On the Line: Frank DeLoach of Tavern On 2, Part One
You may have heard of Frank DeLoach, as he's "been there, done that" at a number of Orange County spots in recent years. He crossed county borders into Long Beach, taking the helm at Belmont Shore's Tavern On 2. I continue my beach city tour into the LBC, checking in on his kitchen antics.
What is your favorite style of cooking?
I worked a lot of my professional career in regional Italian kitchens. I feel that is always going to be a major part of my cooking. Currently, I am completely obsessed with the Southeast Asian pantry. I am constantly finding inspiration in interesting vinegars, aromatics and strange condiments. The cuisines of Southeast Asia are bold and bright. Full of in-your-face flavor. In Orange County, we are fortunate to have large Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian neighborhoods. I am always searching markets.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Citrus. It's complex and acidic. Brings any dish into a realm of freshness.
Provide an example of the modern rustic cuisine at Tavern On 2.
Our Belly & Sucker could be easily described as modern rustic. It's a dish of seared pork belly, fried octopus, carrot caramel, julienned radish and jicama. The dish is garnished with fresh herbs and black currant vinaigrette. It is a play on surf and turf, taking inspiration from Mexican ingredients and Spanish inflection. The concept or flavor profiles may be considered modern or New American. But we present it in a bowl, almost like a home-style stew.
Recommendations for first-timers to Tavern On 2.
Our fried sprouts are usually an easy go-to. But our sticky pig tails are like Chinese bbq ribs, but way porkier. If we've got a pasta on the menu, don't miss it. The team at Tavern really puts in a lot of work. Great staff.
Growing up in a house where it was mandatory to eat dinner with the family, the house favorite was my mother's Sunday gravy [Editor's Note: Sunday gravy was also Frank's food he can't live without.]. The little pork riblets, sausage, meatballs. . .That complex, rich tomato sauce with spaghetti is heaven.
Where was your most recent meal?
Well, I recently changed my diet to being 75% plant based. I'm really on a kick with our wild mushroom burgers at Tavern. Earthy, nutty, with a little pickle and mustard. Awesome.
Weirdest thing you've eaten.
Balut, the fertilized duck egg. Considered a delicacy in Southeast Asia. I had a friend bring me one; it wasn't too bad.
Favorite places to eat.
Night + Market in Hollywood; Kris Yenbamroong's food is fucking addicting. Also love Red Medicine in Hollywood; Jordan Khan's food is progressive, thought-provoking and fun. I also really love Orange County spots like Anepalco's and Break of Dawn. Danny and Dee really make dining in Orange County fun, delicious and special. There are a ton of great places to eat. I can go on forever. The quality of eats we have now is awesome.
What advice have you taken from mentors?
Honestly, I've worked really hard to take the best from the chefs I have worked under. Some things that stick with me the most are, "Get the best you can afford. Don't fuck it up. Let it speak." That's something Chef Steve Samson and Zach Pollack would constantly preach. It really resonated with me. I am extremely product driven.
Another good lesson was, "Lack of technique doesn't make it rustic." Micah Wexler, formerly of Mezze, is all about making beautiful, rustic cuisine that is as technically focused as fine dining, but in a casual setting. That attention to detail and pursuit of perfection doesn't have to come at the cost of white tablecloths and expensive products.
Advice for the home cook:
Taste, taste, taste and taste. Season in layers. Making a soup or a sauce, season the aromatics, then the next step. Build flavors by properly tasting and seasoning.
What is your beverage of choice?
Michelada. It's sooo good. I typically just rock Clamato, Tapatio and a light beer. This sounds silly, but I roll with Clamato in my car. Ready to have an impromptu BBQ.
You've helped launch a number of concepts. When it's time to open your own space, what will you remember to keep in mind?
Working at the restaurants I have been fortunate to be a part of has provided me with a strong sense of professionalism, technical skills and a hard work ethic. Moving into my own space, the most valuable tool would be managing different personalities, being true to myself and being a strong coach to all my employees in the restaurant. Providing equal praise, discipline and older brotherly love.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Breakfast is really simple, always. As of late, it's a hemp protein shake and a banana. But if it's a lazy day with my beautiful wife, grilled toast, some grilled turkey or ham, a little arugula and sunny egg. Simple.
Is there a dish you'd like to learn how to make?
I would really love to go back to classic cooking and learn something like tete de veau. A classic dish of slow poached calf's head, with aromatics and spices. Clean and rich.