Ross Pangilinan of Leatherby's Café Rouge, Part One

Meet Ross Pangilinan. Born in Tennessee and raised in Orange County, Chef Pangilinan studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena before going off to cut his teeth in fine-dining establishments here and in Michelin-starred restaurants in France. Now he commands the kitchen as the Executive Chef at Leatherby's Café Rouge in Costa Mesa.  

And, oh yeah: the chef is also a proud Filipino. As such, I peppered Part Two with Filipino food questions of the crispy pata and sisig variety. Stay tuned for that tomorrow. For now, here's Part One!

What are six words to describe your food?
I would have to say my food is fresh, simple, tasty, thought-out, modern and pretty.

What are ten words to describe you?
If I am describing my self as a chef I think I am efficient, wise, straight forward, passionate, an organizer and a motivator. A few words that I think describe me as an individual are hungry, sarcastic, fun and a Tennessee Titans fan.


Your best recent food find:
It's this Asian BBQ chicken place my little brother made me go to in Buena Park that makes the best chicken wings ever.

Most undervalued ingredient:
The most undervalued ingredient is pig feet. Not many people eat pig feet, but when made right, they're good.

Rules of conduct in your kitchens:
A couple things I am strict on are having all kitchen towels folded at all times, no radio during service, and organization.

One food you detest:
I have a phobia of ketchup. Everyone who knows me, knows I hate it. I use to put on gloves when I had to open #10 cans.

One food you can't live without:
PIG, the whole animal from the foot to head.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County has the best shopping mall with high-end restaurants: South Coast Plaza. You can buy a Louis purse then have a five-course meal under the same roof.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
I eat fast food more than I should. But I love In-N-Out and Taco Bell.

Best culinary tip for the home cook.
A simple tip that most people already do is clean as you go so your kitchen does not get too unorganized.

After-work hangout:
After work it depends on who I am hanging out with. If friends from work, then we go to Anjin or Corner Office. If friends from home, then their house or occasionally, DTF (Downtown Fullerton).

If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My grandpa who passed away in 2005. Both my grandparents on my father's side lived with us growing up and they cooked traditional Filipino food every day. They went back to the Philippines before I started culinary school. I think he would be proud.
Favorite celebrity chef.
I really like Hubert Keller. I think he should have won Top Chef Masters. He is a great chef and a super-cool guy.

Celebrity chef who should shut up:
I'm not really sure. But I am sure there are a lot of chefs that made it “big time” that are hacks in the kitchen.

Proudest moment as a chef:
For sure it is getting a Zagat score of 26 for food on my first year here.

Favorite music to cook by:
I like to listen to music when we prep and I like to listen to punk rock, classic rock and oldies.

Best food city in America:
This is an easy answer: it's New York. They've got everything, Chinese, delis, pizza, street food and three star Michelin restaurants.

Favorite restaurant in America:
This is too hard a question to answer. I have no idea. Growing up my dad exposed us to so many types of cuisine and restaurants. I have a lot of “go to” restaurants.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
To me it seems like there are not a lot of chef driven restaurants when compared to LA.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Too many corporate restaurants in all the good locations.

Favorite cookbooks:
It's a book my first mentor Jean Pierre Lemanissier gave me when I was a young apprentice and before he sent me to France to work: Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud. It's very inspiring and I recommend it to all young cooks who want to be chefs.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I am always spending time with my fiancé, family and friends. We drink, we eat, we joke, we watch football and I love to golf.

Leatherby's Cafe Rouge, Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, 714-429-7640;

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