On the Line: Joel Harrington of Lido Bottle Works

In addition to being one of the chefs participating in OC Weekly’s Decadence this month, Chef Joel Harrington is also nominated for a Golden Foodie Award in the category “Rising Star Chef of the Year”. Yet the question that’s probably on your mind is, “What’s up with the spoon?”. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s symbolic in nature, representing the influence Marcus Samuelsson had on his career. You’ll always find the gold utensil on him at work, likely in his shirt pocket. Per Joel, “It matches my shoes and is part of my kitchen swag.” Hey, if that contributes to the great dishes coming out of Lido Bottle Works, we’re down.

What’s growing in the LBW garden?
Currently, all of our herbs and chilis are going strong right now. We’re getting great eggplant and squash. And the edible flowers are gorgeous right now, too.

For those not familiar with the location, where is it located in Lido Marina Village?
Lido Bottle Works is right on the water next to the big event yachts, behind Warby Parker.

I want to learn more about the vendors you work with. Do you head out to specific farmers’ markets/vendors to source your ingredients?
I work with Scott at the Dory Fishing Fleet every day. I’m also fortunate enough to have befriended Alex Weisser of Weisser Farms at the Newport Beach Farmers Market every Sunday. I work closely with Ingardia Brothers, too, to get weekly deliveries. Luis there has been a godsend, and the fact that they go above and beyond to help us get our ingredients has been essential to the quality of our menu.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it’s true.
That everybody is a chef. And that’s definitely not true. A chef has a lot more responsibility than what may be shown on TV. The industry has been glamorized so much by the TV craze. Kids are enamored by the industry, but you have to pay your dues before you can pay the rent.

Name an indispensable tool in the kitchen.
I can’t live without my Jameson . . .just kidding. My Vita-Prep blender. We do almost everything in it. Emulsifications, vinaigrettes, purees and more.

Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
That they keep their eyes wide open.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Keep it simple. Use fresh ingredients. Know your sources. Let the product shine.

We read something about vermouth-based cocktails and kombucha on tap. Could you possibly elaborate on these options?
Our cocktails are loosely based on classic handcrafted cocktails from the pre-prohibition era. We actually serve them in hand-selected glasses from the early 1900s. I’m working on a dessert right now that incorporates Matthiasson Wine’s sweet vermouth in a cake.

We’re also rolling out brunch, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and we’ll have funky Bloody Marys and other drinks made with soju.

You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
I don’t eat breakfast often. I just drink coffee. A lot of coffee.

Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Break of Dawn. Break of Dawn. Break of Dawn.

Is there anything you wished they taught in culinary school that you learned from actual work experience?
No. I feel like I took out of culinary school “why” to do things. I took a lot out of culinary school. It’s not for everybody, but I knew how to cook . . .Culinary school taught me why we cook the way we cook.

Tell me about a signature dish at Lido Bottle Works. What are the components, and what beer would you pair it with?
My Tuna Tartare, served with cucumber, avocado, radish, yuzu ponzu and chili pop rocks. We pour the ponzu tableside to activate chili pop rocks. The dish crackles as you eat it. I’d say pair it with any lighter-style American lager. We have a few, including our featured pilsner from Chapman Crafted Ales.

What did you learn during your time with Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurants that you apply to Lido Bottle Works?
I learned more from Marcus than any other chef I’ve worked for, especially when it comes to cooking from the heart. He’s a true visionary. He taught me how to express myself through my food, always mentoring my artistic side. He had full confidence in me, helping to support my family as I grew into the chef I would become.

Where did you grow up, and where’s home these days?
I grew up in Bennington, Vermont (Southern Vermont). My home now is in Balboa Village on the Newport Peninsula. It’s a 1.8 mile bike ride from my house to the restaurant door.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Going to baseball games. Actually, I was at a baseball game in the bleachers at Fenway Park, and a Red Sox fan poured beer all over me . . .I was like eight . . .and Goose Gossage looked up from the bullpen and told me, “I was a true Yankee fan.” He’s in the Hall of Fame now. What makes that really cool is that Goose was in my restaurant a couple years ago and I told him the story. Before he left, he signed a menu for me, “to a true Yankee fan.” I think about that a lot. A lot of my best memories are baseball related. I miss the old Yankee Stadium a lot. I want my ashes scattered in Yankee Stadium’s left field while Jane’s Addiction’s “Summertime Rolls” plays.

Favorite meal growing up:
My mom’s baked mac and cheese and bbq’d rabbit. She’d barbecue the rabbit with shitty BBQ sauce. I loved it. I’ve actually featured it, when I do Mother’s Day menus. I’ll take all my staff, I’ll get their mom’s names and their favorite dish growing up and run each one on the menu. We end up mailing the menus to their moms.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m a big Wu-Tang Clan fan. Wu-family represent. Also, go Yankees.

Last thing you looked up online:
It was “Frank’s Wild Years” by Tom Waits. That album reminds me of New York, of the glamour of hard living in the city— something I’ve always romanticized about.

Where was your most recent meal?
I did Taco Tuesday with my partner-in-crime Chef Matt Robinson at Great Mex in Balboa. I had carnitas and al pastor tacos, washed down with Red Stripes at Class of ’47. Shout out to the ’47.

Hardest lesson you’ve learned:
I’m still learning it. . . .You have to have balance in life. Balance is key to keeping your sanity. Which I don’t really do, but it’s nice to dream.

What industry would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
Sportscasting! Or art; I’d be a painter! Or, maybe a punk rocker. Something to do with entertainment, for sure.

Visit Chef Joel at OC Weekly’s Decadence on September 29 at Hotel Irvine. Learn more at our event site.

Lido Bottle Works is located at 3408 Via Oporto, Newport Beach, (949) 529-2784; www.lidobottleworks.com.

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