Ever since they opened, Fountain Valley’s Recess Room has evolved to a place where you can not only order creative cuisine, but solid cocktails as well. With the launch of brunch earlier this month, I took the opportunity to reach out their chef for some Q and A.
What was the turning point in your life when you decided you wanted to be in the hospitality industry?
The first job I ever held was at the age of 14 in a kitchen. From that point, I never once questioned what I had wanted to do; this has been my life. I’d like to say the kitchen raised me.
Tell me about the 40-ounce Tomahawk steak.
The 40-ounce Prime tomahawk is a beautiful cut from Rocker Brothers meat company that has been paired with a citrus and herb gremolata, smashed and fried yellow and red creamer potatoes, bone marrow butter and a Bulleit Rye demi. This item came about originally for Father’s Day. It became such a hit and “Wow” factor, we felt it would be a fitting addition to our menu.
Most important qualities you look for in a sous chef.
Dedication, heart and passion.
We noticed the new brunch menu is a modest list. How did you decide to keep from making it more expansive? And is there a dish that you recommend to first-timers?
We felt it was best to keep it limited to ensure that we can focus on those dishes and make them the best possible. For first-timers, we recommend the blueberry and marscapone-stuffed French toast. It’s playful, flavorful and a great item for sharing.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
A lot of people like to think that as chefs, we will always want to critique and correct everything a non-chef does when cooking for them. This is not the case. We are just happy that we are getting to enjoy a home-cooked meal surrounded by great company.
You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
A bowl of white rice with sauteed kimchi, a sunny side up egg and crisp pork belly.
Name an indispensable kitchen tool that isn’t a knife.
Plating spoon such as a Gray Kunz sauce spoon.
Tell me about your guilty pleasure food.
I absolutely love the roast pork bao buns from China Town Family Pastry in LA. Whenever I’m in LA, I have to stop and pick up a dozen (plus two more for the ride home).
Most undervalued ingredient
Chicken gizzards I feel are super undervalued. They just need extra care and love to prepare them in some of the most extraordinary ways.
I’d like to learn more about the bar program. Do you and the head bartender collaborate on anything?
We have worked on a few dishes together. The most recent being our peanut belly and jelly foie gras. We decided to pair this with a white rum milk punch to play off of a PB+J and milk like mom would give you.
Where did you grow up, and where’s home these days?
I grew up on Long Island, New York, in the town of Merrick. Also spent time in the Hudson Valley. Currently, home is the great city of Long Beach.
What compelled you to relocate from New York to California?
It was family. Some time ago I was in Florida for my Grandmother’s birthday, and I had the pleasure of meeting my Great Aunt. I learned so much about the family on the West Coast, and was given an open invite to head out whenever I’d like. A few years later, I was packing a car and never looked back. I found that I have the most amazing family.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
A lot of people don’t know, but I have a passion for photography. It allows you to view the world through your own perspective.
What should culinary school teach (if anything) that you learned in restaurants?
How to prioritize and be more efficient when prepping and writing prep lists.
What was the last thing you looked up online?
Most recently, I’ve been looking up new ingredients to use for the upcoming fall season.
Hardest life lesson you’ve learned.
Hardest life lesson is humility and knowing when to ask for help.
What profession would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
Something to do with the automotive profession. I really enjoy cars and auto racing.
The Recess Room is located at 18380 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, (714) 377-0398; www.therecessroom.com.