In our continuing interview, chef Gretchen Beaumarchais discusses her inner Julia Child and what we might expect to find cooking in the massive stainless-steel smoker. Get familiar with her stories of Boston, Beijing and Buttercup in Part One. Oh, and take note of where she likes to get her brisket and beer from (It's an alliteration kind of day).
Hardest lesson you've learned:
Check and double-check product for off-site catering parties. Not a good situation when you forget the scallops.
What would your last meal on earth be?
House-made pasta with roasted tomatoes, Reggiano and a great olive oil.
Who's your hero, culinary or otherwise?
I have many culinary heroes, but I think the most influential in my career has been Julia Child. She has such passion and dedication for the craft. It was a high point in the very beginning of my culinary career when I was fortunate enough to meet her during my internship. She was so kind, and I still have the book she signed for me.
Tell us about your food-service-industry background.
I come from a family of teachers, but at a young age, I knew that was not my calling. I read a great article about chefs and making it a career when I was a freshman in high school. From that point on, I took ROP [Regional Occupational Program] classes, then went on to the culinary program at Orange Coast College, and finished up at the California Academy in San Francisco. I started right out of school as a pastry chef for the Wolfgang Puck Café at the Irvine Spectrum. From there, I moved into a regional role and had the opportunity to travel and open new restaurants all over the U.S. I stayed on at Wolfgang Puck for more than seven years, and it was an amazing start to my career. I then moved to the Grove of Anaheim [Editor's Note: now City National Grove of Anaheim] for a few years, and then transferred to Honda Center. Working with ARAMARK has been great. I have had the opportunity to travel and work in Japan, work many high-profile events such as the MLB All-Star Games in Anaheim and Phoenix, and to top it off, getting to be involved with all the great events that happened when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup.
What differences do you see between your executive chef duties at Honda Center versus City National Grove of Anaheim? Do customers have similar taste? Are demands greater at either venue?
As a chef, my duty is to cook for people regardless of the venue. However, the Honda Center seats close to 20,000 people. It is very different planning dining options for 20,000 people, instead of the 2,000 people the Grove seats. My customers' tastes are always changing. Fans of the Insane Clown Posse [I thought she was joking.] have very different culinary requests tan the Andrea Bocelli fans. At both venues, guests have the same expectations of the highest quality food.
You're attending a concert at Honda Center. Who's performing and what are you eating?
I want to sit down and watch a hockey game. I would be eating a brisket sandwich from Outlaws Smokehouse and drinking a beer.
Favorite farmers market and/or places to dine.
Old Town Orange farmers market; I love to buy local! The bar at Marche Moderne; the have my favorite pate, and their wine selection is great.
Any establishments you've wanted to check out?
I do a good job of getting to places I want to try, but lately I have heard a lot about Burger Parlor in Fullerton.
We read your stainless steel smoker is cooking all the meats. What's cooking in there the day of a typical event?
We cook brisket, pork butt and St. Louis ribs. We had hoped to cook other meats and fish, but the demand for brisket is so high I can't fit another item in [Editor's Note: There are already plans to have a second smoker.] We cook about 300 pounds of brisket for 14 hours, then change it over to pork for another 12 hours. We use almond wood for all smoking.
Where are you pulling inspiration from for next year's members-only gastropub? Any details on the menu?
I got a lot of inspiration from my last trip to Chicago; I visited some great new spots that had amazing house cured meats, a farm-to-table philosophy, simple, fresh, seasonal food. Right now, we are looking at adding a wood-fired pizza oven and a raw seafood bar. I see it being a fun, small plate type place that will encourage sharing and socializing.
What dish would you tell newcomers to Honda Center to try first?
Anything from Outlaws Smokehouse stand or the pork belly banh mi, which is served in the Jack Daniels Bar.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
That is really hard to say, I can't imagine not doing this. At one time I had thought of interior decorating, but as I look back I laugh at that (smiley face).
What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about a career in food?
You really need to enjoy what you do, and know that this is a 24/7 business that is craziest around the holidays and on weekends.
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
Still cooking and loving what I do.
Honda Center is located at 2695 Katella Ave., Anaheim; click here for the website.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.