Jonathan Munsayac and Michellee Phelps are the siblings behind Tranquil Tea Lounge, a loose-leaf tea bar which has become a sort of refuge in Downtown Fullerton for those who aren't feeling up to getting drunk at its many rock & roll bars or boozy cantinas.
At their Zen oasis, many have gathered for an afternoon nibble and a sip of sublime teas that would impress Charles Grey himself. In this, the first of three parts, Jonathan agrees to answer our survey. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, and then Part 3 the day after that for a recipe.
What are six words to describe your food?
Fresh, Beautiful, Creative, Flavorful, Healthy, Sensational.
What are ten words to describe you?
Funny, Responsible, Active, Talented, Outgoing, Creative, Hungry, Loving, Perfectionist, Generous.
Your best recent food find:
El Camino Real. A team member that works with us kept mentioning this place to me and raved about how authentic the food is, so I took my two best friends one day and then I ended up eating there five days in a row. They offer the best carnitas I've ever had! Slightly crunchy and seasoned to perfection. It's just a little restaurant in Fullerton with big flavor!
Most undervalued ingredient:
Tea. Believe it or not, tea can be used in many different culinary dishes and can really enhance the flavor. We use tea in several dishes that we serve at Tranquil Tea Lounge.
Rules of conduct in your kitchens:
Be quick, clean and organized. At the same time, plate each dish as if it will be photographed by a professional photographer. Those Yelpers love to take photos of everything.
One food you detest:
I'm really not a picky eater. I will pretty much eat anything–however, something about cucumbers. I'm just not a big fan.
One food you can't live without:
Pizza. I can eat it everyday. It so cool. By changing the toppings it's like eating a new dish each time.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Diversity in cuisines. I like how you can pretty much get any kind of cuisine now.
What fast food is your least favorite?
I can't stand McDonalds. I haven't been there in over a decade.
Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Watch the Food Network 24/7 and shop at Crate and Barrel.
Since I work over 12 hours a day all I want to do is relax. So I enjoy catching up with friends at The Twisted vine in Downtown Fullerton. If I want late night grub I can count on Roscoe's Deli here in DTF. I'm hooked to their Soco Sandwich.
If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Eva Longoria. I think she's gorgeous. I'm sure if she ate my macaroni and cheese and one of my cupcakes she would want to divorce Tony Parker and marry me.
Favorite celebrity chef.
Paula Deen. I love home-cooked meals. She makes everything look so simple yet flavorful. I just want to hug her whenever I see her.
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
Tom Colicchio. 'Nuff said.
What's next for you?
I would love to open a second location offering more dishes with more cooking involved. We are very limited on space at our current location, so if I had another location it would have a larger kitchen.
Proudest moment as a chef/restaurant owner:
The day we had our grand opening/ribbon cutting. It's amazing how the idea of a tea lounge was created in my living room and it just got bigger and bigger. We endured so many obstacles prior to our opening. There were several moments when I thought our dream wasn't going to come true. But my sister and I knew we had the vision and determination so when we had our first guests come through the door it was the best feeling. I am so proud of both of us.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.