True Food Kitchen has been on my sights for an On the Line for months. Here we finally catch up with its motorcycle-riding executive chef, Nathan Coulon, who–apart from cooking dishes under the guidelines set by a physician (Dr. Andrew Weil has his name and approval all over the restaurant)–has the most unusual answer for the person he'd like to cook for.
Herewith is where we warm him up with Part One of our three-part Q&A.
What are six words to describe your food?
(1) Healthy, (2) nutritious, (3) tasty, (4) flavorful, (5) satisfying, (6) true.
What are 10 words to describe you?
(1) Caring, (2) fun, (3) tenacious, (4) dedicated, (5) adventurous, (6) meticulous, (7) creative, (8) passionate, (9) humble, (10) motivated.
Your best recent food find:
Anjin restaurant in Costa Mesa. Anjin serves yakiniku, which is a Japanese term meaning “grilled meat.” You choose your raw meats, and then cook it yourself right on the grill built into your table. You'd think I wouldn't want to cook on my night off, but this I don't mind.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Agave nectar. The nectar made from this plant has become my preferred sweetener to use while cooking. The taste and texture is comparable to honey, but it's 100 percent all natural and has a lower glycemic-index rating, which means it's better for you.
Rules of conduct in your kitchens:
I have had the pleasure of working with many different types of people in many different types of kitchens, and I've found that discipline and respect in the kitchen is a necessity for a healthy working environment. Respect for the hierarchy, respect for the food, respect for your employees–this is what has always worked for me.
One food you detest:
I'd have to go with pickled herring. I've tried it once, and for me, that was one time too many.
One food you can't live without:
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! I love cooking with it almost as much as I love eating it. Chocolate is a great compliment to so many types of foods, and it's one of my favorite ingredients to get creative with.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Being relatively new to Orange County, I haven't had the time or the pleasure to personally visit many of the local restaurants. I'm aware that there is plenty of great culinary talent in Orange County, and I'm looking forward to experiencing it firsthand.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Sometimes, you just need a quick burger, but not just any burger fix; it has to be an In-N-Out burger–and I know I'm not alone on this one because the drive-thru line is always out of control!
Best culinary tip for the home cook.
I recommend cooking with cast-iron pans because they can hold a lot of heat, and they're ideal when using your smaller burners at home.
After a long and busy day at work, I have my sights set on relaxing at home with my feet up on the couch.
If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I enjoy Roman history, and I'm a big fan of the emperor Constantine–talk about a guy with a plan. I would cook for him and pick his brain while he enjoyed a meal that I'd hope would be better than the stuff he was used to in A.D. 300!
Favorite celebrity chef.
Bernard Guillas. He creates dishes that are just as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious, and I completely agree with his belief that “a good cook is a sorcerer who dispenses happiness on a plate.”
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
I don't feel strongly enough about this to call anyone out, and I don't really buy into the “celebrity” chef hype. I definitely have a strong thirst for knowledge, but I prefer my culinary growth to take place directly in the kitchen, working with my own two hands and learning through trial and error.
Proudest moment as a chef:
We had a Coulon Family Dinner at the Andaz Hotel in San Diego, and my entire family cooked for the restaurant guests. It was such a great feeling to cook alongside the people I love most.
Favorite music to cook by:
Our kitchen is wide open in the restaurant so we're not able to play our own tunes, but we can hear the same playlist the guests hear, which is an eclectic and upbeat mix that changes frequently.
Best food city in America:
San Francisco. There just aren't enough hours in a day to try all of the fantastic restaurants in this city. It doesn't matter what you're in the mood for, San Francisco will have it, and odds are it'll be great.
Favorite restaurant in America:
I'm going to have to opt out of this one. I'm a man who enjoys many different tastes from around the world, so it would literally be impossible as well as unfair for me to choose only one.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
I'm a fan of gastropubs, and I'd like to see more of these in Orange County. I like that I can still have the “pub-like” atmosphere, but can dine on higher quality food that's leaps above traditional “pub-grub.”
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Probably the same thing that every other trained chef in Orange County is shouting from the rooftops: No more chain restaurants. We are all creatures of habit, and unfortunately, the overly processed food served in chain restaurants has worked itself into the everyday routine for many.
Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point. Point was a true gourmand of the 20th century who revolutionized French cuisine, and this book provided a level of comfort and guidance during my years as a chef in Grasse, France.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
In my free time, I enjoy going for long rides on my motorcycle down PCH, just taking everything in. It's during these rides that I'm reminded of how lucky I am and how much I love living in Southern California.