On the Line: Brian Bennett of Paul Martin's American Grill, Part One

One of the visionaries behind Paul Martin's, Brian Bennett teamed up with Paul Fleming in selecting local purveyors and perfecting the sustainable menu at their ideal neighborhood restaurant. With a personality as grand as his Tommy Bahama shirt collection, Bennett shares quick bites of wisdom between meetings.

What are six words that describe your food?
Quality, handmade, tasty, savory, simple, fresh.

What are eight words that describe you?
Energetic, passionate, focused, creative, and inquisitive.

Your best recent food find:
Dry-aged Duroc [porterhouse] pork has fantastic taste and texture.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Great salt.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Mise en place.

One food you detest.
Nettles — I just do.

One food you can't live without:
Extra-virgin olive oil.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
People who “get” it. [Editor's Note: He's referring to diners who are passionate about cuisine.]

What fast food do you admit to eating?
In-N-Out's single [hamburger] is fast for late-night [dining].

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Simple techniques and start with great product.

After-work hangout:
I have not had time to hang out yet!

Favorite celebrity chef.
Ludo Lefebvre: Great food need not be formal.

Celebrity chef who should shut up.
None I know of.

Favorite music to cook by:
Silence is golden. [Editor's Note: I wonder if he realized he was quoting AMC Theatres?]

Best food city in America:
Los Angeles has lots of small, local restaurants and young chefs cooking great food.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Great vegetarian options.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Nothing. I think the market always satisfies its need.

Favorite cookbooks:
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Watching my daughter Margaux play soccer.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Pan-fried brains at A16 in San Francisco.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Toast, sharp Cheddar cheese and black coffee.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Today's freshest greens — whatever is seasonal, such as romaine.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Someone wanted all their foods separated, with nothing touching. We did it.

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