If you missed the first part of our interview with Greg Daniels, executive chef and partner at Haven Gastropub, you can find it here. If you've missed the fantastic “spaghetti”, the burger par excellence and the great beer, you can find that just south of the Orange Circle. Meanwhile, back to the questions!
OC Weekly: What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Greg Daniels: Creativity. There are a lot of restaurants in Orange County, but not many that are culinarily noteworthy. I think it will take some great young chefs putting out incredible food to change that. We want to keep the residents of Orange County in Orange County, instead of venturing up to LA.
OCW: What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
GD: Chain restaurants.
OCW: Favorite cookbook?
GD: Right now, it's Under Pressure, by Thomas Keller. We've been cooking sous vide lately, and it's a great reference tool. Keller is a genius, by the way. Anything he does, he strives for perfection. All of us chefs can say we do the same, but he has the resources to actually hunt down the little farms that he buys from, pay them top dollar for their amazing product, and pass that cost onto the consumer. In this economy, he's one of the only ones out there that can do that right now.
OCW: What show would you pitch to the Food Network?
GD: “How to Avoid Eating the Same Shit the Rest of America Eats”
OCW: Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
GD: Duck fries at Incanto. Those are testicles–for those that are wondering. Sautéed with bacon and capers. Really tasty, and plump like little sausages.
OCW: You're making an omelet. What's in it?
GD: Cheddar cheese, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, tomato. I don't have omelets very often, but like to keep it simple. I will load it with lots of Tabasco though. That's a good way to wake up in the morning.
OCW: What's your favorite place to buy ingredients?
GD: The Irvine farmers' market. I've seen it grow a little bit over the years, and really hope that it continues to grow. My hope is that it will rival Santa Monica someday soon.
OCW: You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
GD: Cases of Chinese broccoli. From Cheu, this little Chinese guy that has some of the best vegetables available there. I had some sugar snap peas the other day from him that blew my mind.
OCW: Weirdest customer request:
GD: Heinz Ketchup. We make our own, but people will ask if we just have one bottle of Heinz somewhere? The answer is no. No ranch dressing either, in case you were going to ask that later.
OCW: Favorite OC restaurant(s) other than your own:
GD: Charlie Palmer, Lola Gaspar, Mesa, Lucca, and Sol Cocina.[
OCW: Hardest lesson you've learned:
GD: Culinary school is very expensive.
OCW: What would be your last meal on Earth?
GD: Probably the toughest question asked. So many would say foie gras or truffles. I'd have to say a cheeseburger and fries. Simple, but so perfect.
OCW: Who's your hero? Culinary or otherwise?
GD: My wife is my hero. She has done nothing but stand by me over the years, through good and bad. She's a saint. I wouldn't be doing what I love if it wasn't for her support.
OCW: What cuisine that you are unfamiliar with would you want to learn more about and why?
GD: Indian food. I've eaten quite a bit of it, but haven't experimented too much with cooking it. The reason I find it so fascinating is the same reason I love Mexican food. It's so bold, and sometimes spicy as well. It shows a passion for strong flavor that is so different from European cuisine.
OCW: What's the best beer on your list?
GD: Right at this moment, I'm loving the “5 a.m. Saint” by Brewdog. They're out of Scotland. Young guys doing some amazing stuff. They're very in tune with the IPAs that are so popular on the West Coast right now. This one's an amber with some great hoppy flavor. The best part about our beer selection is that it changes so often. We've been exposed to some amazing beers from around the world. I never thought I'd know so much about beer.
OCW: Someone walks into your restaurant and asks, “What's a gastropub?” How do you explain it?
GD: Fresh, seasonal, gourmet food in a casual environment. We make nearly everything from scratch here in our kitchen, down to the ketchup with your fries. As far as I'm concerned, we're not a pub. We distinguish ourselves by serving great food, wine, cocktails, and beer that you don't find in your average bar. That defines a gastropub, in my opinion.
OCW: What do you think of Jamie Oliver's “Food Revolution”?
GD: I watch it every week, and can't wait to see how much he is able to accomplish. There have been others before him–hopefully more of America will see what we serve our kids, and realize that we're slowly killing them. His campaign is something I wish I was a part of.
OCW: What one dish on your menu do you wish people would order more of?
GD: Roasted Neck of Lamb. It's just a great cut of meat–my favorite from the animal. I stress to our staff that we want to utilize parts of the animals that other restaurants don't use. Slowly, we've begun to infuse that into our menu. My beliefs are that we should be thankful for the lives of the animals we consume. They should be treated with respect during their lifetime, and after as well. I don't cry if one of my cooks burns a steak, but I do regret the waste.
OCW: What made you pick Old Town Orange?
GD: It's just a great community. It feels like “Main Street U.S.A.” It's surrounded by some of the coolest residents in Orange County. People WALK to our restaurant. You don't get that very often in Orange County. They've welcomed us with open arms, and have really made us what we are.