On The Line: David Kesler of Bistro Bleu, Part Two
Photo by Liz Monroy
A common theme we've noticed during interviews is how chef owners tend to worry. They worry about how slammed they'll be at dinner service, or conserving energy and resources so the bills aren't high. It's these and a hundred other thoughts that ruminate every day, yet the diner only sees the end result.
Another worrisome example that came out of our interview was his involvement in a downtown Fullerton bakery [Editor's Note: He took an extra year in culinary school to study baking and pastry. We don't hear about chefs crossing over to the baking side very often.] Half-way through the process of taking ownership, the beneficiaries changed their mind about selling the place. Kesler's resignation was already submitted, contractors were scoping the place out and money was invested. When it fell through, his wife suggested taking time off (he'd been working full-time for over 20 years). Her salary was good, and this allowed him to focus on his other skill: antique clock repair.
Read our interview with David Kesler of Bistro Bleu, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two . . . .
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Working on antique clocks. I took an interest in clock making back East. My father used to collect clocks, but he didn't work on them. I remember asking him, "Why don't you get it fixed?" and he would say it was too expensive. Between my first and second stint at The Cellar, I did an apprenticeship for clock repair for about nine months.
I then started buying clocks off Craigslist and eBay. I'd repair and resell them. For a few months, I was even able to pay the rent on my apartment with clock money. I had an entire wall lined with (working) clocks. I tested them to make sure they would run, and the neighbors would come by (to complain) sometimes.
Last song you heard playing:
Eagles - Take It To The Limit
Where did you grow up?
Part of my childhood here; part of it in Maryland. I was born in Oklahoma, and my father was stationed in the Air Force. When he got sent to Korea, my mom moved my brother and I to California because she had some family here. 10 years later, they got divorced. The rest of my mom's family lived in Virginia, so we moved back East. At some point, she received another job offer back in California, so we came back.
What's the best and worst part about owning your own business?
Best -- the feeling of independence. Worst -- making less than minimum wage (sad smiley)
Hardest lesson you've learned:
Not reading the fine print. Our lease agreement was 63 pages long.
What's your favorite memory?
Weekends at grandma's house. It was pretty much every weekend. Our grandma would do the opposite of everything my mother would say. One rule was to never take us to any scary movies. She took us to see Jaws and The Brood. Our mom figured it out when we were scared to sleep in the dark, thinking the demons would come out from under our bed and bash our heads in. We also ate Winchell's doughnuts for dinner.
Last movie watched. What were your favorite scenes?
Pulp Fiction. The watch scene (with Christopher Walken) reminds me of a Jackass episode involving a Matchbox car. One of my favorite scenes is when Samuel L. Jackson's character recites this long Bible quote before he blows someone's head off. Or Honey Bunny threatening everyone in the diner. And when Jules and Vincent kidnap the roommate, "You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?" It was one of the best movies ever.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
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