I spend a lot of time in food halls (The OC Mix, Union Market Tustin and Mission Viejo, etc.) because you can cover a lot of ground without having to drive a great deal. 4th Street Market carries a varied selection of eats, so this week I am excited to feature co-owner Jason Trinh of Pig Pen Delicacy.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Mayonnaise. People think that mayo just goes on burgers and hot dogs. What they don't know is that mayonnaise goes in so much more. From macaroni salad, to corn, to dressings, mayonnaise is an amazing base ingredient that adds a whole lot of texture and flavor to a lot of food.
How do you explain the concept and reasoning behind your name?
New take on American comfort food using an array of sophisticated and modern interpretations of bacon and pork favorites. The reasoning behind our name is because we were going on field trips since we were little; we would see cute little piggies in a pig pen. With Pig Pen Delicacy, we wanted the name to stick out and make sure the food we put out was a special treat for everyone.
What do you recommend for first-timers, and what are your best-sellers?
For first-timers, they should definitely get the pork belly fries with an egg. It's also one of our top sellers. The maple bacon jam burger is our other top seller.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
A lot of people think if they send their food back and complain about their food, that when they receive their new item, the cook will spit in it. This is definitely not true, at least everywhere that I've worked. Yes, we may be frustrated, but we would never spit in their food.
Where did you grow up, and where's home these days?
I grew up in West Covina, and where I call home now is Cerritos.
I'm supposed to ask why people call you J Smooth.
I"m smooth like Mark's (as in Mark Gerald Cruz, his right hand guy in the kitchen) high school J ball team.
What is your guilty pleasure food?
My guilty pleasure food is corn with extra cheese, from Korean corn cheese to elotes.
Your favorite childhood memory.
All of my friends would meet up on our bikes at someone's house if someone couldn't wake up. We would bike to his/her house to wake them up. After that, we would bike to the donut shop and have breakfast before we played tennis or badminton. Our team/friendship bond was strong when we're little.
Hardest life lesson you've learned.
Protect yourself and be sure you grow and learn from your mistakes.
Last thing you looked up online:
Mac and cheese; just always trying to come up with new items for Pig Pen
What was the turning point in your life when you decided you wanted to be in the hospitality industry. Where were you working, and what was your role?
I was doing IT for a while, and when a lot of companies decided to downside and outside a lot of the work. I decided to work Disney temporarily and see how it feels to work in a big company. I started working in foods at Disney, hoping to one day to transfer to one of the tech jobs there.
The turning point in which I wanted to stay in hospitality is when I was starting to do more special events and serve celebrities and high-profile clients. On top of all this, I was helping my friends on the GD Bro Truck. Seeing my friends build a strong team and family made me want to help out a lot more, and one day start something of my own.
You have a whole day to yourself; what would you do?
If I had a whole day to myself, I would ride my bike to somewhere near the beach and have lunch, then ride back. Either that or hike to the top of somewhere with a nice view.
When you worked at Disney, what was your role? And what did you like the most/least about working there?
I was mainly a cashier and cook at Disney, until I became a lead in foods and a captain in special events. I loved working there when there was a rush and the line is out the door. I loved working with great cast members where we didn't care about anything but giving great guest experiences and killing the line.
What I loved about special events was being able to be show-ready in a short amount of time, or when something goes wrong, coming up with a solution on the fly. It was so relieving when you put on a million dollar event with as few hiccups as possible. My least favorite thing about working at Disney was that the guest is always right, no matter what it was. Even when you know they manufactured it.
What other foodservice experience do you have?
I worked in most Disney California Adventure (DCA) quick service restaurants before I became a lead for the Starbucks location in DCA. I was also fortunate enough to do special events around the resort.
Hardest life lesson you learned:
Protect yourself and make sure you grow and learn from your mistakes.
Favorite places to eat.
Favorite places to eat would be at Jazz Cat, Nodaji and Lawry's.
What would an ideal vacation be?
Anywhere outside of California for a week. Outside of California, I've only been to Hawaii, Florida and Vegas.
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I'm still into reading magna and watching anime here and there.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Extra crispy corned beef hash with a sunny side up egg on top and extra crispy hash browns.
Do you have a preferred beverage?
My preferred beverages are a fresh IPA, an Old-fashioned and scotch/whiskey on the rocks.
What would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
Going back to school to get a masters and getting back into IT.
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What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in a restaurant?
Be organized from the start; we literally had to open once we moved in. I had to learn the operation, menu development and bookkeeping all at once. It was a stressful first couple of months. However, it was a good learning experience.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
My last meal on Earth would be a porterhouse steak with creamed corn and a baked potato.
What is your idea of happiness?
Being able to hang out with friends and bond over food and drinks.
Pig Pen Delicacy is located at 4th Street Market. Get to know them further at www.4thstreetmarket.com.