gems around OC!
What (if anything) did you learn at San Francisco's CCA that you might not have learned if you didn't attend culinary school? Coming from UCLA, I was pretty focused and determined to learn and absorb as much as I could at CCA. Starting the refined culinary journey a little late in life, for myself, culinary school gave me a solid foundation in a short amount of time. With trade schools you only get out what you put into it... as does most aspects of life.
Most frequently asked question by guests. "Why Tackle Box? How you come up with it? Because we love it." Or, "What was it like on Top Chef?"
Your earliest food memory: Grilling steaks with my dad.
Tell us about working with Ricardo Zarate. Had a fantastic three and-a-half years working with Ricardo. Besides learning about Peruvian cuisine and South American cuisine and culture, he nurtured and helped develop my confidence as a cook and chef.
Tackle Box is concept driven. That is something I learned while working with Ricardo. Helping him open four successful restaurants in three years, I realized that this was only possible by creating concept-driven restaurants instead of chef-driven restaurants. You can't multiply yourself. The long term goal is to scale Tackle Box.
Any plans to expand? That is the plan. But I want to stay focused with our first location, as I see it being our flagship. There is no rush; building a strong foundation here is our first priority.
What's your advice for someone wanting to open their own restaurant? Have a specific game plan/plan of attack, but also be open/willing/flexible to change because one's environment constantly changes.
Most undervalued ingredient: Acidity. Brightens everything up.
What would be your last meal on Earth? That's difficult. My version of the surf and turf! An insane sushi/sashimi spread with a bone-in, slow roasted prime ribeye with traditional sides. Banana split to end.
Tackle Box - Local Grub Shack is located at 3029 E Shore Ave, Corona del Mar, (949) 723-0798; www.tackleboxoc.com.
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