Restaurants pay a chef to cook, not answer a series of questions. So when an individual takes the time to put some thought into their responses, I am thankful. This was the case with SOCIAL's self-proclaimed "blue collar chef" Jeffrey Boullt. A follow-up question got Boullt to elaborate on how be wishes more local chefs would support and respect each other-- a recurring sentiment that surfaces every so often in these interviews.
My dialogue with Chef Boullt (pronounced Bolt) began yesterday. But I'll forgive you if you start with part two. . .
Last cookbook you read; and what did you learn from it, if anything? Root to Leaf - A Southern Chef Cooks Through The Seasons By Steven Satterfield. I mean, in terms of learning, this could be (in my opinion) the best cookbook dedicated to vegetables since Alice Waters wrote Chez Panisse Vegetables. Pure, clean, amazing and educational. It takes an approach that I wish more cooks and chefs took towards vegetables.
What's your favorite childhood memory? Being young, free and careless. Not knowing what to expect, and everything being a surprise or a new experience. I miss that a lot, but I also know that wisdom is a result of life experience, and I will never regret anything I've done in my life.
Let's discuss your Southern upbringing. People don't realize that I grew up in Orange County and was raised there until I was 18. I grew up in an upper middle class family, and one day we lost everything financially. I remember sitting down with my parents and talking about this, and having them tell me that they didn't know where they were going. They ended up in Alabaster, Alabama-- about 25 miles outside of Birmingham. They kept trying to get me to come and stay with them, and instead I decided to bounce around random cities in the South, San Francisco and Orange County for about eight years. I became tired of bouncing around and decided to move to the South permanently. It grounded me; I slowed down. I saw things for what they were and realized I had a talent, and was blowing it by not taking things seriously. I felt at home there. My family's roots are from Louisiana and Texas. I felt like it was a part of me I never felt before.
Tell us about your family. How did you meet your wife? And what kind of dog do you have? My wife Katie and I had known of each other for years before we finally got the opportunity to talk and then date. She is the greatest. We basically started hanging out one day and never stopped. I could never picture my life without her. We got married in New Orleans in 2014 and shortly after became proud parents of a Basset Hound puppy named Lionel. Basset Hounds were the dog she said she always wanted. We spend most of our free time with him. Our family keeps me going every day.
Last song playing on your radio: Makes No Sense At All by Husker Du
Where are your favorite places to eat/drink/hang out in Long Beach? My favorite places to eat in Long Beach are Los Compadres, Panxa, Michael's Pizzeria and a few of the taquerias there make me so happy. When drinking, I pretty much only go to Vroom, 4th Street Vine or Alex's Bar. I'm still a creature of habit, even in my own backyard.
Do you follow social media for SOCIAL? And (if you do) what do you think of it? I do, and for the most part it's been great. I don't follow Yelp anymore or let it affect me. Fortunately, our restaurant has been busy since the second we opened the doors, and I'm so humbled by our success. When I wake up in the morning, I think about how I can be better and how I can get the restaurant to the next step. Social media has a huge impact on the restaurant business these days. We don't play games, though. I wish we had more time to make ourselves look better or respond to the negative opinions, but we are always way too busy and productive to let this hold us down. We have fans as well as haters, but at the end of the day, I just focus on how I can grow and be better.
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Last thing you looked up/searched online: Available products from Chino Farms in San Diego - their produce is incredible.
Do you have any skills that are not food-related? What are they? Let's talk more about food.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Putting yourself out of your comfort zone feels really awkward and it's hard to float in the unknown, but it pays off to push your limits and discover new things [Editor's Note: For Jeffrey, doing SOCIAL was outside of his comfort zone.]