On the Line: Ritter of Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Working that SKC magic

For a gentleman that prefers to be called by his surname, Chef Ritter is informal and hospitable. From the moment we shook hands at an event, to our last exchange at ARTIC's grand opening, Ritter has been nothing but cooperative with meeting our holiday deadlines. And for that (and some tasty pan roast) I thank him. Santa Ana and Huntington Beach were only the beginning, as their eventual expansion into Anaheim's ARTIC also means adding an oyster bar to the mix. But we'll let M.. I mean chef, explain.

How did you come up with the concept?
This concept has been around for a long time. Grand Central Station has had steam kettle cooking for over 100 years. I got involved in this style of cooking in Las Vegas in '95, and left in 2007 to open my own restaurants. I worked for the Palace Station Oyster Bar and helped, with others, to develop this concept. As for the Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking Restaurants, it was a combined effort of my business partners and myself. There is so much more to creating a restaurant concept than just recipes. That is why most restaurants fail; it takes a team of dedicated partners to make a successful restaurant. And hopefully, a successful chain of them.

Where do you source your seafood from?
We get our food from all over the world, depending on availability and quality. The food industry is truly a global market, from local farms to New Zealand.

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On the Line: Jeff Clinard Of Bear Coast Coffee, Part Two

Photo by LP Hastings
Who, me?

Comedy is a recurring theme in Jeff's life. Whether as a career choice or in his day-to-day experiences, it is those laughable moments that define who he is: a person who can not only laugh at himself, but can make others laugh. Stir in some solid work ethic, and Bear Coast has what it takes to succeed.

Have you checked out the first part of our interview with Jeff? Catch up by clicking here.
Then when you're ready for more, keep reading below.

Do you have any skills that are not food-related?
I have a laundry list of boring skills! Including, but not limited to fixing my mother-in-law's iPhone that breaks weekly, Photoshop and I am very good at presentations/PowerPoint. But my interesting skills include stunt driving, triathlons and stand up comedy.

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On the Line: Jeff Clinard Of Bear Coast Coffee, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Man crush Monday

Every now and then, I'll seek the advice of an expert when formulating questions on a particular subject. This week, former On the Line feature (now representative for Equator Coffees) Alexandra LittleJohn provided enough insight on Jeff Clinard to make this week's interview special.

Why did you choose the concept that you're running with?
My concept is a pop-up coffee shop, sourcing from some very specific roasters that southern Orange County has never had access to, but with a pretty traditional cafe menu.

My goal is not to revolutionize how coffee is enjoyed, but make sure it is actually ENJOYED. I want people to love their coffee. So I branded my company and focused my efforts to represent/serve San Clemente and the people who live here. It is why my brand looks like a surf brand, because I am in a town of surfers. I work insanely hard to make sure the coffee is good, but is also very approachable. Meaning you can ask for cream and sugar without any hesitation.

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On the Line: Charity Smith Of Bacchus Bar And Bistro, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Savan Photography
Chef coats are the new black

The most surprising thing I learned about Charity was her original career path, and how she realized that cooking was in her blood. As much as I love discussing food, often times it's even more entertaining to learn about what makes them tick.

Read the first part of our drinking session interview with sweet Charity over here.
Then watch us wrap things up below. . . .

What were you up to five years ago?
Working for Sapphire Laguna in their Sapphire at School program. I was the fanciest lunch lady ever at Sage Hill School (GO LIGHTNING!).

Hardest lesson you've learned:
BE PREPARED! Give yourself a fighting chance. Otherwise the tickets start coming, and you go down in flames.

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On the Line: Charity Smith Of Bacchus Bar And Bistro, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Savan Photography
Happiness is having to pair your cuisine with wine

Bacchus had a buy out the night before I met Charity. Half expecting a weary chef, she was as upbeat as my morning interview (perhaps because it was Friday?). Her personality comes across as bubbly in person as it does in the responses below.

Your earliest food memory:
I was about 8-years-old, and my grandparents were visiting. I had baked a cake for dessert and decorated it with whipped cream and little lemon slices. My grandparents were very proud, and one of them said to the other, "Isn't she going to make someone the BEST WIFE someday?" I was offended by that and thought to myself, "Yeah. Or a CHEF!"

What is your wine of choice?
I love a Russian River Pinot - Moshin Vineyards is one of my favorites!

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On the Line: Takashi Abe of Bluefin, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
He's also a fixer

Seafood is what he's known for, but Abesan was just as proud to share photos of his trio of shih tzus when I inquired. They were so adorable, we almost asked for a photo to share. But we digress. As the dining room begins to fill, we go over our remaining questions below.

Read our first part with Abesan over here.
Then wrap up the interview below . . . .

Tell us about your time working at the Japanese Consulate.
It was tough getting used to the new environment, especially the cold weather in Alaska. The position was relatively straightforward, dealing with large parties of international dignitaries and VIPs. It was during this time that I first met my wife [Editor's Note: She was a restaurant waitress. They would drink at the bar after work.]

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On the Line: Takashi Abe of Bluefin, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings

Depending on our schedules, we prefer to meet with our subjects and go over their responses. It doesn't always happen, but the case of Abesan at Bluefin-- I'm thankful it did. Spending time with a subject brings out a side of their personality that we won't see in their responses. You can learn about what he shared in Tuesday's installment. Today, Takashi Abe discusses his love of simple, comfort food.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Network of chefs who are genuinely interested in supporting each other. These are exciting times in OC, where the level of talent and innovation is on the rise.

Your best recent food find:
Steamed pork wrapped with lettuce from Ye Dang Korean Restaurant in Tustin [Editor's Note: It was also his most recent meal.]

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On the Line: Victor Avila of Spaghettini, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Working his way to the top

There is something about each chef I interview that makes them special. In the case of Victor, I found two: The fact that I met another individual who prefers paper (over electronic) organizers. And that he will spend his Thanksgiving feeding those less fortunate.

Read the first part of my interview with Victor over at this link.
Then continue along below . . .

Did you always plan on becoming a chef?
I always knew I wanted to work with food.

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On the Line: Victor Avila of Spaghettini, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Showing us how it's done

Spaghettini is one of those places I've always driven by on the freeway, but never got around to visiting. Best known for a long-standing Sunday jazz brunch, they've collaborated with musician Dave Koz and Chef Scott Howard to launch a sister space in Beverly Hills in the not-so-distant future. However, my interest remains locally, and Victor Avila clues me in on what makes their kitchen run so smoothly.

Let's go over all the different responsibilities you held at Spaghettini.
I started as a dishwasher at 16, then worked as a prep cook, line cook, lead grill man, sous chef and eventually executive chef.

Why do you think so many managers, servers and kitchen staff remain with Spaghettini for so many years?
Spaghettini has always had an atmosphere of fun and family. The owners are very supportive, and we make it a priority to make every employee feel welcome.

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On the Line: Carlos Anthony of Taco Asylum, Part Two

Photo by Duc Duong
Let's discuss that fountain of youth

Carlos Anthony's attitude towards his cuisine is deeply rooted in family tradition, something I'm sure his grandmother is proud of. After all, she is the inspiration for many of his ideas. Keeping a positive attitude (and knowing how to precisely soft poach an egg) are two valuable talents Anthony possesses, but today his skill set includes responding to our rapid fire round.

Catch up with our time with Carlos in yesterday's intro over here.
Then continue getting to know him down below. . .

When you're not in the kitchen, what are you doing?
"Not in the kitchen"? I don't know what that means (laughs). I'm never not in the kitchen.

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