C.J. Jacobson from Top Chef Season Three: Nice Guy, Should Open a Restaurant in his Native OC!
Then, she said to guess what celebrity would be the guy in the other couple. Um...Bill Handel? Some labor guy? No idea.
"C.J. from Top Chef," she finally exclaimed. OH SNAP...from my favorite Top Chef season of them all!
Of course, meeting someone with some measure of fame, let alone getting your mug broadcast for weeks on a series, is always fraught with the potential for assholery, but C.J. seemed nice enough from his appearances. Little did I know, however, that we'd have much more in common than an appreciation of Family Guy.
We met at Son of a Gun, near the Beverly Center and looking like a New England chowder house circa 1978, except much trendier. CJ and I exchanged handshakes, and when he asked where we were coming from (my chica's store), I replied "Santa Ana."
"SanTana!" he corrected me. OH SNAP...how the hell did CJ know how to pronounce the city correctly? Turned out that not only was he an OC guy (which I didn't know), but that he was old-school: he said he's from El Toro instead of Lake Forest, which marks him as my kind of OC guy. We dished on old El Toro High sports, old haunts, a bunch of old stuff since CJ left OC long ago. And though CJ abandoned us, he still comes down to eat--man knows his Little Saigon and Little Arabia dives, and let's leave it at that.
The rest of the dinner went splendidly--the four of us talked future plans and Mexican food, and my chica and I urged him to open a restaurant in his homeland in addition to his current gig at The Yard in Santa Monica, to return, o wayward son. Totally not pretentious, on the level--and we never once talked about Top Chef.
Oh, as for Son of a Gun? Fine lobster roll, if small, salmon collars sluiced in something approaching a teriyaki sauce that didn't really match it. But the linguine with clams was spectacular, the shrimp sandwich amazing, and the cocktails were straight out of Boardwalk Empire. Still too crowded for a visit, but worth one if you can.
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