Ch-ch-ch-changes happen all the time in the restaurant industry. Chefs leave and are replaced by someone with a vision more aligned with that of the establishment. Alfonso Ramirez now helms the kitchen within Westin South Coast Plaza's fine-dining establishment, Pinot Provence.
Where have you worked in the past five years?
Other than Pinot Provence, I've worked at Marche Moderne, the Penthouse in Santa Monica, the Foundry on Melrose and Enoteca Drago.
Favorite meal growing up:
White rice, fried egg and French fries.
Your earliest food memory:
Eating alligator with my dad in a hotel. I was very young (6 or 7 years old) in a Sheraton hotel. He told me it was ham. After I consumed it, he told me it was alligator!
Most undervalued ingredient:
Pepper. I use it in brittles and a lot of my sauces. Just gives things that extra bite.
Your best recent food find:
The taco truck on Segerstrom and Bristol. It's there from around 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It's amazing.
Being so close to the performing arts, is there a theater rush? What time frame is that?
Yes, between 5 and 7 p.m.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County and LA are very similar in the diversity of the cultures represented. I think Orange County has some fantastic Asian spots, as well as Mexican. Again, try the food truck on Segerstrom.
What is your beverage of choice?
Gin. I also love Thai iced tea.
What do you like to recommend on the brunch menu?
The potato pancakes with smoked salmon and creme fraiche.
What is the best table in the restaurant?
The corner tables 2 and 7 are most requested. My favorite is 7.
One food you can't live without:
Mayonnaise because I put it on everything (at home).
Where was your most recent meal?
I took my 5-year-old to Chuck E. Cheese. Pizza and cheesy breadsticks — delicious.
Best culinary tip for the home cook?
Eric Greenspan. He's my mentor. He taught me so much during the 10 years I worked for him, and I have enormous respect for his food.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Pig's tail. Not too weird, I know.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own):
Anjin in Costa Mesa and Lola Gaspar in Santa Ana.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Pancakes and sausage.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Someone brought in an alligator and rattlesnake for me to cook, and I did it. This was at Enoteca Drago. I roasted it with vegetables, which is the way he wanted it.