On the Line: Dave MacLennan Of James Republic, Part One

Our coverage of Fresh Toast chefs continues along the border in Long Beach. David MacLennan's establishment was one of Edwin's top five establishments for 2013 for good reason. Chef's industry experience and modern approach shape James Republic into one special place. 

Tell us about your first restaurant job.
My first job was a dishwasher for a German pastry shop when I was 15. After a few months there, my duties expanded to preparing the pastries for a local hotel's brunch and delivering them. Any free time I had, I would work on projects with the chef/owner learning about baking. 

Favorite meal growing up.
Anything my mom cooked. No one can ever cook better than your mom.

Define your modern California coastal cuisine.
We focus on what's in season and local. Our modern approach refers to using refined techniques to preparing and plating simple food.

What seasonal foods can we expect to find on the menu?
Our menu changes daily to reflect that. Right now you'll find a lot of root vegetables, winter citrus and hearty cuts. We shop at the farmer's market every weekend, so what you see there is what you'll find on our menu.

What do you suggest for first-timers?
Our most popular menu item is our burger. It's grass fed ground beef, a great bun, California white cheddar, sauce and onion jam. My other personal favorite is the grilled octopus. We do a few different preps on it throughout the year, but it's always my favorite dish.

Best culinary tip for the home cook.
Salt your food. The typical home cook forgets to season the right way.

One food you can't live without.
I love seafood. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale by the ocean, so I've always had a connection to it. Many of my favorite foods come from the ocean: octopus, uni, oysters, etc.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County/Long Beach has the best: 
Tacos! There are so many great places around Long Beach and Orange County. From walk-up tacquerias to more refined places like Taco Maria.

How does cooking in a hotel restaurant differ from a stand alone restaurant, if all?
For us it is no different. We are very much a free-standing, modern restaurant. I've worked in hotels that are a little more restrictive and not as progressive, but we don't have that kind of environment. Many hotels are realizing that trying to be cookie cutter does not really excite the modern traveler. 

Favorite places to eat. 
I love going to MB Post, Gjelina, Son of a Gun, places like that. I'm a big fan of smaller plates and the sharing concept. It's the best way to get the most value and experience.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
My favorite thing to cook at home are poached eggs. I love the runny yolk.

What is your beverage of choice?
My drink of choice is whiskey and beer. It really depends on what I'm in the mood for, though. Sometimes I like to go to dive bars and drink Jameson, but other times I might go to Blind Donkey for something a little more refined. 

Most important attribute you look for in a sous chef.
The most important thing for a sous chef is to be hard working. They are the ones that really make or break a restaurant. The chef is one thing, but if your sous chefs are not on board and promoting the same environment the chef is trying to create, the kitchen really suffers. They have the most interaction with the food and cooks, so they have to drive the production and find ways to motivate the staff.

For more information and tickets to Fresh Toast on February 27, you can find a link over here.

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