On the Line: Leonard Chan, Part Two

I'm pretty sure there was a dare to publish something that Leonard admitted to. Let's see if you stumble upon the statement. It was difficult to pass up.

Got your beer? Because you'll want to settle in and relax for this interview.
His storytelling began yesterday in part one.
If you're caught up, then do continue. . .

What turns you on– creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Passion, humor, pride and forgiveness. There is nothing more refreshing than seeing someone meld all of those aspects into their life. I will never forget seeing a Japanese city worker on his hands and knees scraping gum from the sidewalk in 2001. He was working so diligently, and I couldn't stop staring at him as he was talking with those around him, just happily scraping away. Sure enough, some a-hole walks by and spits out his gum. *Plop* My jaw dropped. I wanted to go over and help the guy. He looked at the gum, shrugged, smiled, and chuckled to a nearby commuter, and scooped up the piece of gum and just kept going. If everyone in the world was like this, we would be living in an even more amazing place.


What's your favorite childhood memory?
There are so many memories, but once I heard the question, there was a flashback to my eighth birthday. My dad was at work, and my brother must not have returned from school yet. I walked in, and my Mom had this bundt cake ready for me. It had a single, giant red candle that fit in the middle. I still remember the way my mom's bob (haircut) was sitting around her face as she lit the candle.

I unwrapped my gifts. Super simple things. A stuffed animal monster puppet that looked like a cross between Chewbacca and Gossamer from Looney Tunes, and a DIY wooden airplane glider. She then walked me to the garage and unveiled my first bicycle without training wheels. I rode around the neighborhood on the bike, wearing the puppet as a glove, and holding the plane in my free hand while my mom snapped away on her camera. I don't remember feeling more loved before by my mom. I'm going to lose it if I keep going on.

Last thing you looked up online:
I am on Google all day, every day. I am going on my first cruise ever at the end of January, so I have been looking up the best ways to smuggle beer and spirits on board. I'm terrible, I know. I promise to still spend plenty on the boat, though. Pinky swear and all.

Why do you want to build a barber shop?
Why not?! The thought behind this was that we are at a beautiful train station. A crossroads. What if you are on the way to see a loved one, or reunite with your daughter, and you didn't have time to get cleaned up? Got a blind date, and your beard is looking mangy? That, and I have a lot of faith in my friend Shelby Baskins. Beer and barbers seem to make a lot of sense as long as the barber is having the beer after the cut.

A lot of salons are tailored towards a crowd that prefers to shop before and after appointments. We want to appeal to a group that prefers to eat and drink before and after appointments.

Do you have any skills that are not food-related?
I like to design speakers, lighting and furniture. So if you take a look around at some of our spots and see things you haven't seen before (the gas can speakers at both Press', the lights at Press in Anaheim, the speakers at Rolling Boil, the stools at Press in Anaheim, our communal tables, patio tables, etc.), there's a high likelihood that I created the prototype and I had our contractors build out the final spec'd ones. I have things lying around in storage and my condo that I built. It's almost like a design cemetery.

I used to play a mean game of basketball. But now that I'm turning 40, I would say that is a past skill. You probably will not publish this, but I can practically pass gas on demand. Is that considered a skill?

How was Portland? Any memorable meals or drinks?
Portland was awesome! I hadn't been back in maybe eight or nine years. The town, though it looks the same, is morphing into a crazy food and cocktail scene. I already know what to expect from the craft beer realm, but what I didn't expect was to see how serious artisan cocktails are.

You could fold up a paper plane, close your eyes, launch it down a street, and you would likely hit an establishment serving, at worst, decent cocktails. At best you will experience liquid nitrogen being toyed around with (Barlow), hidden passageways (Pepe La Moko) to underground bars and fresh ingredients from knowledgeable mixologists. There were some quirky spots like Doug Fir [Editor's Note: Agree on Doug Fir.] and a fun tandem of Swank and Swine.

Much like Seattle, happy hours reign supreme here, from the likes of Portland City Grill to trendy bars that made me feel like I was back in LA or Singapore such as Departure. A good buddy of mine, Doug Zamensky (who you probably know from Pizzeria Mozza) and James Silvano just popped open a nice joint called District Lounge PDX.

The food trucks out there are so awesome! I think I could have eaten at a different spot for each meal my entire stay there. The highlight was a great chicken and rice shack called Nong's Khao Man Gai. The best meal I had out there, though? Our friend, Phuc Nguyen, made us a chili butter crab at our friend's hotel room. I think I ate one-and-a-half crabs after eating a full lunch. I could have eaten more.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Yikes. This is a two-fold answer, but I guess my answer is that I am always too trusting in the beginning and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I have always done everything on a handshake and a hug, and it's come to bite me in the butt here and there– sometimes harder than other times. My biggest advice: Get everything down on paper. It seems cold, but it will protect both parties from any misunderstandings.

Where did you grow up, and where's home these days?
I was born in a hospital in Anaheim and lived in Irvine until high school, when my family relocated us to Laguna Niguel for four years. I bounced back to Irvine to attend UCI, but after graduation I moved out to West Los Angeles for about a year. After that, I pinballed around from Mountain View to Milpitas for about two years. Back to Irvine, then Sacramento for a year, and have since settled back down in the slums of Irvine over by IVC. I picked up this tiny little condo over 13 years ago. It's cozy and tight, but I love it and it's close to me mum's.

Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I am actually super shy. I think it all stems from me being so tiny as a kid. I started high school at 4'9″. My parents were convinced I was going to be a little guy the rest of my life.

I get out of my comfort zone pretty easily, and am the worst public speaker ever. EVER. As in bubble guts, mumbling and sweaty palms in full bloom. I am a lot better at the restaurants because of the whole home court advantage effect. When I am behind the counter, I feel a lot more relaxed. As my friends will attest to, usually after a couple of brews and/or cocktails, I can loosen up. Social lubricant, indeed!

There is also something minor: I am red-green color blind.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
As much as I enjoyed doing IT for thirteen years, I am definitely done with that part of my life. If I had the time, I would reset and dive into industrial design and architecture. I feel so lucky to have the restaurants, because I have the opportunity for these creative outlets when I am designing and furnishing them.

Last movie watched.
Interstellar was the last flick I had time to watch in a theater. When I watched it, it was haunting. I liked it, but didn't love it. I feel like it was one of Christopher Nolan's weaker films, but that didn't stop it from lingering in the wrinkles of my noodle. I couldn't shake the movie, and started obsessing and researching black holes and theories of time. This led to the black hole I am still in with my email inbox. But the point is, the Nolan brothers put so much thought and did their homework to make this film as theoretically tangible as possible without forgetting to play on childhood fantasies. Even though I didn't love it, I would easily and immediately recommend it to anyone who appreciates film. That's the final word.

Haha! I have always wanted to say that. I was going to start this movie review site back in 1999 called The Final Word. That obviously never came to fruition.

Is there anything you'd like readers to know that we haven't asked?
Hug your servers, and (if you get a chance) the kitchen staff. These guys work their tooshies off to feed your bellies, keep your kitchen from turning into a disaster zone and make your mouths happy.

Please be patient with us. At times we screw up. We are all human, and are always trying to better our service, offerings and pretty much everything you can think of. Restaurants always appreciate constructive criticism, and would love to hear it in person, rather than being torn apart limb by limb on a sounding board. We have all had nightmares and lost countless nights of rest over these things. Most of all, have fun. Cheers!

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