On the Line: Christopher Meehan Of Bistango, Part Two
Part athlete, part ninja dad
Photo by LP Hastings
This was one of those rare instances where I found part two to be more interesting than part one. And that has a great deal to do with the interests Chef Meehan has outside of the restaurant-- except he also admits to thinking about food in his off time. See for yourself.
If you'd like to compare and contrast the content in both parts, then we suggest starting with part one over here. When you're good to go, read on below . . . .
Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food? I actually spent a great many years working in the trades during the day and cooking at night; mostly so I could have a greater understanding of how things work. Growing up, my mother was fully disabled, and I had to do all of the fixing of broken items around the house (as well as upgrades). This sparked my interest in the trades, and I worked through my twenties in concrete, carpentry, as an electrician, and even worked for the largest pool company in Hawaii for a time. All in an effort to gain knowledge and new skills.
In addition to that, I took on quite a few project 4x4 vehicles so I could learn how to rebuild engines, brakes, chassis, etc. I never worked as a mechanic. It was more of a way to build confidence in myself and learn a new set of skills that I find beneficial.
What's your favorite childhood memory? The day I graduated from Preparatory School in Georgia and was on a plane to Hawaii-- my favorite place in the world to be.
When you're not in the restaurant, what are you doing in your free time? I would like to say that I do something profound, but I really do spend a good deal of time thinking about food. But in addition to that, I like to lift weights and do a great deal of cardio both on my bike and at the gym in Costa Mesa. I've spent most of my years since 16 working out, and then got into bodybuilding and powerlifting.
I also just recently took a year off from online school, where I have been taking a full class schedule for the last 11 years. In my free time from those things I like to read books (actual paper books); mostly novels coupled with textbooks. I am currently in the process of getting my C.E.C. from the A.C.F. [Editor's Note: That's Certified Executive Chef from the American Culinary Federation, in case you were wondering.]
Did you learn anything at Johnson & Wales that you might not have learned as quickly from real life restaurant experience? I learned that when you get a group of young, aggressive, talented individuals together in a rather enclosed setting, the competition can get very fierce very quickly. However, within that comes about something quite remarkable. People begin to find out more about themselves, their passions and what they are capable of. They push each other, and new innovations come about, more "Eureka" moments. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in the restaurant, and the day-to-day grind of operations can take its toll on creativity. I learned that school life is not easily repeated in the restaurant.
Last thing you looked up online: I think the last things I looked up online were tickets to Mr. Olympia at the Orleans in September, Polyphasic sleep cycles, stretches that improve different parts of your body, all while listening/watching a documentary on Netflix about urban legends. I have a tendency to do that, and really enjoy having two computers where I can open multiple windows for doing research. It's a skill (like many) I developed by doing research and writing papers for school.
Last song playing on your radio/smart phone/iPod: "Never Gonna Stop" - Mind The Gap (featuring Quan)
What would you like to be doing if you weren't in this business? I think I would always like to work on Wall Street. Or, at the very least, in an investment firm. I enjoy the stock exchange-- the way it moves and how predictions come to pass, both good and bad. Most importantly, I like the speed at which they operate. When I was young, I wanted very much to be a stockbroker. But life had something different in store for me; so here I am embracing that reality.
You lived in Hawaii for many years; tell us about the lifestyle and how it differs from Orange County? The lifestyle in Hawaii differs greatly from Orange County, and really, the rest of the country. Only when I was in Vegas did I see a larger swath of people that live like we do in the islands. Life in Hawaii is very simple. Sand, sun and surf play the greatest roles in that life. Outside of Honolulu/Waikiki area, there is not a great deal of desire to consume in the way you see in Orange County/L.A. We do not have the variety available to us that there is on the mainland, and we aren't really missing it. The stress level in the islands is quite different than what you see happening in Orange County.
We don't have the car culture that is present in Southern California, so there is not a great deal of traffic. And overall, there really isn't that far to drive. You can drive across the big island in about 4 hours. Everything happens during the day in the islands. Most of the island's businesses are shut down by 9 - 10 o'clock. And even in Honolulu, cut off time for purchasing alcohol is midnight. Hawaii is a melting pot, and all cultures do a great job living and working together, and crossing over into each other's worlds.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Patience.
What turns you on, creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Creatively: Doing something new, revisiting something old and traditional. History plays a great part in my life, and I find that to spark my creativity. From a food perspective, I like to see what other people are doing, and hearing about what others are doing. (It) helps me to push forward in my own endeavors.
Spiritually: (Heavy) rain, silence, wildlife. Landscapes such as being in Joshua Tree or sitting in the surf lineup in Hawaii, and being able to reflect on the beauty of the beach all the way up into the mountain line from one vantage point. Smelling/seeing the plumeria blooming. Wide open spaces and driving through the Rocky Mountains during fall. And enjoying a fresh snowfall.
Emotionally: Slamming weights in the gym, being busy on the line and having everything clicking and firing. Seeing a day of planning come to fruition.
Tell us something most people don't know about you. Outside of work I am very quiet; like don't really talk a whole lot unless I have something to say. I move about very quietly, and have a tendency to sneak up on people (especially my daughter) without trying or really even being conscious of it. Even in the gym, I move very quietly and methodically through what I am doing, regardless of how much weight I am moving. Probably just a reaction to having been in the noise of the kitchen for so many years, but I do like the quiet. Especially late at night, when you can hear yourself think.
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