Welcome back! I wanted to kick off the new year somewhere different, so over the Toll Road and through Eastbound 91 traffic I went. If Long Beach is OC Weekly's Los Angeles neighbor, then Corona is our Inland Empire one. Probably the best known spa in the area, Glen Ivy Hot Springs is where guests can relax and rejuvenate. Thanks to Chef Micah, visitors can also feed their soul with the roll out of his new menu at Ivy Kitchen.
Let's discuss the two dining options at Glen Ivy. What are the differences, and what do you suggest for first-timers?
Ivy Kitchen - Leisurely, sit down and relax; Ahi Poke Salad
Goco Cafe - Casual grab and go; Muesli. Power-packed with flaxseed and oats. Keeps you going throughout the day.
Favorite appliance or utensil in the kitchen that isn't a knife.
Vitamix blender. I use it for everything, from sauce and soups to smoothies.
Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
Integrity. Confidence in someone you know will do the right thing when you aren't around.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Always use good salt, like sea salt or Kosher salt. Good salting is when you don't taste salt when it's in your food; it should just bring out the flavor of the dish.
An underutilized spice or herb (that isn't salt or pepper). What dishes would it be good in?
Favorite herb would be thyme. It's mild, but makes a huge difference. The beauty of thyme is that it can be used in so many dishes, from European to Mediterranean.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Muesli and fresh juice.
An unusual customer request (and did you do it?):
Someone asked for Poke well-done. And yes, of course!
When was the last time you cut/burned yourself? What were you doing when it happened?
Burned myself two weeks ago. I didn't even notice when it happened. I've become so oblivious to burns these days, because I'm always moving around so much in the kitchen.
What was the most complicated dish you ever created?
The dish wasn't complicated, but who the dish was for was the complicated part. I had to cook a squab dish for Alain Ducasse (one of the top French chefs), and the pressure was on. But in the end, I ended up working for him for four years!
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Southern California, but I spent my youth on a ranch in Northern Nevada, and my high school years by Mammoth Lakes. I spent some time in the mountains, and I was living by a five-year plan. On that plan, it said live out by the beach. And from there I decided to move back to Southern California.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Taqueria or some place with good street tacos.
Did you always plan on becoming a chef? When did you realize that you wanted to be in the hospitality industry?
I always had a passion for good cooking and making others smile. I started cooking at a young age, and had to cook for a whole wedding by myself. When I went to go check on how people were enjoying their meals, they started applauding me. That's when I realized I wanted to be a chef.
Last thing you looked up online:
What other skills do you have outside of the kitchen?
I am really good at BBQing, and I also have quite the green thumb!
Tell me something most people don't know about you.
I'm a reef aquarium hobbyist. I spent a month in Thailand snorkeling and scuba diving.
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What is your guilty pleasure food?
Hot, freshly baked cookies and a glass of milk!
Hardest life lesson you've learned.
I think it's the daily lessons that are the hardest.
What profession would you like to try if you weren't in the business?
If I ever get too old to be a chef, I would like to be a food photographer. The presentation is one of my favorite parts.
Ivy Kitchen and Goco Cafe are located at Glen Ivy Hot Springs, 25000 Glen Ivy Rd. Corona, (888) 453-6489; www.glenivy.com.