Follow-up meetings with chef subjects often start with sharing something we have in common. In the case of Mike Doctulero, it was his memory of washing the starch from a batch of rice for dinner– a standard task most Asian kids were trusted with doing. Well-seasoned both in the kitchen and with life experiences, Mike takes it all in stride. I ran into him over the weekend at a Newport Beach Film Festival after-party, busting a move right before serving throngs of moviegoers.
What seafood do you like the most?
Used to be abalone, but you just don't see it unless you dive for it. Would be geoduck now, especially after my years living and cooking in Seattle.
Best culinary tip for the home cook wanting to cook seafood:
Don't buy from supermarkets; get the freshest possible ingredients from farmer's markets and local vendors.
Who is Scott (as in the name of the restaurant)?
The original Scott's was on the corner of Scott and Lombard Street in San Francisco.
Favorite meal growing up:
BBQ pork won ton soup in San Francisco's Chinatown.
One food you can't live without:
Steamed rice, Nishiki (brand) preferred. It is my staple and counterbalance. Gives me the "hmmmm" and the "ahhhh".
Weirdest customer request:
Warming up a kosher meal in an aluminum TV dinner pan.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Normally don't eat breakfast, but summer melon, casaba or Persian.
What is your favorite meal of the day?
A late lunch– it's a great prefix to a good siesta.
Tell us about your cooking style.
Mish mash. Use threads from all cuisines, but just clean flavors. Harvest driven, simple flavors accenting the tastes around the proteins.
What is your restaurant experience?
Have been in 47 kitchens, including 16 restaurant openings and 14 consultations. But in a nutshell, very thankful for the journey.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Progressive direction for food and energy from the chefs. Not yet comparable to West Coast cities like Portland, Seattle or San Francisco, but the best that OC has seen within itself.
Where was your most recent meal?
Taste of Siam. Green papaya salad, tom ka 9 seafood soup with fresh coconut, pad de mao (street noodles) [Editor's Note: It was also his most recent food find.].
Most popular item on the menu.
The calamari Provencal. It has been for the past 25 years!
Media-wise, Eric Ripert because of his humility and reverence for food. Localy, the chefs that I cook with every day: Porfirio, Miguel, Javier, Mauricio, Tomas, etc.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Fish lips served with chicken feet.
Favorite places to eat:
Golden Garden (now closed), handmade gyoza rom Mentatsu, empanadas and aquadito from Inka Grill.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Onion. It's so foundational.
Your earliest food memory:
Washing the rice before cooking it for the everyday family dinner.