Running a restaurant kitchen is tough work, but to be Jo-Jo Doyle takes it to a whole other level. Responsible for the operation of 3 restaurants, 24 concession stands and 88 suites inside Anaheim's Honda Center, Jo-Jo launched multiple concepts this past year to meet the changing needs of concert and hockey fans. Fortunately, he carved out some time to complete our questionnaire.
Tell us a little about your Southern and Creole influences.
Growing up in the South means that we always used the freshest ingredients possible. We believed in farm-to-fork before it became a popular model. I remember using fresh fish that we caught that day, and vegetables from our own garden to create home cooked meals. Creole food is a blend of whatever tastes good, regardless of boundaries, and I like to apply the same philosophy to my cooking.
Some items on the Honda Center menus that have been influenced by my background include a Louisville original, The Hot Brown, served in Standing 'O'. Also, the sauce on the Mahogany Wings in the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Club is a traditional sauce you would find on shrimp dishes in New Orleans.
One food you can't live without.
Oreo cookies. There is nothing better than a large glass of whole milk and a stack of Oreo cookies.
What was preparing for the Kentucky Derby like when you worked at Churchill Downs?
Preparing for the Kentucky Derby was extremely demanding. It was probably the steepest learning curve that I have ever encountered. Working on that event prepared me for the responsibilities that I have now in my role at Honda Center.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
I think there is a stereotype that arena chefs only work with hot dogs and chicken strips. And while those are great sellers and we put our best efforts into them, we also understand the fine dining side of the business, and the importance of creating new and interesting items that keep fans coming back for more.
Let's discuss some of the newest concepts now open at Honda Center.
Our two newest concessions concepts are Stick Work and Bowl'd Over, located side-by-side on our Terrace level. Stick Work features an array of menu items, all served on a skewer– but not just your typical food on a stick. We have ahi grade tuna tataki, tempura California rolls, Asian beef and fried apple pie. Bowl'd Over serves various pasta dishes, including our famous one-pound meatball over penne, gluten-free pasta and fried ravioli with marinara.
What are your best-sellers and/or signature items?
That is always such a tough question. With three restaurants, 88 suites, and 24 concession stands, the options are great. As you can imagine, some of our best sellers are chicken tenders, hot dogs and cold beer. One of our signature items is our custom blend burger (a blend of prime chuck, short rib and brisket). Also of note are our BBQ ribs on The Grand Terrace menu that we smoke in-house for 8-10 hours, and our jumbo scallop roll on the Jack Daniels Old No 7 Club, which is a creative twist on a California roll topped with spicy baked scallops, snow crab and Miji and eel sauce.
Your best recent food find:
My best recent food find would be from a produce company called Fresh Origins. They have a micro green flower called a buzz button, that when you put in your mouth it tingles and fizzes. It creates a big sensation on your tongue that you wouldn't expect from such a little flower.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Most mornings I start my day with just several cups of coffee. If I am actually creating a breakfast meal for myself, I love to eat scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage, toast and grits with lots of butter and plenty of salt.
Favorite places to eat.
My favorite place to eat is anywhere I don't have to cook, or do the dishes afterwards. This industry often requires long hours of cooking for other people; so when I have an opportunity to have someone else cook, it is nice to be able to relax.
I will say one of my favorite OC spots to enjoy since moving out here is The Crow Bar and Kitchen. Those guys are doing great things, and I especially love their sliders and homemade ketchup.
Your earliest food memory:
My whole life revolves around food, so all I have are food memories. I guess if I had to pick one, it would be learning to cook with my grandparents on the river. I grew up learning to catch fish, clean them and cook them right on the banks of the river.
Is there anything you'd like to learn how to make?
If I could blink my eyes and learn to make anything, it would be how to make and decorate extravagant wedding cakes. There is so much detail involved, and it takes so much patience, I would love to be able to instantly have the ability to do that.
What do you take into consideration when planning menus for special events?
The event theme and the audience and the budget are the starting point. You also need to know what the guest expects the event to be. For example, you wouldn't serve corn dogs to a black tie gala. When it comes to menu planning for events, I always pay attention to the season, in order to use the freshest ingredients.
Give us an example of a traditional dish balanced with an innovative twist.
This year in The Grand Terrace we are serving Moroccan short ribs. Short ribs are traditionally served with a demi-glaze that has a heavy French influence. Ours are given a Mediterranean twist and served with couscous to change up the flavor of the dish.
Most frequently asked question by guests.
The most frequently asked question is, "Where is the bathroom?" The next question would probably be, " What is your favorite thing on the menu?" I often ask them what they are in the mood for at that point. I feel confident that the food here will hold its own as far as being delicious.
What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in a restaurant?
Working in this industry is not just a job; it is a way of life. The people who make it in this industry are the ones that really take it to heart. This industry will change you, push you and make you better. It makes you give up a lot of other things in your life, but you wouldn't have it any other way.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
If I could choose my last meal, it would have to be my grandmother's gumbo, made by her. I remember that shortly after she passed away, we ate the last batch of gumbo that she ever made. I constantly wish that I could eat that again.