On the Line: Ryan O'Melveny Wilson of Five Crowns and SideDoor, Part Two
Photo by Mary Pastrana

On the Line: Ryan O'Melveny Wilson of Five Crowns and SideDoor, Part Two

Before this chef hopped on a plane to Chi-town for business (to work on a burger blend and attend a quarterly financial meeting), Ryan O'Melveny Wilson had enough time to answer those burning questions, such as what he thought of his Chiquita-banana costume. Maybe his answer belonged in part one, but man, was it entertaining.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I love the outdoors and try to find time with one of my bicycles or skis or flyrods.

Last song playing on your radio/smart phone/iPod:
"Lover's Spit Redux" by Broken Social Scene.

We noticed a planter with signage right outside. Could you tell us what it represents?

Sure. That's a planter box from the Ecology Center down in San Juan Capistrano. We're good friends with those guys. The planter boxes are being distributed to local businesses to celebrate Earth Day. Those are lettuce greens that are growing out there to bring awareness. They're locally made, and those are good, quality lettuce greens. I was looking at it, and I might actually have some dinner out of it.

Where did you grow up? If you're not from Orange County, what brought you here?
I grew up in Northern California, spread across the Bay Area from Los Altos to Marin County. But I have always visited Orange County during the summers to stay at my family's beach homes. Professionally, I moved to Orange County back in 2008 to develop, train and open SideDoor.

I hear you come from a lineage of chefs.
Not chefs, but passionate home cooks and a restaurant family. Nearly every member of my family cooks well and often at home, and we all love the pleasures of the table, but I am the first member of my family to pursue cooking as a profession.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
The time and patience needed to successfully reposition a restaurant.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
When I was 7, my dad taught me to flyfish on Hot Creek near Mammoth.

Favorite Halloween costume:
Chiquita banana. Growing up, my mother would go through incredible lengths to make my sister and myself Halloween costumes. I was a full-sized Chiquita banana that was half-peeled. I was inside this thing, and it was amazing. I wish I had some photographs to dig up. I was a bottle of Grey Poupon mustard another year. I was a surfboard once. But the Chiquita banana was pretty amazing; and the logo was PERFECT. She did all sorts of stenciling to blow up the image of the woman.

What were you up to five years ago?
Working in San Francisco at Quince.

Favorite holiday and why:
Thanksgiving because I love how it brings my family together around the table for a wonderful meal.

Does anyone ever confuse you and chef de cuisine Bryon Freeze because of your first names sounding similar?
Every day. . . .

Last movie watched.
Mission Street Food. It was very interesting and inspirational how they unorthodoxically opened and ran a restaurant.

When you use the Internet, what's on your homepage?

Last thing you looked up/searched for online:
"Yankee fried potatoes." It was for our oldest restaurant up in Glendale, the Tam O'Shanter. We're celebrating our 90th anniversary this year, and for part of the celebration we're rolling back, starting with the 1970s. Each month, leading up to the celebration on June 22nd, we're bringing back old menus, and right now I'm working on menus from the 1940s. Out of our archives, they list a dish that has Yankee fried potatoes on them, so I was trying to dig up some reference to a Yankee fried potato. Couldn't find anything, so it's up to my interpretation.

Do you have any skills that are non-food-related?
I love to flyfish and photograph.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
Maybe architecture.

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