This week, we are treated to an ocean view at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort for our interview with executive chef Josef Lageder. A man of diverse culinary talent, he has not only worked alongside Julia Child, but Sam Choy, too. (That explains his love of using a rice cooker!) So cover up, use SPF, and ease into learning about Josef and his many, many ways to relax.
What are six words to describe your food?
Both traditional and comfort food approach . . . simple, fresh, innovative and delicious.
What are eight words to describe you?
Creative, artistic, innovative, humorous, passionate, magnetic, kindhearted and focused.
Your best recent food find:
Fresh skate wings [fish], bone-in — found at Zion [Korean] Market in Irvine. They have great produce, as well.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Onions because they have flavor in so many ways — from raw to sautéed or caramelized. Dressings to salads, sauces and soups. The way you cook or use them adds acidity, balance and sweetness . . . or, if caramelized, a bit of nutty flavor.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Since we spend so much time together, I want my staff to enjoy coming to work and have an atmosphere of positive energy. If they are happy, the food will be happy. Unlike the reality-TV cooking shows, there is no yelling or foul language in our kitchen. We treat everyone like family or friends.
One food you detest:
I don't like food that is poorly prepared or anything frozen. Otherwise, I eat just about everything.
One food you can't live without:
Comfort foods such as bread and cheeses and rice. I love my rice cooker and make Japanese rice every other day, with fish, eggs, vegetables, etc.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
We have an unbelievable amount of different types of ethnic cuisine, all within a few miles. From sushi to Thai to Greek, Indian, Italian, Chinese, even innovative classic French.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Animal-style In-N-Out burgers or New York-style pizza.
Best culinary tip for the home cook?
Have professionally sharpened kitchen knives — they don't have to be expensive. Good, solid cookware, such as Le Creuset — the food just comes out better. Coated cast-iron pots and pans.
My girlfriend, Linda, and I enjoy downtime in the back yard, relaxing in the pool with a glass of wine and appetizers. Or we like to go to R + D Kitchen to enjoy seared ahi tuna or ahi tuna tartare with toasted ciabatta and a glass of Viognier. When my kids are in town, we go to the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, overlooking the rose garden, for a long Sunday brunch. We enjoy that it is a sit-down, plated brunch.
Favorite celebrity chef:
Julia Child was in my kitchen a number of times for events, and she was a caring person, very interested in everything you do. Always asking questions, very personable.
Celebrity chef who should shut up?
Robert Irvine is too loud, and he cannot cook!!!
Favorite music to cook by:
I do not like to have music while cooking; it is too distracting. I like to focus when I'm in the kitchen cooking.
Best food city in America:
New York is such a melting pot of so many cultures. For breakfast, I love the bagels with chopped liver and various spreads. Then, a Reuben deli sandwich for lunch. For dinner, excellent Italian or French food. I have to go where the locals go.
What you'd like to see more of from Orange County, from a culinary standpoint:
More tapas foods, where you can try various menu items in smaller portions. Some call them “bistro bars.”
What you'd like to see less of from Orange County, from a culinary standpoint:
Overpriced wine lists!
Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Alain Ducasse's Grand Livre de Cuisine.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Working in my garden. In the winter, I'm skiing in Big Bear, Snow Summit, Mammoth, Austria. Occasionally, I'm on a golf course. And spending time with my kids, family and friends.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
There are two. There's the eye off a 300-pound raw ahi tuna in Hawaii. And a raw barnacle in a chef's kitchen in Chicago. It looked like a miniature elephant trunk.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Many times, I have oatmeal with fruit and nuts, or smoked salmon with toasted onions and capers. Or fish with rice in the wok.
You're at the market, what do you buy two of?
I buy a bottle of wine . . . and another bottle of wine. I like having fresh fish with wine. I'll buy a wide variety: Chardonnay, Sauvingnon Blanc, Vioginer, Gruener Veltliner or Pinot Noir.
Weirdest customer request:
One afternoon, I got a call from Prime Minister Kifu, who was coming to dinner that evening. He requested 14 of the 24-ounce T-bone steaks. All the butcher shops were out, and my other sources were out at the end of the day. So I called my friend who owned a steakhouse, and luckily, he cut them for me. By 8 p.m., they were enjoying dinner, and I was thankful to my friend for helping us out.