10 Questions for Chef Andres Dangond of The Cut

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A cut above
Photo courtesy The Cut

From consulting chef to full-time man in the kitchen, Andres Dangond's role with The Cut grew with the brand. Planting roots with their first brick-and-mortar (Don't worry, the luxe lonchera is still around.), I was hungry to understand how their Irvine location expanded upon an already successful concept. Here's a menu-focused version of my arsenal of questions.

When I think of The Cut, the first thing that comes to mind is a burger. What prompted the menu expansion beyond them?
Our menu is definitely still burger-centric, but transitioning from our food truck and having more equipment and space now in our hands, we had the urge to show that we can master more than 'just burgers'. I've traveled the world a bit, and having worked at very different restaurants with such vast cultural differences, it's in my culinary habits to blend techniques and flavors I've discovered. For example, there's always a bit of Colombia in my food, one way or another. You can notice it in our Corn Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich, our Brisket Sandwich and, of course, The Colombian Burger.

Not only do you have a much greater menu selection, but I noticed your beverage options. Could you tell me what's on tap, as well as the cocktail infusions offered?
We work with local breweries to source really amazing and unique beers that we have on constant rotation. Right now, we have a Peanut Butter Milk Stout from Belching Beaver that will blow your mind. Or the Grapefruit Sculpin from Ballast Point, Coconut Amber Ale from 4 Sons, and the No Name IPA from Artifex are some of our favorites. My business partners Steve Kim and Charlie Burnette have developed great relationships with them, thanks to our truck catering tons of events at their breweries.

Our cocktails are all made with soju, sake and different 'wines' since we don't have a full liquor license. My biggest focus while developing our cocktails was to maintain as much of the alcohol content as possible, avoiding water dilution from the ice and being able to offer them at prices that would be fair and still give our guests the same 'buzz' that a full liquor cocktail would give them. For this, we had to come up with different infusions and procedures to make cocktails that taste amazing. I had to ask myself a lot of questions, and this was an exciting challenge for me. For example: How do you make a tequila-based cocktail, like a jalapeno margarita or our Pink Paloma, taste like tequila without being able to use tequila? How do you make a cocktail with ingredients that have no more than 20% alcohol give someone the same buzz a cocktail made with 40% alcohol would give them?

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We ended up developing a very surprising and exciting cocktail menu that includes our Grape Soda, Mango and Pineapple Painkiller and Clementhyme (a citrusy and refreshing cocktail made with a house made infusion of clementines and thyme— my girlfriend came up with the name). Also our Pink Paloma, in the form of a martini made with guava, lime juice and agave. And one of the best mojitos you'll ever taste.

Will there be a happy hour and/or daily or weekly specials?
There already is! Happy Hour: Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m.. We will eventually start introducing specials and even brunch during the weekends as soon as we are done settling in.

I have colleagues that are hardcore poutine critics. What is The Cut's take on this Canadian dish?
It is by all means a 'traditional' poutine, but with actual braised brisket instead of gravy, smoked mozzarella instead of curds, and we top it off with our cilantro chimichurri.

For your die-hard burger fans, are there any new ones they can look forward to?
Absolutely! The Grand Cut is pretty amazing. It has braised pork on top of our signature beef patty, bacon jam and a comte and havarti cheese fondue. The Colombian is new as well, with smoked mozzarella, cilantro chimichurri and roasted bananas. These two are becoming quite popular!

One of your desserts was inspired by an East Coast brand. Please elaborate.
Our Corn Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich was inspired by Christina Tosi's Corn Cookie at Milk Bar in NYC. I thought it was an amazing cookie, and thought about how I could bring this to California, paying homage to it. I played with different ways to approach the corn and butter in the cookie dough, and ended up with a very soft cookie to sandwich around a delicious vanilla bean ice cream and top it with a house made Arequipe sauce (Colombian dulce de leche) and black salt flakes. Actually, I met Chef Tosi during Aspen Food & Wine and showed her my rip off on her cookie, and she was really excited about it!

Tell me a little about your culinary background. I hear you worked at one of my favorite restaurants in Chi-town.
I started cooking at my parent's restaurant in Bogota, Colombia when I was around 14 years old. At 18, I moved to Barcelona, Spain to go to music school, but ended up thinking more about food than music and went back home to resume my culinary training. I started working full-time at Colombia's best Italian restaurant making pizzas and risottos. The owners had several other places with different cuisines, and I was rotated through all of them; that gave me a great introduction to different cuisines and techniques. I began climbing up the culinary ladder, and became the pastry for Hard Rock Cafe, then sous chef. At 21, I opened a small delivery-only food service in my neighborhood, but it wasn't doing that great. So I decided to move to Chicago with my older brother a year later.

I didn't have a work permit at the time, so the best way for me to learn from the chefs I admire was to interview them and write articles about them for Colombian publications. I had the luck to meet Chef Dave Beran (Chef de Cuisine at Alinea at the time) while trying to interview Chef Grant Achatz for an article, and before leaving I asked Chef Beran if he would have me as a 'stagiaire' for a while. He graciously welcomed me to the kitchen. Before that, I spent some time at L2O with Chef Laurent Gras as well, and did a brief 'stage' at Avenues with Chef Curtis Duffy. These three restaurants were the most influential in my culinary training; it opened my mind and my palate.

What are your personal favorites on the menu?
Ask a parent to choose his favorite kid. This is impossible for me to answer! I can tell you that I am currently addicted to our Spanish Chorizo Croquettes, Spicy Nduja Cheese Tots, Honey Sriracha Wings, Brisket Sandwich and, believe it or not, our Baby Kale Salad, with fennel, pickled pears and bacon vinaigrette is pretty delicious, too.

What options do you have for meatless eaters?
We use The Beyond Burger for veggie patties, as they are incredible. It's a plant-based, GMO-free patty that has 20 grams of protein and can be added to any of our burgers. We also have great salads, smokey chili-lime Shishito Peppers and a pretty unique Hummus with Roasted Jalapeno Pesto.

What does the TBD on your chicken sandwich represent?
It means exactly what you think it means: To Be Determined. It's funny (I think) how it took me months to figure out a name for this chicken sandwich. And when we were about to print our menus, we still hadn't come up with something! So we left it like that, and have decided to reach out to our guests for help. So to your readers, starting today, please head over to our Instagram account, @thecuthcb, follow us and comment on our TBD post with the name you think this sandwich should have. Whoever comes up with a great name that we choose as the best will get to officially name it that way,and will receive a complimentary dinner for two at The Cut in Irvine.

The Cut is now located at 3831 Alton Pkwy, Ste C, (949) 333-3434. Get to know The Cut's brick-and-mortar menu at www.thecuthcb.com.


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