On the Line: Scott Raczek of Tavern + Bowl, Part One
To be familiar with Scott Raczek is an honor. For his past employment with Mr. Stox to Raczek's ongoing charitable contributions, this is someone with a genuine spirit. We begin our interview with a thorough response to a simple inquiry.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Red beets are becoming very popular in OC restaurants, but you do not see too many people cook with them at home. Maybe it is the cooking time or the messiness of them, or they are just not sure how to go about it.
At the Tavern, we have great success with them. We slow roast them with olive oil, garlic, onions and thyme. We use our stone deck bread oven and cook them low and slow for over five hours. We use them in our drunken goat cheese salad, and it is the featured veggie in our Tavern beet burger. I also love it on our flatbread with white horseradish cream, arugula, roasted beets and white anchovies. And for a late night snack after some serious libations, I always have a batch of spicy pickled eggs and beets in the kitchen for consumption. The whites of the eggs turn bright red with the yellow yolk interior. After all, we are in the bar business!
Your earliest food memory:
My grandmother Monica's whole-roasted chickens were incredibly juicy and flavorful. I always ate the drumstick with my hands, and my grandfather Jack would get one whole chicken to eat by himself.
Your best recent food find:
Plantains are not new, but we sure are having fun using them in the kitchen at Tavern + Bowl for our Paleo burger.
Tell us about the menu-- including how the Paleo burger came about. Or how (relatively) healthy the menu is.
The menu consists of "crave-able" foods. We are a completely "scratch kitchen" that uses natural ingredients like farm-fresh produce, grass-fed beef, fresh salmon and oysters. Every morning we mix and shape dough for our flatbread pizzas.
The Paleo burger came about by fellow chef, Rick Green. He created it for his wife, Nora, to accommodate her gluten-free/Paleo diet. We use smashed, fried plantains instead of a bun to frame the burger. We take great pride in the fact that our menu includes gluten-free, Paleolithic, vegetarian and vegan items.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
OC has some of the best taco joints, contemporary or old school . . .The Adobe just off the Orange Circle, Taco Asylum at The Camp, or Taco Maria at SoCo.
Where was Le Chardonnay (where you worked previously) located?
Le Chardonnay was located across the street from John Wayne Airport. Back in the day, Chanteclair [Editor's Note: Chef Pascal Olhats was his kitchen neighbor during that time.] was right next door. Le Chardonnay had moderne nouvelle French decor and cooking, and Chanteclair had country French.
Favorite places to eat:
A new place for me is Shuck Oyster Bar at SoCo. Fried oyster tacos. . . . need I say more?
What is your beverage of choice?
I am a triple shot espresso drinker.
I see you've done consulting work. What is the thought process for developing a menu?
When you work for somebody else, you really need to understand the type of menu he or she wants. Additionally, in order to have a successful concept, the food must appeal to the demographic of the community that will support it. It has to make culinary and financial sense; you cannot have one without the other.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
I'm not really a breakfast person. I'll usually just have yogurt and granola to get the day started, but, on occasion, I have been known to baste fried eggs in duck fat!
Favorite meal growing up:
Cheeseburgers and fries from the original Knollwood always hit the spot.
Let's talk about your time at Mr. Stox. What do you miss most?
We always shared the connection of food and wine and what an integral part of our daily lives it was. Baking Lavien style breads was a very soulful experience.
Where was your most recent meal?
Sunday family dinner in my parent's backyard, We had a bowl of mussels, clams, bacon and garlic broth; grilled asparagus flatbreads; heirloom tomatoes with capers and white anchovies; grilled flatiron steak and wedges of Humboldt Fog (of course). My family is very close and we love to cook together.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
I had a customer that became a weekly guest. His request was that he did not want any of his food to touch any of the other foods on the plate. He ordered many different menu items, so we did it all the time.
Tavern + Bowl is located at 1875 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, (949) 438-2320; www.tavernbowl.com.