Brian McReynolds agreed to our interview on the condition that his management team be a part of it as well. Amy is his front of the house lead, while Francisco mans the kitchen. Of course, trying to get three key people to sit still wasn't possible. We shared handwritten notes with two-thirds of Eat Chow over a late breakfast.
Your earliest food memory:
Brian McReynolds: I was three years old. It was a head from a roasted pig. Freaked me out!
Amy Curran: Grits when I was four. My mom made them. [Editor's Note: Coincidentally, they just added them to Eat Chow's menu.]
Favorite meal growing up:
McReynolds: Sunday fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Mom's recipe. . . . so good!
Your best recent food find:
McReynolds: Panda Garden in Long Beach. Best sauteed shrimp I've ever had.
Most undervalued ingredient:
McReynolds: Salt. It's important to salt as you cook things. Every layer you need to taste and salt. People usually wait to the end, and then they salt it. Every time you do something different to one of the methods you're doing, it adds a depth of flavor to it. We added chorizo to our shrimp and grits, thinking the chorizo would salt the grits enough. After we started tasting it, we realized it needed salt.
Curran: Salt. A lot of the time I go out to eat, and it's under seasoned. I'm actually surprised when I say that something is seasoned really well. I don't say that very often, to be honest. I think we are very particular about our food being balanced. I used to manage Haute Cakes Cafe, and almost every day I remember hearing Paul in the back saying, “You guys, use salt! Use salt!”
How often do you update your specials?
McReynolds: We like to change them about once a month.
Talk to us about those Parmesan truffle fries.
McReynolds: Truffle fries are classic. We added Parmesan to give it an extra dimension. We hit the mark on that.
Tell us about the multi-tasking skills of being chef and owner.
McReynolds: I leave the kitchen management and floor management to Amy and Francisco. I do specials and make final decisions.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
McReynolds: Mexican food.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
McReynolds: Good grief, In-n-Out all the way. A number two with fries. I never change anything on a menu. Ever.
Curran: I do Baja Fresh.
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
McReynolds: My grandmother's sweet tea in St. Louis, Missouri.
Curran: Soy latte is pretty up there. From here (Portola Coffee Lab).
Offering Munster and blue cheese on your burgers makes us wonder, are they requested often?
McReynolds: I love blue cheese. It's a no brainer. Munster is creamy and blends with so many foods. Love it, too.
Curran: A lot of people don't know what Munster is. And then when I tell them, they try it and love it. I love it when people order blue cheese in a burger. People consider it a treat.
One food you can't live without and why:
McReynolds: Ben & Jerry's; I'm addicted to the “Late Night Snack” with the chocolate covered potato chips. Sooo good!
Where was your most recent meal?
McReynolds: Fukada in Irvine. Curry veggie ramen. Insane!
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
McReynolds: Make reservations and use more shallots.
How is the clientele different in Newport Beach?
McReynolds: Not too different. A bit more beachy, but both neighborhoods are great. Very cool people.
What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
McReynolds: I think they are going to post it on Yelp or Instagram. I like it.
Curran: In the restaurant, I think it's totally flattering. It's like they're appreciating what we're doing. At first, we thought it was really weird.
The “Fried Egg” is a visually stunning dish; do you ever think it can double as a lunch item?
McReynolds: Amy came up with that dish. We were going through a Parisian kick, but it turned out more Italian. I like breakfast for lunch, but no, it's a breakfast dish.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
McReynolds: I used to eat frog legs to freak out my sister.
Curran: I ate tongue with our kitchen.
Sweet or savory?
McReynolds: I have a very sweet tooth.
What's the secret to parking at the new location?
McReynolds: Park in Spaghetti Bender in the day til 4 p.m. and street after.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
McReynolds: Veggie omelet.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
McReynolds: Substitute veggies for foie gras.