On the Line: Visoth Tarak Ouk "T" Of The Federal Bar, Part One

Photo by LP Hastings

Every restaurant needs a voice. It could be the owner, general manager, or (in the case of The Federal Bar) one of the chefs in your kitchen. We had the pleasure of meeting Chef T when a good friend invited us to dinner. A down-to-Earth kind of guy, we knew T would represent Long Beach well.

Please explain the concept and cuisine of The Federal Bar. It's all about good food. We take traditional pub food, but rather than settle, we use fresh ingredients and quality to create amazing food with a great atmosphere-- while still enjoying a nice, cold beer.

Best culinary tip for the home cook: Have fun, experiment and keep cooking. Remember, food should be appreciated.

Most frequently asked question by guests. Do you cook at home? Yes, I do. I love to cook!

You're making breakfast. What are you having? Fresh rice noodles, flank steak, tripe [Editor's Note: Maybe he read that as dinner?], beef meatballs, shrimp, fresh basil, bean sprouts, and a nice squeeze of lime! Delicious!

Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make? Not necessarily a dish but more of a region, I would like to know more of the Deep South/ East Orient food tradition and flavors.

What do you recommend for first-timers? I recommend our butcher steak. It's a very nice cut, very flavorful and well worth it, without putting a dent in your wallet!

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true. Most chefs are men. Yes, it's true. This field is dominated by men, but I've come to know some very kick ass women in the kitchen who can hold their own.

Did you attend culinary school? And (if you did) did you learn anything that you might not have been taught if you didn't attend? Yes, I attended the Culinary Arts Program at LBCC. I appreciate everything they taught me: my techniques and skills. But I learned from working in the restaurant kitchen more than anywhere else. School never taught me how to work the line. School didn't teach me experience. And, most important of all, school didn't teach me how to be a chef. That I did with hard work alone, and from one chef sharing his skills to his next.

Favorite meal growing up: Good old country fried chicken.

What would be your last meal on earth? Roasted Peking duck, with orange reduction, fluffed white rice, pickled vegetables and spicy kimchi.

What was your most recent meal? My most recent meal was at home, a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with strawberries and bananas.

What can you tell us about the downstairs? Besides that this used to be the bank's underground vault, we also have a speakeasy with craft cocktails and drinks. Where you can enjoy quality drinks with a nice, dim lit atmosphere. Or you can step into our ballroom, where our DJ will be spinning tunes in a hip club on the weekend.

What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in a restaurant? How hard it was actually going to be.

The Federal Bar is located at 102 Pine Ave, Long Beach, (562) 435-2000; www.lb.thefederalbar.com.

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