On The Line: Roy Hendrickson Of Zimzala, Part One
Photo by Liz Monroy
Calm. That's the vibe we get from chef Roy Hendrickson. Perched in the Shorebreak Hotel, Zimzala's bustling exhibition kitchen is between both lounge and dining room. But for our interview, we converse at a quiet table in the back before lunch service. With experience that includes stints at Sam's Seafood and Tsunami, Roy started out as a line cook and moved his way up the ranks to become Chef de Cuisine.
Your earliest food memory:
Making homemade vanilla ice cream at my grandparent's in Missouri. Ever since I could remember, they had a huge garden. They were always into home preserving and farming. I remember sitting out on the porch during the summer with a bebe gun, shooting at squirrels and making ice cream in one of those little wooden pails where you had to dump in ice and salt and just crank it. My grandma would make Texas sheet cake, which is like a brownie (but more like a cake in texture) with a small layer of chocolate ganache. I remember it being really cold and good with a grainy texture in the humidity of Missouri.
Favorite meal growing up:
Potato soup with steak sandwiches.
Anticucho heart, Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken in Huntington Beach.
Do you really serve brunch DAILY, like your Happy Hour? And what are the best-sellers from both?
Yes, we serve brunch and happy hour food daily. Our best seller would be steak and eggs at brunch (skirt steak, pico de gallo, two eggs, yukon potatoes and toast). The best for happy hour would be cheeseburger sliders (tomato jam, wasabi arugula, sharp cheddar, pommery aioli, shallot rings and housemade pickles).
I'm getting ready to roll out a lunch menu by early November. I have a lot of locals and local businesses that want more lunch offerings, and I've been contemplating for the last year about what I wanted to do. I pretty much decided to keep a lot of the items on the brunch menu, but the other side will be lunch (burgers and heartier stuff). It gives me another canvas to create, because lunch is definitely a different ballgame compared to dinner. I could do more fun specials at lunch that I just couldn't get away with at dinner.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Lemon juice. A lot of chefs will say the balance between seasoning is salt and acid. A lot of people don't think of lemon juice as being a very important acid for certain things. You're definitely going to use it for dessert or fish dishes, but a lot of people don't think to use it in a braised dish or cheese fondue sauce. People tend to use a vinegar for heavier dishes, but citric acid does the job and brightens that dish a little bit. It also brings out the flavors that are hidden by the dish sometimes.
For instance, we do a four cheese fondue for our mac and cheese. It starts out with manufacturer's (heavy) cream, and then we hit it with a roux and then the four cheeses with a little bit of Cholula, which has some acid. When you taste it before and after we put that lemon juice in, there's a huge difference. It really brings out the cheeses. I always tell my line cooks to just have one or two lemons just sitting there on their station. We squeeze lemons daily with our juicer and put them in squeeze bottles. I think it's very underutilized. I've worked at a lot of restaurants where they don't use acid components.
For those that don't know, please explain Zimzala's meaning:
The name comes from the Riptionary; Surf lingo lexicon. Zimzala - free-spirited peson who finds peace with the sand between their toes.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
What fast food do you admit to eating?
In-N-Out for consistently quality burgers. I usually get it on a weekend night, after working here. While I'm waiting at the drive-thru, I'll call my parents in England (where they don't have In-N-Out). I'll say, "Mom, can you hold on a second? I'll want to place my order. Two cheeseburgers. Both grilled onions. Fry and a large iced tea." And she'll be like, "Dammit. You're eating In-N-Out, and you're calling me?" [Editor's Note: When we asked why he didn't just get a double double, he found it to be messy. His way is a little easier to eat.]
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
Tejava - unsweetened microbrewed tea, from retailers nationwide.
How do you compete with surrounding establishments?
I try to have a wide variety of original creations that focus a great deal on fresh product that most people would not think of using because of its uniqueness. At the end of the day, I really believe there's not much as a chef that you can do that hasn't already been done before. It's about putting your own spin on it and making it yours.
One food you can't live without:
Ice cream because it soothes the soul. My favorite is Ben and Jerry's Oreo Cookie Mint. But I would usually pick mint ice cream over any other flavor, unless it's a very eclectic flavor that I haven't tried. Even though ice cream is cool and refreshing anyway, it's even more so when it's mint.
Ice cream is my weakness. I don't necessarily have more of a sweet tooth. My wife would tend to disagree with me, but she tends to eat salty things and I like to eat sweet things when we're relaxing.
Where was your most recent meal?
At home, country pate with crusty French bread.
Best culinary tip for he home cook:
Use a sharp knife.
What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
It depends on the photographer, but appearances are deceiving.
Anthony Bourdain. He is down to Earth.
How often do you receive requests for the Man's Best Friend menu? We love the option, by the way.
Every day. In fact, we just purchased new dog bowls to keep up with the demand. The old menu wasn't anything special. Marco, the GM, asked me to create a new one. I'm looking at revamping it again and gearing it towards the fitness side of dogs.
We had a gentleman come from Arizona a couple of years back. He had an English Mastiff, which is a huge, huge dog. They told me about the dog, so I went out to meet him and set down the bowl of food. He just inhaled it while I was still squatted down, and when he came to lick my face I nearly fell over. He had a really good time, and his owner and I chatted. A year later, they came back out again to do a pilot for the Travel Channel.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Jumiles are small stink bugs usually of the species Atizies taxcoensis native to the Taxco region of the state of Guerrero in Mexico. Any edible Hemiptera from the Coreidae or Pentatomidae families may be considered jumiles as well. Their diet includes the leaves of the encina (Quercus ilex) tree. One of our bartenders, Ivan, brought them back from Mexico. I tried them plain and in salsa.
It wasn't necessarily weird knowing that I was eating a bug. It was weird because of the taste of the bug, which was like eating a mouthful of dried herbs, more or less. It had a uniqueness, like how dried herbs take on a different flavor before they are reconstituted in water. Not really a pungent oregano, but kind of like that.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Mama's on 39 in Huntington Beach, but usually my kids decide where we eat.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
The most recent was a gentleman asking to try a sample of the ice creams we make, which range up to 15 flavors sometimes. Yes, of course (we did it), and he was very happy, which made me very pleased we make our own ice creams.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.