On the Line: Konstantine Marougas Of El Amerikano, Part One
Time to get cooking
Photo by LP Hastings
A year ago, I spotted a new establishment in downtown Fullerton while en route to a chef interview. Owned by the same group that handles Kentro Greek Kitchen, I finally sat down with the team that bounces between the thriving concepts-- specifically, Chef Konstantine Marougas.
How would you describe the cuisine of El Amerikano? It's a fun American kitchen with a Latin flair.
How do you balance overseeing the kitchens of both Kentro and El Amerikano? We spent a lot of time putting systems and great management in place at Kentro, so by the time El Amerikano opened, that restaurant was pretty solid. I have been devoting most of my time to El Amerikano, but because both restaurants are so close (50-feet, door-to-door) I can always check in on the other, regardless of where I am.
What was your most recent meal? I wish I could remember! I'm here at the restaurant so much, it's usually just chicken and quinoa, some sort of salad or the occasional staff meal.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best: Gourmet food halls. With so many of these popping up throughout the county, we're seeing many unique and interesting concepts surface with indie chefs and first-time restaurant owners. It's an exciting time for restaurants.
What do you recommend for first-timers? At El Amerikano, I would have to insist on the al pastor chop with farro salad and the ribeye picado. At Kentro, I would suggest the grilled octopus, for sure. It's a signature. And the lamb chops.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true. That chefs throw things when they're mad. I have yet to see this. Regardless of how tense things can get on a busy night, we are a team and we support each other.
Most undervalued ingredient. Lemon juice. I like acidity in my food, and I tend to use it in many of my dishes.
Favorite meal growing up. I'm easy-- I have always loved a good piece of steak and a great bowl of pasta.
Let's discuss your beverage program. At El Amerikano, we have a variety of wines that are globally recognized, and four craft beers on tap. Our coffee service is Stumptown Coffee, and we offer French press, a "hairbender" espresso, and their cold-brew coffee.
Most frequently asked question by guests. What's your favorite dish to cook?
What is your foodservice background prior to Kentro? I have worked for Patina Restaurant Group in a few of their restaurants and for catering. My first restaurant job was a Greek restaurant in Manhattan Beach.
Tell us about this "Latin butter." What do you use it in/on? Latin butter is a compound butter infused with our Latin spice: cotija and cilantro. As expected, it adds a buttery flavor. The cotija adds saltiness, lemon for acidity and cilantro for some nice freshness. We use it when we roast our ribeye for our prime rib sandwich and our nachos.
What do you most value in a sous chef? Someone who is a go-getter, who rolls with the punches and doesn't get discouraged at any disappointments. I like someone who can carry a load.
Favorite places to eat. Pizzeria Mozza-- I go to both locations. Bestia in downtown LA-- Chef Ori Menashe does a great job. And once in a while, In-N-Out!
What would your be your last meal on earth? A great big bowl of pasta, or a great pizza.
What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in a restaurant? This is hard because I've been working in a restaurant since I was 13 years old. . .but I would say that it's how difficult it is to manage multiple people at once!
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