On the Line: Stephen Le Of The Kroft, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Stephen Le & Matthew Tong are all smiles about the upcoming Union Maket space

Fellow Bay Area transplant and Kroft co-founder/co-owner Stephen Le teaches us the value of reading (and Excel?) in the second part of his interivew.

Read the first half of our interview with Stephen over here.
And now, on to part two . . .

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Don't let criticism break you down.

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On the Line: Stephen Le Of The Kroft, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Co-founders (and owners) Stephen Le & Matthew Tong

If you haven't tried the Kroft yet, it's all good. They are making their way across Orange County, with Tustin opening next month. While I may feel a tinge of guilt when inhaling their cheese curds, a friend's commentary always rings true, "If you're going to eat bad, it better taste good." So I'll start this interview by thanking Stephen Le (and Matthew, his partner-in-crime) for a menu I have trouble saying no to.

How did the name come about?
Naming our establishment was definitely the most grueling part of starting up. We brainstormed day and night over months at a time, and agreed that it is our intention to support local farmers within our community. The word "croft" with a "C" is defined as a small, enclosed farm or pasture near a house or small tenant farm. It feels fitting to us to be called the Kroft.

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On the Line: Casey Overton Of The Loft, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Dustin Ames
Casey's got skills

I can learn more about a subject by sitting down with them for 20 minutes than they'll ever admit to on paper. Fortunately, I prefer the social interaction over email exchanges any day. Casey is no exception, as he reminisces about previous employers and goes over our assortment of questions. I grill him on just a few more inquiries before finishing my glass of red.

Read our interview with Casey that started yesterday over here.
And then finish it with the Q & A below . . . .

Hardest lesson you've learned:
The balance between cooking for the guest and cooking for yourself (still learning).

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On the Line: Casey Overton Of The Loft, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Dustin Ames
Life is good at The Loft

Casey Overton is a person I always heard about, but never actually met. As executive chef at The Loft inside Montage Resort, his modern cuisine is one that I've always appreciated. An interview long overdue, Casey's many talents growing up influence his creative menu.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Finishing most dishes with fresh herbs and/or acidity is one of the keys to making your food taste like it came from a restaurant.

One food you can't live without:
That is a tough question, but it would probably have to be cheese. There are so many different styles, tastes and textures. Cheese is simply amazing.

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On the Line: Ellen Chen & Mario Del Pero Of Mendocino Farms, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Dustin Ames
Ellen confirms what we were wondering at the end of our interview

This week's dynamic duo power through the rest of our questioning with the greatest of ease. In fact, the longer we read about Ellen and Mario, the more their twist at the end makes sense.

Read the first part of our interview with Ellen and Mario back here.
Then finish the conversation down below . . . .

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Ellen Chen:
Traveling with my family. Best trip ever was an adventure through the Orient from Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan.
Mario Del Pero: Sunday suppers with my Italian family at my Nonna's house.

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On the Line: Ellen Chen & Mario Del Pero Of Mendocino Farms, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Dustin Ames
Our interview subjects get better looking every time!

Interviewing a duo of subjects is always more challenging interesting for me. I see double the effort restaurants make when two personalities create the brand. It's a yin and yang when the pair differ, but something else altogether when they are more similar than not. Take a look for yourself.

What are your best-selling items?
Ellen Chen & Mario Del Pero: Pork belly banh mi, pecan wood house smoked pastrami, and both our kale Caesar and Save Drake's Farm free range chicken and goat cheese salad.

Favorite meal growing up:
Ellen: Chinese hot pot, similar to that of shabu shabu. It was a tradition for all family gatherings to serve this, and really evokes such great memories of sharing food with people you love.
Mario: The sandwiches my dad would make with Sunday super leftovers.

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On the Line: Lei Shishak of Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Dustin Ames
C is for cookie, which we like very much

In yesterday's interview, I learned about Lei's range of food preferences. Today she explains how she burns off all those calories. If you're a fan of baking (or know someone who is), tell us your favorite dessert in the comments to win the item at the end of our conversation. A winner will be announced on Friday.

Read our first part with Lei over here.
Then finish the interview below. . . .

When you're not in the kitchen baking, what are you doing?

I'm outside-- at the beach, hiking or enjoying drinks on a patio somewhere.

What do you like to do at the beach?

Surf, swim, paddleboard, etc. I enjoy playing catch on the beach and boogie boarding.

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On the Line: Lei Shishak of Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Dustin Ames
Dessert is served!

There's something about driving to south county that piques my interest. Going beyond the usual driving radius with hopes of stumbling upon a local spot is always motivating. I've been fortunate as of late, making the acquaintance of a few talented women in the kitchen. This week kicks off with cookbook author and local baker Lei Shishak. Situated in the busiest part of downtown San Clemente, her bake shop sweetens the neighborhood.

Where does the bakery name come from?
I loved the word "blossom", as it stood for growth, as well as had beautiful imagery. I figured I needed something to imply that it was a bakery, so I decided to put "sugar" in front of it.

Tell us about working at Stonehill Tavern.
Working at Stonehill Tavern was a formidable and awesome experience for me. I had spent the previous years working at casual restaurants in Los Angeles, so making the move to fine dining was quite a hurdle for me in terms of the types of desserts I was making. I really had to elevate my game. I learned amazing pastry techniques and discipline from Chef Lincoln Carson, the Corporate Pastry Chef of The Mina Group. It was refreshing to work with people who truly loved food and hospitality.

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On the Line: Shirley Chung of TWENTY EIGHT, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of TWENTY EIGHT
One hard-working lady

Shirley tweeted yesterday that, "This was a long interview! I really enjoyed answering the questions." My response: Damn straight! We love learning more about our subjects, and I suspect most readers/fans would want it that way. She uses her noodle a little longer to power through the rest of our interrogation.

Did you see what we did up there? It'll make more sense if you read the first part of our interview with Shirley over here.
The rest can be found below. . . .

Hardest lesson you've learned:
I cannot read peoples' minds. I should never assume anything. It's always best to ask questions.

Last thing you researched online:
What to eat to get ready for the fall season. A lot of people around me have been getting respiratory sicknesses lately, and I want to find out how I can help them recover with foods instead of medicines.

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On the Line: Shirley Chung of TWENTY EIGHT, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of TWENTY EIGHT
Opening next month!

Shirley Chung is one busy chef. You may recognize Chung from her stint on Top Chef: New Orleans. Yesterday she wrapped up a cooking demo at the inaugural Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival. Now her focus is on the final touches to get TWENTY EIGHT ready for opening in October. This week, she makes time to respond to our questions.

Tell us the back story behind TWENTY EIGHT's name, as well as the concept.
Number 28 always has been an indicator of positive changes in the life of my business partner Stacie Tran and also in my own life. We are both 28 this year-- and if you ask me next year, I'll still give you the same answer!

TWENTY EIGHT is a modern Chinese restaurant and lounge. It is a shared concept, and my inspiration for the menu is reflective of my childhood years in Beijing, my past experiences and my travels-- all of which have inspired me to push the envelope. The restaurant will offer craft cocktails, a California-driven wine list and an indoor-outdoor setting, allowing our guests to take full advantage of the beautiful OC weather in an elegant and relaxed atmosphere.

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