On The Line: David Coleman Of Michael's (On Naples & Pizzeria), Part Two

Michael Dene may be the proprietor (and Massimo Aronne its GM), but chef David Coleman is the brains in the Long Beach kitchen of Michael's on Naples. We continue our interview before he begins prepping for dinner service, making references to our favorite food city, “San Francisco is a great city to get lost in and just wander around. Nothing's really that far.”

Read our interview with David Coleman of Michael's On Naples and Michael's Pizzeria, Part One.
And now, on to Part Two . . .

Last book you read; how was it?
Most of my reading these days is cookbooks. I recently got the Bouchon Bakery book. Also, Irvine Welsh is one of my favorite modern (fictional) writers. He wrote Trainspotting. I love a lot of the old Irish writers. He reminds me of a modern version of them. He lived in San Francisco for years, so I got into that when I lived there.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Kicking the Devil's ass is easy; wiping him off your shoe is the hard part.


Last song playing on your radio:
Bankrobber by The Clash.

When you're not cooking in the kitchen, what are you doing?
Spending quality time with my wife and son. These days, it means being home bodies. In the last six months or so we've been so busy. But outside of that we love to travel. I have a five-year-old, and that's kind of changed our lifestyle a little bit. This summer we're hoping to go to San Francisco. I haven't been there in a while. I lived there for years.

We go out to eat and drink. We're avid microbeer fans. We've been into it for 20 years, and now everybody is into it– which is great. I'm not one of those people who's going to be a hater because “Aw, you're all into it now.” I think it really created a new market that allows a lot of people to enjoy something we've enjoyed for a long time.

Where did you grow up?
Anaheim, originally. But spent much of my youth roaming the streets of Orange and Santa Ana as well.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Cooking with my mother, for sure. Just having the whole family together. We all had a responsibility, but that was something I definitely had a passion for then. I always enjoyed cooking. My mother passed away, so I remember those memories even more.

She definitely had books of recipes and stuff, but really a lot of it I have in my head. I have to standardize everything in the kitchen, but in general I think the best cooking is technique. If you know technique, you don't need recipes so much. Recipes are for baking. When you understand what's happening, that's far more important than just being able to follow a recipe. Because you can follow a recipe and make mistakes, but if you understand what's happening in the pan, that's completely different.

What were you up to five years ago?
I had just left my Executive Chef position at Magnolia Pub in San Francisco (on Haight and Masonic) and was moving back to Orange.

Last thing you looked up online:
Blue crab season. They're starting to come in. We're very seasonal when we cook. We want to get an idea of what's coming, what's happening. Is it gonna be an abundance of blue crab, or is it going to be weak? And then you can usually gauge with your buyer, too. They usually come mid-summer, but you can find them this time of year, between now and August.

They're definitely an East Coast thing. We're very simple with them. We put a little buttermilk, and we salt and flour them. Then we just sear them in a little oil. Very simple. And then we put a cold vegetable, like a salad, with them. You can eat the shell and everything.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?

Do you have any skills that are non-food related?
These days I am 100% food skills. We have opened two pizzerias in the last year, while continuing to manage the two existing locations.

Michael's On Naples is at 5620 E 2nd St, Long Beach, (562) 439-7080. www.michaelsonnaples.com; for Michael's Pizzeria, visit www.michaelspizzeria.com.

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