Jeff Armstrong sat at the bar just after conducting a tasting of next season's selections at Splashes. His egg-centric answers were amusing, just like the rest of his tattooed self. A man of few words, it took a Red Bull and view of the Pacific to get our conversation going.
What are six words that describe your food?
Simple, bold, seasonal, flavorful, coastal, market-driven.
What are five words that describe you?
Fun, personable, loyal, caring, passionate.
Your best recent food find:
Octopus from Gullo Seafood.
Most undervalued ingredient:
In French food, shallots are very commonly used. I was always trained to use them at the end of cooking. In Thai food, they caramelize them; in French food, we want the natural nuttiness of them.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
To strive to do your best.
One food you detest.
Flan tastes like the flavor of overcooked eggs.
One food you can't live without:
Eggs — you can do so much with them.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vietnamese food, such as Quan Hy in Westminster. It's my favorite in the area.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Chick-Fil-A has a great chicken sandwich.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Clean as you go.
My house. I cook sometimes, watch a little TV and read.
Favorite celebrity chef:
Jean Georges is great person to work for and a great chef.
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
Guy Fieri is just a personality; I don't think he's a chef. I think he has zero integrity from a food standpoint.
Favorite music to cook by:
Heavy metal, usually. Down is a group I like.
Best food city in America:
In New York City, you can find anything you want.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Independent restaurants. Broadway in Laguna Beach is doing a great job.
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Simply Asian by Neil Perry.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I'm going to see live music in San Diego. I grew up on metal, but I'm into house/electronic music right now.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Fertile duck eggs, a.k.a. balut. I tried it when I opened Red Pearl Kitchen. It was hard to get down; the texture is weird.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Bacon and eggs over medium — no color, though.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Gummy bears. I have a sweet tooth. I'll go to the store and buy them if I'm out.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
There are too many to list; we always try to make the guest happy.