Tanya Petrovna is the chef and owner of Native Foods. Her ever-expanding vegan eatery started out in Palm Springs in 1994, but we in OC know her best from her restaurant at The Camp, which is housed inside a yurt. She has two other restaurants in OC, not all of them in yurts, but serving the same dishes using animal-friendly tempeh, seitan, and also, “Native Chicken Wings,” which to me frankly taste more like chicken than McNuggets.
Here are her answers to the second part of our interview, continued from yesterday.
8. Your most indispensable kitchen tool or appliance:
My Japanese vegetable knife that I designed to make chopping fun…will be selling them soon so they will be easy to get, stay tuned!
9. As a vegetarian, can you remember how long ago you last ate something made of meat, and can you remember what it was?
Yes I was 18, I remember well. I was having a blast snorkeling and feeding fish in the ocean, especially with one fish in particular, he was very smart, then a spear fisher came by underneath me and speared him, my heart stopped, then mom served us fish for dinner, my heart stopped. I now make a mean seaweed salad in Mr. Fish's honor.
10. What do you think is missing from the OC food scene?
A Russian vegan quick service casual restaurant.
11. The weirdest customer request:
A customer asked to set up a menu for his wake.
12. What's your proudest moment as a chef?
They are continuous and it happens everyday. A customer walks in hesitant about a veg meal and leaves saying Native Foods is their new fave restaurant and that they could eat “this way” everyday! Cool.
13. Care to name drop some celebrities who've eaten at your restaurant? And which one surprised you most?
Deborah Madison, Alicia Silverstone, The Captain and Tennille, my boyfriend Barry Manilow, Reese Witherspoon, Cornelia Guest, Jason Schwartzman, Josh Brolin, Diane Lane, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, John Salley, Jeff Rawley (skateboard), Goldie Hawn, Kevin Nealon, Steve-O, Russel Brand, Constance Marie, Amy Smart, Russell Crowe, Rick Rubin, Flea, Ian McKay (Minor Threat), Glen Friedman (photographer), Tea Leoni, Andre 3000-10,000, Jeremy Piven, Zooey Deschanel, Common, AFI, Zach De La Rocha, John Feldman (Goldfinger), Face to Face Scot Shifflat, James Cromwell, Weird Al (is like family), Loretta Swit (lips and all!), my other boyfriend Steven Tyler, to name a few. Most are regulars.
We do have a policy amongst Native Foods staff that we never Tweet or Facebook their presence when they are in the house so they can relax and savor the Native flavor.
Steven Tyler surprised me the most as I didn't know he was an avid quinoa lover [or a] healthy eater. Quinoa is the breakfast of champions, he says. I turned him on to my private stash of red quinoa.
14. Who is your idol/hero/role model, culinary or otherwise?
Well there wasn't just one for me here are a few; Gandhi's autobiography changed my life. I love Julia Child for daring to do what hadn't been done before and going against the norm (American cheese sandwiches). Howard Lyman, the former cattle rancher, for walking his truth even if it meant changing his career. Alice Waters for not making my eating habits weird anymore and, of course, bringing on the whole California cuisine scene. And my parents for teaching me about good food and strong work ethics even though they had a tough life in Europe and no food as kids in WWII (my dad was taken off the soccer field in Yugoslavia at 15 to a Nazi labor camp and survived some incredibe journeys). I love Paul Watson's of Sea Shepherd (.org) determined courage that stems from his love for whales and our oceans.