On the Line: Paul Zhu of The Balcony Grill & Bar, Part One

Categories: On the Line
Zhu1.jpg
Photo by Johannes Dewald

Being the owner of a dining establishment means worrying not only about the food, but also about every other aspect associated with running a business. Marketing campaigns, scheduling of employees and purchasing supplies are just a fraction of the responsibilities Paul Zhu has on his mind at the Balcony Grill & Bar. His business acumen is quick to compare and contrast the newest competitors in Diamond Jamboree. Zhu makes a point of lending a hand in the kitchen as needed, but he remains focused on addressing the needs of his clientele.

What are five words that describe your food?
Taiwanese cuisine with a twist!

What are four words that describe you?
Passionate for delicious foods!

Your best recent food find:
A friend introduced me to El Gallo Giro in Santa Ana. It's open 24 hours, and by far, it's one of the tastiest Mexican cuisines around. There's an off-menu torta that I like to order that has three types of meat.

Most undervalued ingredient:
A chef's care to ensure the quality of each dish.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Teamwork! Pitch in and have more fun!

One food you detest:
I absolutely love the stench of our stinky tofu, but I cannot tolerate the smell and taste of durian!

One food you can't live without:
No Chinese meal is complete without rice!

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Pho. In Westminster, I go to Pho 79.

What fast food do you admit to eating?
A nice, juicy Double-Double, animal-style, from In-N-Out is to indulge the taste buds. Animal-style fries are good, too.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't cheat on taste by adding too much MSG!

After-work hangout:
I go to 24 hours BCD Tofu House within Diamond Jamboree plaza for that after-2 a.m. fix.

Favorite celebrity chef:
Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods. I love trying exotic foods!

Celebrity chef who should shut up:
Gordon Ramsay from Hell's Kitchen. I don't like his temperament toward his staff. Treat them with respect, and they will work 10 times harder for you.

Favorite music to cook by:
Smooth jazz.

Best food city in America:
New York City because of the cultural diversity.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
More restaurant weeks themed at highlighting a different international cuisine each week. This will help introduce customers to cultural foods from around the world. [Editor's Note: Are the powers that be listening?]

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
I would like to see less copycat-styled restaurants. It appears lately that when a new concept restaurant does exceptionally well, a whole slew of imitation restaurants spring up nearby to copy the concept, therefore oversaturating the market.

Favorite cookbooks:
None. I prefer learning hands-on from culinary experts.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
I would usually greet customers to ensure they are enjoying their dining experience.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Snake meat in Shanghai. All the cartilage made it very chewy.

You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Porridge and pan-fried eggs.

You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Red Bull to energize myself throughout the day.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
A customer ordered our pineapple fried rice without the pineapples. Of course, we always cater to our customers' needs.

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