On the Line: Jon Blackford of A Restaurant, Part One

It's been said we're our own toughest critics. We were reminded of this when we spent time with both chef Jon Blackford and Tony Motakef, director of operations, of A Restaurant for this week's On the Line. Originally from Pittsburgh, Blackford's current stomping ground is along our beach communities. Get to know his love of vegetables and sports in this week's interview.

What are six words that describe your food?

Local, fresh, seasonal, creative, sourced, rustic.

What are eight words that describe you?
[Editor's Note: Blackford referred us to Motakef for an answer.] Passionate, dedicated, creative, stubborn, tough, great vision, healthy.

Your best recent food find:

Brix and Brews in Sunset Beach. They have bratwurst and 30 microbrews on tap with an ultra-high alcohol content.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Pork lard, also known as matecca.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Make sure it tastes good, smells good, and looks clean and right.

One food you detest:
Salmon roe. Fish should have a clean flavor, and it tastes fishy.

One food you can't live without:

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Pub food, like what you find at SideDoor.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
Carls Jr. — especially the mushroom burger.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Salt is to bring out flavor; pepper is to change the flavor. [Editor's Note: Blackford is quoting one of his favorite chefs, Marco Pierre White.]

After-work hangout:
My fiancee Kristi's condo.

Favorite celebrity chef:
Marco Pierre White for his dedication and determination. He's a rock star.

Celebrity chef who should shut up:
Bobby Flay because he doesn't showcase ingredients well. He masks the flavor.

Favorite music to cook by:
Dirty Heads.

Best food city in America:
I lived in New York, and the food scene is totally different. The dress codes are different, and I liked having to wear a jacket to dinner.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Farm-to-table restaurants.

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

Favorite cookbooks:
Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, and anthing by Paul Bertolli of Chez Panisse fame.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
At the gym, biking, kayaking or running.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
When I was at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, we ate assorted bugs including crickets and small arachnids.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Cheese omelet with potatoes and roasted veggies.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Turnips because I like the flavor. You can roast or purée them.

Weirdest customer request:
To cook the scallops so long that when you think they are done, keep them in for another 10 minutes. . . . The guest actually liked them after the extra 10 minutes.

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