On the Line: Marc Johnson Of Oak Grill, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Oak Grill
Daydreaming about his next tee time

Part two is where we learn a little fact we otherwise wouldn't know about our featured subject. Whether it's about their childhood or hobbies, I usually stumble across some insight that causes me to respect them even more. In the case of Marc Johnson, I get the story behind his nickname, Moki.

I always prefer that you begin at the beginning, which means clicking here for part one.
Then you can power through the second part with ease.

We saw you studied to be a sculptor in school. What changed your mind and caused you to be a chef?
I have always loved working with my hands, and when I didn't get into business school I decided to go the art route. It gave me a sense of freedom. I couldn't paint or draw, but I was good at sculpting. It was sort of a natural fit, because as a chef, you are kind of a sculptor as well. Also, at the time, Moki's Open Kitchen was in full swing, and I was really able to imagine a future on the culinary side, so I opted to go that direction instead.

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On the Line: Marc Johnson Of Oak Grill, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Oak Grill
Speak softly and carry a big fish

I was a fan of Marc Johnson from my first meal at Oak Grill. The revamped culinary destination at The Island Hotel was memorable enough to make my Top Five last year. Don't let his youthfulness deceive you-- there's a love of cooking that sparked a successful concept in college.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
These days, with TV shows like Hell's Kitchen, people tend to think that all chefs yell and scream at their staff, which is just completely not true.

How did you father influence your love of cooking?
I grew up with my dad doing the cooking. Our weekly food schedule included salmon, pasta and (my favorite) tri-tip with baked potato and asparagus. He was always in the kitchen, which really gave the two of us a chance to bond. He used to say, "If you buy good stuff, the food will turn out good." My dad, in turn, got his cooking bug from his grandmother. It's funny, because on my dad's side all of the men and women were in the kitchen. It was the opposite on my mom's side.

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On the Line: Jo-Jo Doyle Of Honda Center, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Honda Center
He knows how to play the blues

The first part of an interview is typically my favorite. However, Jo-Jo's responses to part two included some memorable details. From how he met his wife to his hardest lesson learned, I appreciated his candidness. If you read all the way through, you'll know what I mean.

If you prefer to begin at the beginning, then click over here for part one.
Then continue from this point for more on Chef Doyle.

Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
I play the blues harp, a.k.a. the blues harmonica.

What turns you on: creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I love being surrounded by other creative people. It allows me to bounce ideas off of them and take the creative process to a whole new level.

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On the Line: Jo-Jo Doyle Of Honda Center, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Honda Center
After this, he's having an Oreo break.

Running a restaurant kitchen is tough work, but to be Jo-Jo Doyle takes it to a whole other level. Responsible for the operation of 3 restaurants, 24 concession stands and 88 suites inside Anaheim's Honda Center, Jo-Jo launched multiple concepts this past year to meet the changing needs of concert and hockey fans. Fortunately, he carved out some time to complete our questionnaire.

Tell us a little about your Southern and Creole influences.
Growing up in the South means that we always used the freshest ingredients possible. We believed in farm-to-fork before it became a popular model. I remember using fresh fish that we caught that day, and vegetables from our own garden to create home cooked meals. Creole food is a blend of whatever tastes good, regardless of boundaries, and I like to apply the same philosophy to my cooking.

Some items on the Honda Center menus that have been influenced by my background include a Louisville original, The Hot Brown, served in Standing 'O'. Also, the sauce on the Mahogany Wings in the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Club is a traditional sauce you would find on shrimp dishes in New Orleans.

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On the Line: Thomas Ortega of Amor y Tacos, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Carl Larsen
Amor y cooking

What better time of the year to feature our chef subject than Valentine's week. It's safe to say there is something for everyone who walks through Thomas Ortega's front door. If you're wondering what's in the works, he dishes in today's segment.

Thomas is so badass, you need to start over here to get to know him.
And if you're good, you can keep reading.

What did you study in school? Did you always plan on being a chef?
I always loved the feeling of cooking a meal for someone, then watching them eat it and enjoy it. When I was young, I wanted to be like my pops and be a sheriff. But I think getting in too much trouble when I was young ended that.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
My wife is the only thing that turns me on. Food and shoes always peak my interest, too.

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On the Line: Thomas Ortega of Amor y Tacos, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Carl Larsen
Amor y lucha

Last week, I offered the latest secret menu items from a lucha libre-themed spot in Cerritos known as Amor y Tacos. This week, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with chef Thomas Ortega. He provides insight on all things tasty and creative, making for one delicious conversation.

