On the Line: Joe Youkhan of Chef Joe Youkhan's Tasting Spoon, Part One

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Photo by Meranda Carter

South County is represented this week, as we sit down with Joe Youkhan and discuss his Italian-inspired, Rancho Santa Margarita-based luxe lonchera, Chef Joe Youkhan's Tasting Spoon. An East Coast transplant, he loves his butter, salt and vino. Learn how this father of two conjures up rustic cuisine in this week's On the Line.

What are six words that describe your food?
Craveable, fresh, rustic, tasty, bold, balanced.

What are eight words that describe you?
Passionate, determined, intense, caring, approachable, integrity, thoughtful, father.

Your best recent food find:

Calabrian Chile Paste has great heat, with tons of flavor, and it's a great savory addition to any dish.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Salt.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Work focused, clean and very organized. NO attitudes.

One food you detest and why:
Generic candy is disgusting.

One food you can't live without:
Bacon.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Vegetarian cuisine.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
In-N-Out. It's a pretty tasty burger.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Season in "layers," and taste every step of the way. You can just add a bunch of ingredients to a pot at the same time, try to maximize each ingredient's flavor, and in the end, you will have a more successful dish.

After-work hangout:
Home with the kids. Working 16- to 20-hour days, I never get to see them. It's the only thing I want to do after working.

Favorite celebrity chef :
I like Mario Batali's cuisine and restaurants.

Celebrity chef who should shut up:
Any celebrity "chef" who has not actually cooked in a restaurant--I think there are a few out there. . . .

Favorite music to cook by:
It depends on my mood. I listen to everything from rap and alternative to the blues.

Best food city in America and why:
New York is a huge melting pot of cultures and amazing chefs. Plus, it's where I'm from.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chef-owned and -operated restaurants.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Fast-food chains.

Favorite cookbooks:
Every book Thomas Keller has written.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Spending time with my sons, Roenin and Kallin, and training in Brazilian jiujitsu.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Brains.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
I'm having 64 ounces of strong coffee and fried eggs with onions, peppers and spicy chiles.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of:
Butter because butter makes it better.

Weirdest customer request:
A huge bowl of fresh, raw, minced garlic to eat with his entrée--and yes, he ate the whole thing!

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