Today we conclude our Q&A with Chef Jason Quinn. If you missed the first part, read it here.
Stay tuned tomorrow for our final installment: a recipe from the chef.
What would you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chef-driven restaurants. Tapas bars.
What would you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chain restaurants. Fast food.
I love the way Tom Collichio writes about food. He changed my opinions on mushrooms. Ludo Levebre wrote a book called “Crave” which got me excited about presentation and beets. Anthony Bourdain's “Les Halles” cookbook got me excited about French food and cracked me up in general. I have the El Bulli books and the big Fat Duck book; but those are more art than food to me. I haven't really tried anything from them.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network?
Let's show amateur home cooks how to wow the hell out of their guests. I'm talking gastriques, beurre blancs, homemade everything. None of this semi-homemade bullshit.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
A Big Mac.
You're making an omelet. What's in it?
Boursin cheese, crispy proscuitto, black truffles.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Weirdest customer request:
I recently worked at a restaurant where the policy was to never say no. Customers definitely took advantage of this. I remember plating up an order that had mushroom risotto, a 10-ounce filet, 6-ounce lobster tail and bacon-balsamic Brussels sprouts. The plate looked like shit.
Favorite OC restaurant(s) other than your own:
I have a special place in my heart for Hillstone restaurants. I worked at Houstons for two years and they deliver a very high quality product across the board. I also love Pizzeria Ortica, Haven, Charlie Palmers late night, Mesa and Ho Sum!!!
Hardest lesson you've learned:
In the kitchen, there is no room for an ego.
What would the last meal on Earth be?
I'm gonna steal Mario Batali's answer: the food would be much less important than the company.
Who's your hero? Culinary or otherwise?
In college, I wrote my thesis on four British chefs: Jamie Oliver, Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. Any one of them could easily be my hero. And if you think I'm crazy for saying Ramsay, watch the British versions of his show. He's an amazing person. He's not what you see on Fox.
What cuisine that you are unfamiliar with would you want to learn more about and why?
Thai, traditional Chinese, Indian, Japanese. I use ingredients from all these cultures in my “fusion” dishes but I wouldn't know how to cook for a traditional Indian family.
So what were you doing before you started The Lime Truck, that is, what's your background, culinary or otherwise?
My parents were (and still are, even though they deny it) terrible cooks. Growing up, food was a necessity rather than a pleasure. I went to college (UCSB) as a chemistry major. I lived with a guy who watched Food Network and I realized that all the foods that I loved to eat at restaurants could be made easier and better at home. I was 18 before I ever willingly used salt. From there I realized I wanted to cook professionally. I worked front of the house at Houstons, learning everything I could about service and really great, but basic, American food. I drunkenly ran into Kerry Simon when in Las Vegas. After 20 minutes of talking to him he offered me a position interning at his Los Angeles location. Worked there for a while, moved to the Charlie Palmers in South Coast and then took a number two (executive sous/chef de cuisine) role behind a chef in RSM. I really hated it there. They cut a lot of corners and because of that, the owner and I didn't really get along. I got the call to start the truck with Daniel (Shemtob) and put in my notice shortly thereafter.
What made you decide to do a get into the food truck business?
I didn't want to run my ideas by anyone. I just wanted to do it. See if people like my food.
We heard that the truck you're driving is actually the Brooklyn Boys' old truck. What, if any, advice did they give you when they sold it to you?
They gave us a lot of advice, and by us, I mean my partner Daniel. I talked to them for about 5 minutes they were really nice and supportive. Daniel said they helped a lot though.
You're one of the youngest food trucks out there, what are you discovering has been the biggest obstacle or difficulty so far?
It's a truck. You have problems there that you would never have in a professional kitchen. We ran out of water once,. We didn't have propane. Our deep fryer wouldn't work. Our truck leaks oil. The engine blew up. Cooking on it is soooo much hotter than standing by a really hot grill in an established restaurant.
What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about starting their own food truck?
Don't do Korean/Mexican fusion. Do something new. Get a route, be cool. Serve good food at a good price.
What do you hope for your business in 5 years? In 10?
I just want to be happy. Lime is a great concept. Everything we do is fueled by love and respect for our ingredients and customers. If we can show people that, we will be successful enough that I don't have to do too much.