Age is just a number, as far as I'm concerned. Experience, professionalism and ethics are timeless. Have those qualities, and you're golden. This is what I'm quickly learning about Chef Sumner at Lighthouse Bayview Cafe. I head towards the water to fulfill this week's interview, another participant in this week's Decadence event.
Tell me about a signature dish at Lighthouse.
One of our most popular dishes is the braised short rib grilled cheese. It is a Parmesan encrusted sourdough sandwich filled with braised short ribs, muenster cheese and smoked gouda, served with tomato bisque with basil pesto. It is the perfect comfort dish for the winter months.
Name an indispensable tool in the kitchen.
There are so many indispensable tools in the kitchen. I love my Vitamix, very sharp knives and the kunz spoons.
Most important qualities you look for in a sous chef.
Always strive to be better and leave their ego at home.
For those not familiar with the location, where is Lighthouse located in Newport?
We are located in the new Marina Park on the Balboa peninsula. We are on the harbor side, across 15th Street. Look out for the big, light blue lighthouse. We are located right at the base.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
Once you graduate culinary school you will become a chef— that's not true. You must put in time and effort to continue learning and move up the ranks. It is an evolving industry that one must continually stay on top of. New ingredients and techniques are always coming about.
Where was your most recent meal?
My most recent meal was at Kappo Honda. I had a variety of yakatori and the kyushu ramen. My absolute favorite is the chicken thigh with yuzu kosho.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't follow the recipe to the dot. Go off of flavor, season, texture. If the recipe says an hour in the oven, but it's been 45 minutes and you think it is ready, it probably is. Also, don't be afraid of salt and high heat when cooking.
Is there anything you wished they taught in culinary school that you learned from actual work experience?
I wish they taught us more of what the true restaurant experience is like compared to just cooking dishes to completion. Multitasking and cooking multiple things at once, while still timing everything perfectly (and making sure it's prepared to perfection) can be challenging.
I want to learn more about the vendors you work with.
I love Chefs Warehouse; they have a ton of hard-to-find ingredients, and everything they have is top quality. I also work closely with Blake at Nature's Produce.
Tell me about your connection to Irvine Ranch Market.
My parents are the owners, and I essentially grew up working there. In every department I would see a vast variety of foods that sparked my curiosity. That's what kickstarted my interest in the world of cooking.
What did you learn during your time with Chef Kim at Charlie Palmer that you apply to Lighthouse?
Always keep your head down and eyes and ears open. Some of the best lessons you can learn may be ones that are not even directed towards you.
Where did you grow up, and where's home these days?
Southern California has always been my home. I'm currently living in Newport Beach.
Favorite meal growing up.
My mom used to make breaded pork chops and rice. I was always so excited for dinner when I knew she was serving that dish.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
The feeling of being free! You can do whatever you want with your friends! No real world pressure.
Tell me something most people don't know about you.
I just recently got a new puppy! A little Yorkie named Luna. She is such a bundle of energy and helps me get outside for a nice stroll in the neighborhood.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
I very rarely ever have breakfast, but my go-to is always Eggs Benedict. I just love the simplicity of the dish.
Last thing you looked up online.
I just recently moved and am looking for furniture for the new house!
Hardest lesson you've learned.
There is no substitute for hard work; you must put in the time and effort to reach your goals. Self-discipline is very important to me.
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Favorite places to eat.
I love to go to BCD Tofu House. It is open all night and decently priced with delicious food. Dumpling Soon Tofu with dangerous spice level is my go-to dish there.
What industry would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
I love the art of ceramics. I would love to be able to make plates and pottery. Anything hands-on, really; I would never be able to have a desk job.
Lighthouse Bayview Cafe is located at 2600 W Balboa Blvd, (949) 933-1001; www.lighthousenb.com.
Check out Lighthouse Bayview Cafe at this Friday's Decadence event!