On the Line: Zach Geerson Of Tempo Urban Kitchen, Part Two

But will he bust a move?
But will he bust a move?
Photo by LP Hastings

With every person I interview, I look forward to learning what they share in common with the subjects before them, and what sets them apart. Zach's artistic talents are a definite influence on his cooking style. It's natural for him to interpret a recipe, then conceptualize and execute it to his liking.

We always try to mix things up in part two, but part one is where the story begins. Educate yourself on Tempo and Zach by starting here . . .

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business? I couldn't imagine doing anything outside of the business. I could say the obvious answer like travel or spend time with my family, but those things would lead me back to cooking. Eventually, I want to teach up-and-coming cooks. I don't like doing anything more than I like teaching people how to cook, so they can enjoy cooking as much as I enjoy it.

When you're not in the kitchen creating, what are you doing? Probably eating! I'm a huge snacker. I'm not really known to sit down and eat. I spend time with my girlfriend, and we go out to eat or see a movie-- the usual, normal people stuff. My close friend from school is in town for the week, so we reverted to what we used to do at school: hang out and drink copious amounts of good wine, and talk BS and the restaurant game.

Hardest lesson you've learned. The balance of being a businessman and a chef.

Where did you grow up? Born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida. I lived there for most of my life. I came to California for Tempo. That was it. I knew in my heart that eventually I wanted to be in Cali, but I never had an "in" until Tempo came along. I'm an East Coast kid, but I love it here.

What's your favorite childhood memory? Going to work with my Dad. We used to be able to connect through work. He never had to say much; just worked and showed me how to be extra sure you do the job right, and not sacrifice quality. Do the job right the first time so you don't have to go back. He's really where I learned my work ethic.

Last thing you looked up online. Delicious brine for hot-smoking salmon.

Did you learn anything in culinary school that you might not have learned as quickly in real life restaurant experience? Yes. How to adapt to a lot of new situations quickly, constantly be on my toes, and have a Plan B (or even C) for everything. How to come up with solutions for problems before they happen, at least in the kitchen. It's very easy to get stuck in a routine and expect the same outcome every day. But in school, every three weeks your routine is remodeled and you have to adapt for the better, and you learn how to work with a wide variety of chefs, students and ingredients. I think in 18 months of school, I worked with 20 different chefs, at least.

We did tons of special events-- I even planned my first wine pairing dinner from scratch with a friend of mine, and we won an award for the dinner. There are so many experiences that you get in school that you don't usually get anywhere else.

Tell us something most people don't know about you. I'm a trained hip-hop dancer, and I used to compete in local clubs with a group of friends.

Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food? Besides being a pretty good dancer, I used to sing. I'm pretty good at sketching-- anything artsy, I'm decent at. Ultimate Frisbee, too. What I have a true knack for, though, is binge-watching The Walking Dead on Netflix. I'm really good at that.

Last song playing on your radio. Scar Tissue, Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What turns you on: creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Creatively, I love just reading through cookbooks. I like to look at what some of the country's best chefs are doing on their menus, see what ingredients they use, and interpret them in my own food. I may use the ingredients and flavor profiles, but change the process. If they make a chilled pea soup with lemon and mint, I might make a green pea panna cotta with lime and basil.

Spiritually, I was raised with the church when I was younger, and have some of those qualities still with me today. Cooking is how I give back and nurture people, and a great meal can totally change a relationship. Food is very powerful.

Emotionally, I'm not going to lie. I'm a pretty emotional guy. Music really stimulates me, and movement and body language. I have a good sense of people and personalities. A good intuition, I guess you could say. What turns me on emotionally? My friends and family, my girlfriend, and food pretty much do it for me. You could say that my food is hyper-emotional cooking. I vent through my cooking.

Tempo Urban Kitchen is located at 1060 E Imperial Hwy in Brea, (714) 529-2900; www.tempourbankitchen.com.

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