On the Line: James D'Aquila of the Wild Artichoke, Part One

Chef James D'Aquila is like Ed, the lawyer who owned a bowling alley. Except James is the chef who creates melodies. Or is he the musician who owns a restaurant? D'Aquila's dedication to his craft shows in his homemade pastas and comforting meals at the Wild Artichoke, a Yorba Linda mainstay for more than a decade. Read on to find out about his fast-food weakness and where he sources vegetables.

What are six phrases that describe your food?
Woven together, soulful, flavorful, creative, comforting, from the heart.

What are eight words that describe you?
Dedicated, serious, focused, consistent, persistent, creative, giving, likeable.

Your best recent food find and why:

Wagyu boneless beef short ribs from Sun Meat Co. rock.

Most undervalued ingredient:
The artichoke.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Every time you do something, give it your best shot!

One food you detest:
Fat-free food. Sorry, I love to eat.

One food you can't live without:
Handmade, fresh pasta. We make it here every day.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vegetables from my friend Farmer Dave. Also from Ingardia Brothers Produce; they are very good to me.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
Jack In the Box. It's close, and after 16 hours of cooking, it's open.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Wear long sleeves while working the pans.

After-work hangout:
Outside, in the back yard. It's quiet and peaceful.

Favorite celebrity chef and why:
Nigella Lawson. She has fun and eats late at night.

Celebrity chef who should shut up:
I don't have time for that kind of thing.

Favorite music to cook by:
My own — I have website and CD coming this summer. Also, a guy named Todd Rundgren.

Best food city in America:

San Francisco because of family and friend memories.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Comfort food.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Burger restaurants.

Favorite cookbooks:
Great Chefs of France by Galley Press, published in 1978; The New Pro Chef from the Culinary Institute of America; and Classical Cooking the Modern Way by Eugene Pauli.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
House cleaning, singing, songwriting, recording a CD.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Shad roe. I was just learning how to cook fish. I must say, adding bacon was wild.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
The tool: A French press. What I'm serving: Kona coffee. Maybe a roasted-vegetable quiche with imported cheese.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Two quarts of cream. They don't sell it in half-gallons.

Weirdest customer request:
Pasta, with the sauce on the side, please.

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