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.

More »

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.

More »

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.

More »

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

Photo by Duc Duong
He may be sitting still, but that mind is working overtime.

A change in leadership prompted additional updates in this Costa Mesa kitchen, best known for some crazy stuffing ideas in their tortillas. I drop by the asylum early in the week, as Carlos Anthony divides his expertise between here and a San Diego spot. Hard-working and ambitious, it's no wonder Capricorn Carlos is a perfect fit for the industry.

How do you handle executive chef duties at two establishments?
It's no question that running one kitchen is a large undertaking, let alone two. However, to run any kitchen you need an amazing team. I am lucky enough to have some really talented and driven people working under me. I wouldn't be where I am today without Natalie Tyler and Sam Masucci, my sous chefs, not to mention the countless other line cooks, dishwashers and prep cooks that help steer the ship. I think what we all share in common is a passion for cooking, and that helps drive us through the hardest obstacles.

Tell us about your first restaurant job.
At the tender age of 15, I started tossing pizzas at the local pizza joint. I immediately fell in love with the thrill and pace of working on the line. I felt so comfortable in the kitchen, which is not a big surprise, since I was raised in a Hispanic family, helping my mother and grandmother in the kitchen from a very young age.

More »

On the Line: John Cuevas of Waterman's Harbor, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Community Driven Hospitality
Winning over locals, one concept at a time.

Our Imperial Beach transplant discusses food, manual labor and normal dad stuff as we wrap up this week's installment.

Read the first part of our time with Chef Cuevas over here.
When you're ready, you can finish up below. . . .

Let's talk about growing up in the kitchen of your mother's bistro.
It was a family-run business, and I looked at it as an expectation and not an option. I saw my mom work all day, every day, and it just didn't seem right to not be there to support her. I loved it and hated it at the same time. This was a great life lesson for me, and where my strong work ethic came from.

More »

On the Line: John Cuevas of Waterman's Harbor, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Community Driven Hospitality

A chef tasked to helm a kitchen is tough work. So when I learned John Cuevas oversees three, I almost felt bad for the man. Yet he is in good spirits when we finally sit down on a hectic Saturday evening to go over his responses.

You could've opened Waterman's anywhere. Why Dana Point Harbor?
There is no other place like it, and we've opened something that didn't exist. It's quality, fresh, amazing views and warm service.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
We're right on the ocean, and able to pull from the abundance of local seafood.

More »

On the Line: Jayne Stember of Stuft Scone, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

LP Hastings
Richard and Jayne

Before Jayne can get back to the business of baking, she's gotta complete the second part of our interrogation. What else can we possibly ask this Orange County native?

Catch up with this week's subject and click here for the first installment with Jayne!
Then keep on reading below. . .

How did you and your husband meet?
My husband, Richard, and I met on Match.com. We were married August 16, 2012. He's my champion.

Last thing you searched online:
Flights to Madrid to see my daughter graduate in December. I am also constantly looking up recipe ideas. And checking in to Facebook.

More »

On the Line: Jayne Stember of Stuft Scone, Part One

Categories: On the Line

LP Hastings
In da Hood

I revisit The Hood Kitchen for this week's installment of On the Line. Stuft Scones are Jayne Stember's specialty, with playful names like Pacific Paradise (pineapple jam with toasted coconut) and Anaheim Apple Strudel. Her professional baking career started later in life, with the support of her significant other. Find out her reasons for doing so below.

What made you decide to pursue your culinary passion so late in life?
After I graduated from OCC with my Culinary Certificate in 2006, I did catering and personal chef jobs for a while. Having the encouragement from my husband and business partner, Rich, we embarked on this venture together.

Turning 50 this year, I had some thoughtful reflection on my life and decided I'm not getting any younger. So if I'm going to give this scone business a shot, why not now? I had dreamed of selling my scones for many years, and now I'm getting the chance to live out my dream. And I don't even mind waking up at two or three in the morning to start baking. It's a truly rewarding experience.

More »

On the Line: Sheri Drewry Of Wilma's Patio, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Sitting pretty

Check out the first part of Sheri's interview over here.
Then keep reading today's installment below . . .

Hardest lesson you've learned:
That life is not fair.

More »

On the Line: Sheri Drewry Of Wilma's Patio, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
A Balboa mainstay

Researching a family-owned restaurant always uncovers a story. In the case of Wilma's Patio, it spans over 30 years on picturesque Balboa Island. Wilma passed away earlier this year, but her establishment lives on thanks to daughter Sheri, plus her kitchen and dining room family.

How long have you been in business?
We have been in business since September 1982; we just had our 32nd anniversary!

Why did the restaurant move in 1997?
Because of a lawsuit for ADA (Americans Disability Act) we were too small too correct space issues. Plus, our clientele had grown. So we "grew up" into a larger space.

More »