This guy. Robinson's gone from large scale, resort kitchens to a modest layout in Costa Mesa's industrial neighborhood. He provides the lowdown on Outpost Kitchen's concept, and drops a hint at what he's serving at this month's Fresh Toast. Oh yeah, he's got a sense of humor.
Tell us about the cuisine at Outpost Kitchen.
It's an Australian cafe that Jay Lewis opened up, and it turns out that Australian cuisine is very similar to that of Northern California, where I'm from. Very clean, seasonal and local. We focus on a healthy lifestyle, but don't let that get in the way of creativity or flavor.
One food you can't live without:
Hatch chile. Food can be extremely nostalgic for me, and even just the smell takes me back to the autumn of my childhood.
What are the most popular items, and what dishes have you introduced to the menu?
We are seasonally changing and rotate items multiple times within the season to make sure that we are truly a seasonal kitchen. The Aussie Scramble has been a mainstay and is definitely a people favorite.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Acid of any kind— it just brightens things up so much . . . .
Besides volume, what other differences can you describe between a resort/hotel kitchen and one like Outpost?
At Outpost, I can be 120 percent on the food myself. Where in the larger establishments, I end up more in an office and having an extremely large team to delegate through.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
What are your beverages of choice?
Beer and bourbon.
Where was your most recent meal?
Work. Our Pig and Eagle sandwich. It's a balsamic pulled pork with charred scallion emulsion and pear relish.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't take shortcuts; focus on the technique.
Name some of the kitchens you've been in since moving to Orange County.
I was running Crow Bar and Crow Burger prior to joining Jay and Elizabeth at Outpost.
Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
Knowing how to hide a body. Well, and integrity.
Favorite places to eat.
When I get a chance to get out, I just enjoy a new experience somewhere I have never been.
Name an indispensable piece of cookware or utensil you often reach for.
My pepper mill and spoons.
Favorite meal growing up:
My mom used to make these fried salami grilled cheeses.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Whatever you're making (winks).
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Sacramento, California, but raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had a few stops along the way.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
How to keep my mouth shut.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
My Noni Joy's peach cobbler.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
That chefs have a favorite thing to cook . . . .
Last thing you looked up online:
Fermentation process and techniques.
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What profession would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
Any idea what you'll be serving at Fresh Toast?
We will be serving a few dishes for the event. One option will be deviled eggs with pulled Electric City Butcher bacon plus pickled celery.
Outpost Kitchen is located at 1792 Monrovia Ave, Costa Mesa, (949) 873-5123; www.outpostkitchen.com.
See Chef Matthew and 35+ other chefs at OC Weekly's Fresh Toast!