One of the many friends of The Ecology Center, I met Rich Mead a couple of months ago while attending an event there. You may recognize Mead's name from two of his previous eateries, Sage and Sage on the Coast. Rich's newest project, Farmhouse, is in the development stage over at Roger's Gardens. His background was one I knew very little about, making my interview a chance to learn more from the man people spoke so highly of.
Your indispensable kitchen utensil.
Spoon. Stirring, serving, mixing, tasting–different shapes and sizes, slotted or holes.
You need a spoon to taste your food, and tasting is important in cooking.
What is the most challenging part of opening a restaurant?
Putting together a great team of people. I am lucky to have worked with quite a few good people and hope to have as many of them come back and work with us again. You also want people to believe in what you are doing.
It is also important to train and create consistency as quickly as possible–you are only as good as the last experience your customer has.
What is the Culinary Liberation Front?
My friend and fellow farm dinner participant Paddie Glennon formed the group. It's a loosely organized group of chefs which we put together to allow chefs a chance to gather and share information, maybe a meal, maybe a beer and unwind. This was a chance to discuss sustainability, suppliers and farmer's markets. A way for everyone to grow and hopefully impact the dining scene in Orange County in a positive way.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vietnamese food–Little Saigon and the surrounding area.
Clientele and location are big influences on your concepts. Tell us how the clientele and Roger's Gardens will impact what we can expect to find at Farmhouse.
The ambiance of Roger's Gardens and the relationship the business has with the community was a natural fit for what we had done before at my other restaurants. The location is so close to my former restaurants, Sage in the Eastbluff area of Newport Beach, and Sage on the Coast, which was in Crystal Cove. I will be able to see so many of our long time customers. And with the central location, we will be able to welcome so many new customers. Roger's Gardens supports the community of Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar as we did and has created lifetime relationships with customers and neighbors. People go to Roger's Gardens to shop, as well as just to wander, look, relax and be inspired.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the owners of Roger's Gardens and in such a unique location. Salads and vegetables will be in the forefront of the Farmhouse menu. The lunch and dinner style will be along the lines of what we served at Sage. We have always been a fresh, seasonal ingredient driven restaurant, and we hope to highlight relationships we have developed with farmers, fisherman, wine and spirits makers, as well as other chefs and restaurateurs.
The bar and the restaurant ambiance will be reflective of the outdoor gardens and unique environment in Roger's Gardens. Seating will be under a fixed awning with sides that can drop when the weather calls for it, much like the patios we had at the Sage Restaurants.
Your earliest food memory:
Sundays when we were kids my brothers and I would make waffles for our parents for our breakfast. Really learned the value of Bisquick, warm melted butter and warm syrup–probably not maple at the time.
What is your beverage of choice?
Iced sea salt coffee from 85 Degrees, a purple Palmer from Mick's Karma Bar, a glass of white wine from Juliette–the least expensive from the glass pour list. It changes quite often.
As a huge supporter of non-profits, are there any upcoming events you are involved in?
Just finished an event at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano to raise funds and awareness about a Grain Project our friend Alex Weiser is putting together in Tehachapi, as well as bringing awareness to food, farming and issues affecting the health of our food system today.
I give time to as many things that I am able to through auctioning off private dinners or participating in fundraisers. I might not have the money to donate, but we as chefs have the talent to lend to help charities we believe in.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Toasted English muffin, whatever cold cuts that are in the fridge, (if available) a vine ripened, non-refrigerated tomato, some type of sauce/mayo and some greens from the farmer's market. Usually this is my breakfast and lunch until about 2:00 p.m.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Onions. So many varieties and so many uses, flavor profiles and cooking techniques. Very earthy and great for depths of flavor.
Your catering services come highly recommended. What has been the most complex catering you've pulled off?
Over the years, I have done so many different farm dinners around California, meals on pack trips in Colorado (I had never ridden a horse before.) and Mammoth, grilling in the Malibu hills, the world famous B-List party at a recording studio in West LA as well as weddings on boats.
Equipment always plays a big roll in large unscripted events. Sometimes the promise of equipment doesn't always pan out, and you are forced to work with whatever is available. The key is to not let the guests know that you are experiencing any difficulties, and to realize that it will always work out. After all, it's a party.
While that doesn't really answer the question, a lot of these events I do (especially charity events on farms or in outside areas) I now do with other chefs who are friends that enjoy the challenges as much as I do. There is nothing like the rush of putting together an event and having it come out just as you imagined it.
Favorite places to eat..
Gjellina and Gjusta in Venice, Pace in Laurel Canyon, Joe's Restaurant in Venice, Canelle in Silver Lake, the bar at Capital Seafood in Irvine, Sarita's Pupuseria at the Grand Central Market in LA and Bluefin in Crystal Cove.
Most important qualities you look for in a sous chef.
Great work ethic. Someone who wants to learn. Ability to get along with other people, as well as ability to give (as well as take) direction. Passion and the ability to change gears as the situation calls for it.
In our profession, there are times when it is very busy, and then it gets busier. You just learn how to take it up a notch — no problem.
Describe the décor of Farmhouse.
The thought process has been a French country Farmhouse. It fits very nicely with the surrounding area and the style of food we will create.
Most frequently asked question by guests.
Recently, "When are you opening your restaurant?"
Farmhouse will open late Spring/early Summer at 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd in Corona del Mar, (949) 640-5800; www.rogersgardens.com.