Standing along 17th Street on a Saturday night with traffic going by, Richard Blais referred to our off the cuff discussion as “very NPR”. An hour before, while inhaling my California Dip sandwich (think breakfast burrito meets French dip) at the bar of The Crack Shack, I was given the opportunity to conduct an interview . . .with absolutely no preparation. I enlisted some help from the ladies behind the counter (Thank you, ladies!), and they not only kept me company, but offered some great advice.
I remember watching Richard’s Chicago season on Top Chef, and then cheering him on as he won All-Stars. Our meeting may have been brief, but for the 300+ interviews I’ve conducted in over six years, I’ll admit it was one of my favorites.
What product do you use in your hair?
First of all, that is an amazing question, and my team loves me so much. There are two answers [Editor’s Note: I then admitted that the bar told me there would be two answers]. Wow! Who were you speaking to? So, at times my hair product is equal parts liquid nitrogen and duck fat. And then, the other answer is a product called Suavecito. Lately I’ve been throwing in some silvery, misty stuff in there. I’m going for this mix between Daenerys Stormborn and Anderson Cooper. We’ll see if that sticks. That’s a good lead off.
If I was trying to explain The Crack Shack to somebody, how would I describe it?
Chicken and eggs. All day long. Family-friendly food. A fun vibe. And that’s about it. You don’t want to go too far.
Have you found any local (Costa Mesa) foods that you’ve liked?
Oh-my-god! Oh, yes. Of course, I have discovered Sidecar Doughnuts, because we had them in here the other night. And I’m a big doughnut fan, and all we hear about is Sidecar. Matter-of-fact, we are not on the GPS yet for my car, so when I have to drive up here from wherever I’m at, I punch in Sidecar Doughnuts. They’re definitely a local favorite.
When we were at the bar, we started talking about the decision to put the next restaurant in Orange County/Costa Mesa (as opposed to Los Angeles). How did you come to that decision?
Well, you know we started in San Diego. I think of Southern California as (being a newer resident over the last five years here) this greater region. And we think Crack Shack is Southern California fried chicken, to be quite honest. We also really are looking to be a community restaurant and a neighborhood restaurant. So Costa Mesa was perfect for us, because we feel like our growth plan is going to be in neighborhoods and communities. Not necessarily big city center by big city center.
So we will be in Los Angeles soon. Century City has already been announced; by June, we’re saying. And Pasadena’s already been announced. There’s enough money in the till so far for another three or four. But yeah, we’re hoping to grow. But really, it’s really important to just take one restaurant at a time. And definitely become a part of the community. So we’re happy to be in Costa Mesa.
How do you plan on spending your holiday?
Every year is a little different for Thanksgiving. This year, my wife and I head to New York tomorrow, but we’ll be back for the holiday. And I do a lot of cooking at home. I love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving’s my day where I do most of the cooking. When I’m doing actual, physical cooking with my hands, it’s usually on television or at home. Because when I’m in the restaurants, I’m orchestrating or conducting. So I’m a big fan of cooking at home, and its become a pleasure of mine. And certainly for Thanksgiving.
The Crack Shack is now open at 196 E 17th St in Costa Mesa, (949) 383-5040; www.crackshack.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.