What is your fascination with Oaxacan food?
It's a regional cuisine that is still being discovered with the Mexican culinary movement. There are so many parts of Mexico that have different flavor profiles with their respective dishes. Oaxacan isn't the typical ranchero, "farmer" style of cooking. A lot of Mexicans and Chicanos are still learning about Oaxacan, so aside from creating great dishes for my patrons, I also enjoy educating them about the versatility and immense flavor profiles from this particular region.

I'm also still learning more every day and have fun coming up with new combinations of flavors that I highlight on my specials menu. The food is also very indigenous with a heavy influence from the Native American people that tend to use flavors from the earth versus the farm (as seen in ranchero style). Oaxacan tends to use rich moles, herbs, complex foods, spices and aromatics.

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On the Line: Richard Foley of ChocXO, Part Two

Photo by LP Hastings
And this is where all the chocolate magic happens

Hockey plays a large role in today's installment with Richard Foley. I wouldn't expect anything less from this Canadian. So put down that dessert and follow along for his fork-tastic skill, plus an upcoming Valentine's announcement.

Get to know the candy man over here in part one.
Then please continue reading when you're caught up. . .

When did you know you would build a career in chocolate?
My dad owned a chocolate factory where we grew up in Canada, making candies and confections. In 1982, I took a few blocks of his chocolate to some local pastry chefs and sold some to my first customer ever: Bridges Restaurant in Vancouver. I immediately set up an office in my bedroom at my parents' house and started building my first chocolate distribution business.

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On the Line: Richard Foley of ChocXO, Part One

Photo by LP Hastings
Chocolate makes the world go 'round

As we close in on Valentine's Day, my focus is on the sweet stuff. ChocXO opened late last year, offering delectable desserts in the form of chocolate bark, cocoa nibs and customizable boxes of beauties. If you get a chance to visit their factory/retail shop in Irvine, you may spot Richard Foley working on their newest treat. I took a tour (look for the spouts that dispense pure chocolate!) with him to learn more about the dessert science.

Most frequently asked question by guests:
Where's Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas?

Where do your beans originate from?
Our cacao beans are sourced directly from growers we know in Central and South America. Our farmers share our philosophy of growing fine flavor cacao beans rather than bulk cacao. Guests of our behind-the-scenes factory tours get to see, touch and taste these beans in various stages of production. It's a pretty fun way to learn all about the chocolate making process.

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On the Line: Leonard Chan, Part Three

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
I don't think that counts towards your 20 glasses of water.

While many On the Line subjects are modest in their responses, I quickly realized part one was turning into 'Leonard's guide to dining in Orange County'. For a slender guy, the man can eat! So for those that are still with us, a few more words from Leonard. The first half is a summary of his existing and upcoming concepts around here. Then we wrap things up with many of his favorite restaurant recommendations.

Are you still there? It's a lot of ground to cover, especially if you consider yesterday's segment.
We're almost done, we promise!

You've got a lot of concepts. Tell us what is up and running; then what's in the works in Orange County. GO!
Yowzas. It's hard to believe the time that has zipped by already. I started, with the help of my old friend Wayne Atchley (the original California Shabu Shabu owner) and my friend and business partner Ash Chan at California Shabu Shabu in Costa Mesa six years ago. From there, I popped up The Iron Press at SoCo, and shortly after that, opened the doors to Shuck Oyster Bar along with Chef Noah Blom at The OC Mix in 2012.

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On the Line: Leonard Chan, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
HOW old are you?

I'm pretty sure there was a dare to publish something that Leonard admitted to. Let's see if you stumble upon the statement. It was difficult to pass up.

Got your beer? Because you'll want to settle in and relax for this interview.
His storytelling began yesterday in part one.
If you're caught up, then do continue. . .

What turns you on-- creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Passion, humor, pride and forgiveness. There is nothing more refreshing than seeing someone meld all of those aspects into their life. I will never forget seeing a Japanese city worker on his hands and knees scraping gum from the sidewalk in 2001. He was working so diligently, and I couldn't stop staring at him as he was talking with those around him, just happily scraping away. Sure enough, some a-hole walks by and spits out his gum. *Plop* My jaw dropped. I wanted to go over and help the guy. He looked at the gum, shrugged, smiled, and chuckled to a nearby commuter, and scooped up the piece of gum and just kept going. If everyone in the world was like this, we would be living in an even more amazing place.

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