Not to be confused with a hotelier, chef Daniel Hyatt helms the back of the house in the renovated space once used by Pascal, now owned by the previous owners of The Filling Station in Old Towne Orange. Have we confused you yet? Well, then pull up a bar stool and browse their intermezzo menu while we translate. Having creative freedom in the kitchen is a new challenge for Hyatt, but he embraces the opportunity as we do the seasons.
And yes, he did, in fact, meet the owners via a Craigslist ad.
Your earliest food memory:
I remember when I was young and my parents took my brother and I to a pig roast. I thought it was really cool that they roasted whole pigs in the ground. I am still fascinated with pig. Maybe (it's) a reason I have so much on my menu.
Favorite meal growing up:
I was very picky as a child. There was not much I would eat. I think I ate a lot of white rice, and then definitely chicken tacos.
Your best recent food find:
I took a trip to Chicago earlier this year, and we found this place called The Purple Pig. Great place, great food, so much pig.
Most undervalued ingredient:
I think vinegar. I use vinegar in almost all my dishes for balance. There are some great vinegars that can really enhance a dish.
"Always rustic, yet warm and inviting" is meant to describe your ambiance, but we think it's equally about the food. How do you describe your cuisine?
It is very rustic, very clean food. Very inviting. I really try to focus on the fresh ingredients, and try not to manipulate them too much.
How did you meet John and Juliette?
Honestly, I met them through a Craigslist ad. But we hit it off immediately.
How is the collaboration process, considering their background with The Filling Station?
Working with Juliette and John is great, we are all very into food. We have very similar taste and appreciations of food. It's been enjoyable creating this restaurant because they had this idea of a style of food that they wanted to do, which was pretty much the direction I wanted to go.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County has many great little spots. You just need to look. I think there are better places opening here now.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
I don't eat too much fast food. I really like to eat bento boxes from Mitsuwa Market, they are just so simple and flavorful.
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
I really like Japanese whiskey, which I get from Hi-Times.
Did we read your hours correct-- you only serve lunch on Monday? That's only a couple of hours (compared to your hours the rest of the week). Why don't you take another day off?
We have a good lunch crowd during the week because of the businesses surrounding us, and we wanted to make sure that we kept the restaurant available to those people during the week. But being closed for dinner still gives us time to organize for the rest of the week.
You mentioned working with Chris Grodach when he was at Kimera. Where else have you cooked?
I worked at Sapphire in Laguna Beach, Delius in Long Beach, Nesai Restaurant in Newport Beach, and I worked with the Goodells opening Red Pearl Kitchen and The Lodge.
One food you can't live without:
Pork. It is so versatile.
Where was your most recent meal?
I typically prefer to grill out at home when I can, especially during the summer.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Really, try and keep it simple. Focus on the ingredients you have. Let the produce shine in your dishes.
What can diners expect this season on the menu?
Fall is a great time of year. The dishes start to get a little heartier. We will start to use many different kinds of squashes, root vegetables, apples, pears and a good amount of pork as always.
Favorite charcuterie/cheese OR dessert of the moment (on the menu):
I love the La Quercia Prosciutto Americano. I can eat it all the time. We are getting ready to put some great wild boar salame on the menu soon. For the dessert choice, I love the basil panna cotta with the strawberry sorbet.
Who handles your eclectic bar selection and non-alcoholic beverages (pineapple sage soda! Blue Bottle Coffee!)?
The Blue Bottle Coffee was Juliette and John's choice, which is a great coffee. For the bar side of things, we brought in Kristin Markley as the bar manager. She creates all the drinks, non-alcoholic and alcoholic.
What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
I am good with it. I do it occasionally if it is something really memorable.
Locally, I really like chef Florent over at Marche Moderne. I just feel that he really cares about what he puts on the plate. Always changing. Always creative. Always great.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
I don't really think anything is really too weird. When I was in Japan, we ate some horse sashimi and some fresh caught raw fish liver. Both were amazing.
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Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Marche Moderne. Then I like Gjelina in Venice Beach.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Chorizo and eggs, black beans, salsa verde. I just love pork and eggs.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it):
You always get odd requests in this business. Some we do. Most we don't. I cannot think of anything that was too ridiculous.