Owner Dan Tapia was a competitor (and subsequent winner) in a cocktail competition I judged over a year and-a-half ago. That’s when I learned about his endeavor to open 4th & Olive. And with Long Beach Restaurant Week in full effect, it was about time I checked in on Dan’s concept. Alex McGroarty is his chef in the kitchen, and so he’s the focus of this week’s interview.
Indispensable tool in the kitchen that isn’t a knife.
My Alto-Shaam. It is a double smoker and holding oven. I can braise overnight at a specific temperature for a certain amount of time, then drop it to a holding temperature.
What is the cuisine at 4th & Olive, and what do you recommend for first-timers?
We serve food influenced from the Alsace region of France. The cuisine is French country food with strong ties to Germany.
Your best recent food find:
I really like using purslane. It is a type of edible succulent, which I pair with white peaches, pluots, radish and fresh cheese.
You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
I usually just make some scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Simple, yet classic.
Where was your most recent meal?
I cooked red coconut curry at home.
A stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
We disappear from civil society unless it is late night at the local bar. Very true.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
You can always add more, but you can never take out. Don’t over-season your dish in the beginning of the preparation; taste as you go and add accordingly.
Most undervalued ingredient:
A good, crisp, lemony and bitter green such as wood sorrel. These types of greens go well with a variety of different foods, from a feature in a salad to a garnish on a fish dish.
Favorite places to eat:
Chianina, Salt’s Cure, Bestia, and (if I need an after-work slice of pizza) Milana’s.
Last thing you looked up online:
I looked up how to cook the perfect prime rib. I like to compare and contrast other recipes with my own in an effort to experiment and improve.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, then moved to Connecticut. From there, my spouse and I drove cross country and settled in Los Angeles.
Favorite meal growing up:
Home-made spaghetti and meatballs that my mom makes. After she puts the sauce together, she bakes it at a low temperature for hours.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I played Division One soccer as a goal-keeper.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
One of my favorite childhood memories is the first time I cooked dinner for my family. I was about 10 years old, and made honey-glazed chicken thigh with rice and different vegetables.
What is your beverage of choice?
I love a Julian Hard Cider after a long shift in the kitchen. It is crisp and refreshing.
Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
I like to play golf when I have the time.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned:
The only way to succeed in a kitchen is to put your head down and work hard while cutting and burning yourself.
We had one question for owner Dan Tapia:
Tell me why you opened 4th & Olive.
I got pushed out of a job because of my use of a cane. I never wanted that to happen again, so I created a place where no-one would be discriminated against because of a disability. I also love the food, beer and wine from the Alsace region, and want to share my passion by opening a restaurant in Long Beach.
Learn more about 4th & Olive at www.4thandolive.com.
Find a place to eat this week at www.dineLBC.com.