Ross Pangilinan of Leatherby's Café Rouge, Part Two

Today we continue our Q&A with Ross Pangilinan, the Executive Chef at Leatherby's Café Rouge in Costa Mesa. As promised this is the part of the interview where we get a little more personal with him.

If you missed the first part, click here. And stay tuned tomorrow for a recipe.

What show would you pitch to the Food Network?
I would pitch myself. They could call it In the Weeds and they could put me in a super-fine dining, high volume restaurant and film me work. I don't have a TV personality but I get intense in the kitchen. That could be fun.


Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
I have eaten a lot of weird things but the weirdest would probably be one-day-old deep fried whole chickens. Three on a skewer, each chicken is the size of a thumb, in the Philippines, with a little vinegar.

You're making an omelet. What's in it?
MyI wouldn't do anything too crazy, but in my omelet is a chicken fried steak with gravy.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Two bottles of wine.

Weirdest customer request:
It's the guests that have that phobia that they need all of their food not touching each other.

Favorite OC restaurant(s) other than your own:
My favorite OC restaurant is definitely my old chef mentor Florent Marneau's Marche Moderné–he's probably the best chef in the OC.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
You can't do everything by yourself, you need to invest lots of time into your crew.

What would the last meal on Earth be?
That's another hard question, but probably something deep fried like crispy pata (pork leg) or salt and pepper pork Chinese style. Or maybe a good Peking duck. Or a whole roasted lechon (whole pig).

Who's your hero? Culinary or otherwise?
Captain Paul Watson and the Steve Irwin–they save whales man!

If you weren't a chef, what would you second career choice be?
Probably something in the skateboard industry. I grew up skating a lot. I had sponsors and skated in competitions. It was a lot of fun.

What advice do you have for those that might be thinking about a career in food?
To read that book Letters To a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud because it the real deal.


What dish would you tell newcomers to try first?
I think my foie gras torchon is pretty good.

What cuisine that you are unfamiliar with would you want to learn more about and why?
I really like Indian food. They have tons of spices that I would like to use.

So you are Filipino. What is your favorite place for Filipino food other than home? That is, care to share tips on where to find the best sisig or pinakbet?
I like to go to Pinoy Pinay in Cerritos and Magic Wok in Artesia. I haven't had the sisig at Magic Wok but the crispy pata is delicious.

If you were to slip in some Filipino dishes, ingredients or flavors into your restaurant what would it be (or is there something in there already)?
I like to use Filipino salt which is arguably better than fleur de sel, and calamansi which is a citrus similar to a kumquat. If I were to put a dish on the menu it would probably be a refined appetizer version of chicken adobo.

What do you think is least understood among Americans about Filipino food?
Typically, Americans don't eat Filipino food because it's not popular or made mainstream like Chinese food. Most Americans who do eat Filipino food were introduced by a Filipino friend.

What were you doing before Leatherby's?
Right before I started at Leatherby's I was working in Las Vegas at the Encore-Wynn resorts. I went with the former chef from Patina Theo Schonegger as his sous chef. It was a great experience opening such a high end restaurant, Sinatra at the Encore. Also Theo is a great friend, chef and mentor. He has taught me a lot.

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years? 10 years?
In five years I will still be cooking and maybe have kids? In 10 years either have my own restaurant or restaurants or be in a great chef position. In my old chef's words “everything is negotiable!”

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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