Edwin's review of OPM back in November made me curious about Charles Cho's location in Huntington Beach. While he's a tough person to schedule time with (hence the food photos), Cho's straightforward attitude makes for an easy interview.
Where did you grow up, and where's home these days?
I grew up in Los Angeles. I worked in New York for seven years, but recently moved back to the South Bay.
What's your earliest food memory?
One of my first food memories was of kimbap, which is a Korean sushi roll. Kimbap contains rice, marinated vegetables, egg and bulgogi (or other proteins). It's then rolled in seaweed and brushed with sesame oil. It has basically everything in one bite.
How would you describe your cuisine at OPM to someone unfamiliar?
New American tapas with lots of Asian influences.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Probably tumeric. It has so many medicinal applications, yet it is rarely taken advantage of.
What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in a restaurant?
It's all teamwork! You're only as strong as your weakest link.
Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Try to source organic ingredients, if possible. It's worth the money.
Is there anything you learned in culinary school that you wouldn't otherwise know from not attending?
I don't think culinary school is necessary. However, it is definitely a short cut to a wide range of product knowledge and cooking techniques.
Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
What is your guilty pleasure food?
Right now, it's cornbread ice cream from Kansha Creamery. OMG. That's all I have to say about that.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
Restaurant business is one of the most difficult businesses to run. So true. High risk; low return. And passion alone will not suffice.
What was the turning point in your life when you decided you wanted to be in the hospitality industry?
I think I always knew.
Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
Every time I taste something good I will try to replicate it.
Of all the places you've lived/worked so far, do you have a favorite city?
Palos Verdes. Golf weather all-year round.
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I'm a Korean with green eyes. It's very rare. I looked it up.
Favorite childhood memory.
Snowboarding at Big Bear.
Hardest lesson you've learned.
Never assume anything important.
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What would you like to do if you weren't in this business?
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Kimchee bacon fried rice with eggs sunny side!
You have a whole day to yourself; what would you do?
A round of golf, spa and massage. Then maybe some Kobe beef shabu shabu.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
Probably mom's crab stew. It contains miso, gochujang and onions stewed slowly with the sweet meat of cracked, Dungeness crab. The umami levels in this dish are off the charts!