Name that fish
Name that fish
Photo by Brian Feinzimer

On the Line: Oscar Ledesma Of Water Grill

When the corner of Bristol and Anton became vacant, I wondered what would happen. The extreme makeover and move in of Water Grill was a big deal not only for South Coast Plaza, but for King's Seafood Company. 17,500 square feet devoted to seafood in its many forms is prime for pre-theater dining, power lunches, private receptions and one heck of a bar scene. They've been consistently busy since opening, and it took four visits before I was able to shake hands with Chef Ledesma. Oscar found the time to respond to my line of questioning, and for that I thank him.

With your extensive work experience, what skills/practices are you bringing to Water Grill?
Mentoring, leadership, operating skills of high volume, passion.

What was the turning point when you decided to focus on foodservice and attend California Culinary Academy?
My family owned a restaurant and I wanted to be of their assistance. While in SF, I fell in love with Culinary Arts and wanted to learn more.

What are your best-selling cold and hot items?
Cold: ceviche. Hot: Chilean Seabass

One food you can't live without.
Good tacos for their variety of flavors.

What is your beverage of choice?
Ginger beer from Whole Foods.

Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Shopping list and organized preparation "mise en place".

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do/make?
Better my expertise in pastry.

Where did you grow up, and where do you currently call home?
I grew up in a small town called Santa Paula and it is a place I still call home. Eventually, one day I would love to move to Irvine.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
Hell's Kitchen [Editor's Note: The show, not the NY neighborhood]. There is no screaming and shouting; there has to be composed mentoring.

Favorite places to eat.
My mother's house and Hillstone Restaurants.

What were you up to five years ago?
I was working hard to be the best chef I could be. I was the executive chef of a small restaurant called The Old Place.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Traveling to Mexico with my grandparents, and spending summers with their donut business. I would be in the factory at night, eating donuts while production was being done.

You're making breakfast; what are you having?
3- 5 minute, soft-boiled eggs with wilted spinach, rendered bacon, squeeze of lemon and buttered toast.

Last song playing on your radio.
Pandora's Hasta La Ruiz by Natalia Lafourcade.

Favorite meal growing up:

Thinking about his mise en place.
Thinking about his mise en place.
Photo by Brian Feinzimer

Where was your most recent meal?
Taco Maria. Pork belly tacos and esquites.

What were you up to five years ago?
I was working hard to be the best chef I could be. I was the executive chef of a small restaurant called The Old Place.

What other skills do you have outside of the restaurant?
Being a loving father to my kids. I play soccer on Sundays— Goal Keeper.

You have a whole day to yourself. What would you like to do?
Look for a restaurant to go out and dine. Although I have a family and I am never by myself.

Last thing you looked up online:
Water Grill South Coast Plaza's Yelp update (laughs). I want to know where we can improve our guest experience.

Hardest lesson you've learned.

What would you like to be doing if you weren't in this business?
Honestly, I've never though of that. I love the hospitality/culinary arts industry. My little brother is a Navy Seal. I wish I could share what he does to spend more time with him and be more of a protector to him.

Water Grill South Coast Plaza is located at 3300 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, (949) 208-7060;


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