OC Weekly's Fresh Toast is less than a month away! With Bloody Mary sipping and all sorts of bites on the agenda, I get to know the man inside Restauration's kitchen in Long Beach. He's one of our many participants who will be serving up something sweet at Newport Dunes. Take it away, Phil.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Plant a home garden. You'll gain a new respect for ingredients when you've put the labor into growing it, while also benefiting from the pureness of your product. Cooking from there will be a whole new experience when you start to plan meals around a single ingredient.
One food you can't live without:
I love all food, but I can't resist blackberries. I grew up picking wild blackberries, and now have them growing in my backyard. There is nothing like a warm blackberry fresh off the vine.
What were you up to five years ago?
That was a life-changing time for me. I was cooking at Gordon Ramsay at The London and also expecting my first daughter. It was during this time that I realized my potential and really focused in on what I wanted to achieve for myself as a chef and as a new father.
Help us understand the name of the restaurant, as well as the concept.
Restauration is a play on the word restoration, which is the act of renewing something. Throughout the restaurant are elements of decor personally recrafted by Dana, the owner. The menu reflects the same spirit. I like to take classic, rustic-style food and renew it in a modern way. You'll find the same components of a traditional dish, but the preparation and presentation will be unexpected. We are constantly reinventing at Restauration, so there is always something new to experience.
What seasonal offerings can we find on the menu?
Our sunchoke soup is a favorite. You'll also see rapini on a new pizza, beets and persimmons on a salad, Satsuma mandarin with the seared tuna, swiss chard, purple mizuna, kale, among other winter greens throughout the menu.
As a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, are there concepts or skills that you learned in school, that you might not have learned as thoroughly if you didn't attend?
School taught me the basics in proper technique and allowed me to network with chefs before getting into a professional kitchen. By the time I graduated, I knew enough as an entry-level cook to hit the ground running, which gave me a leg up.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Leeks. People know them for just being onion-flavored, but there are so many different ways to use leeks. Right now, we are using the tops for stocks and grilling the bottoms so they're smoky and sweet.
One stereotype about the restaurant industry, and whether it's true.
People who work in the industry never sleep. It's somewhat true. We obviously have to sleep at some point, but for many of us our workday starts early in the morning and goes late into the night. You build up energy during your workday that doesn't let you just fall asleep after your shift. It takes me hours to finally wind down and get myself into bed. By that point, it's just a few short hours before I'm back up and ready to start a new day.
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Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
My top picks are Sushi Kinoya and Taqueria La Mexicana #2, both in Long Beach. Aside from the amazing sushi, you will always experience the warmest, friendliest service at Sushi Kinoya. And if you love asada, Taqueria is hands-down the best.
Favorite meal growing up:
My mom's chicken tacos. She would make the tortillas from scratch, and there was nothing better than that.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Warm avocado spread on toast. I love the simplicity of it. It never gets old.
Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
Someone who opens themselves up to learning and isn't afraid to push themselves. That drive gives people the vision to see what's ahead that eventually becomes instinct. Those are the people I trust most to be at my side in the kitchen.