Wildfish, for a lot of people (including myself), is known for its generous Happy Hour–one of the best in OC. The discounts extend later than most and continue on the weekends. But it should also be known for its seafood and the man who makes it sing. Here, we talk with executive chef Arturo Briones, an ex-architect now seafood-master.
We warm him up with Part One of our three-part interview.
What are six words to describe your food?
Fresh, flavorful, innovative, colorful, creative, unique.
What are 10 words to describe you?
Organized, friendly, fun, creative, imaginative, responsible, dedicated, passionate, understanding, motivated.
Most undervalued ingredient:
I love to work with chiles. There are so many different varieties, and each provides a different flavor profile, giving each dish its own personality.
Rules of conduct in your kitchens:
The highest standards of professionalism, cleanliness and food quality are required and maintained to ensure seamless execution of our food to the guests.
One food you detest:
None! I love all kinds of food, and I make it a point to try all of the different foods from different cultures.
One food you can't live without:
If I had to choose just one, it would be red mole.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Selection! Orange County is such a melting pot of cultures–it seems like you can find anything here!
What fast food do you admit to eating?
In-N-Out–a Double Double with grilled onions, Animal Fries and a chocolate shake.
Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Don't be afraid to experiment. Some of my best dishes have happened when I don't follow the recipe exactly.
Most nights, I would prefer to hang out at home in front of the TV. I always have something sweet, like cake or pan dulce and coffee after work.
If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My grand fantasy is to return to Mexico and cook a huge dinner for my extended family. In Mexico, I was an architect, so much of my family have never tried my cooking!
Favorite celebrity chef.
I'm a fan of Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Paula Deen, Gordon Ramsay and Roy Yamaguchi.
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
None. I think passion and outspokenness are part of being a chef!
Proudest moment as a chef:
I am lucky to be able to be proud on a daily basis. I feel great about the food I put out every night, and I'm always proud of my team of chefs who work so hard with me.
Favorite music to cook by:
I love the '80s! Rock, disco, new wave and pop–in both English and Spanish.
Best food city in America:
If by America, you mean the continent, I would choose Mexico City. There are amazing restaurants there, and you can find food from all over the world. Here in the United States, I really enjoy going up to LA to explore the dining scene there.
Favorite restaurant in America:
I enjoy so many types of foods from around the world, and America has it all, so to choose only one restaurant would be impossible for me to do.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Not just in the OC, but overall, I really like the movement toward sustainability and social responsibility with food. We are all learning so much more about where our food is coming from, how it's grown and harvested and processed. I like the direction we're heading, with people beginning to understand the importance of things such as sustainability and local organic farming and moving away from genetically modified foods.
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
I'd just say ego. The OC's not nearly as bad as some other places, but I think no matter how much you know, there's still more to learn.
I own a ton of cookbooks, and I use them all. The Internet is something I use a lot when I'm trying a new technique or style of cooking.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Most of the time, I spend time with my family. I have two kids, a 20-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter, and I try to spend as much time with them as possible. We go to concerts, restaurants, theater, movies–whatever they want to do, I'm game! They keep me young.
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.