On the Line: Rashad Moumneh of Falasophy, Part Two

Jennifer Fedrizzi
Shiny, happy lonchera owner

Falasophy owner Rashad Moumneh and I met years ago while working with the same personal trainer. We never discussed work, but knew the other was hardworking (at least when it came to our gym sessions). Our acquaintance is a perfect example of 'it's who you know', with his mobile meals gaining momentum and my ongoing search for subjects to interview. I've been fortunate enough to meet Rashad's loving wife and son on multiple occasions, making this week's On the Line less formal and more coffeehouse casual.

Our interview with luxe lonchera owner Rashad starts here,
but the rest of his interview can be read below . . .

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Going out for Sunday lunch (more like an all-day eating activity) with my extended family. We would go into the woods in the mountains of Lebanon and barbecue. We would bring our tables and chairs, charcoal, drinks. Everything, really. I remember very well sitting under these very high pine trees, and there would be a small stream flowing right by us. The stream was very cold, so we would put watermelons and drinks in there to cool them. It was surreal.

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On the Line: Rashad Moumneh of Falasophy, Part One

Jennifer Fedrizzi
If you overthink Falasophy, you're missing the point

I thought luxe loncheras were starting to die down around here, until an acquaintance informed me he was about to launch one. Rashad's investment in Falasophy was a result of years of following a career path he wasn't particularly passionate about. His desire to provide a flavorful option to vegetarians (vegans, too!) leads us to this week's Q & A.

Why falafels and hummus?
I wanted to do a vegetarian concept because I felt that as a society, we eat too much meat. I also wanted to do something delicious that people would crave. Falafel and hummus were the perfect intersection of those two goals. Historically, falafel was invented more than a thousand years ago by the Copts of Egypt to eat during Lent. Falafel is now consumed all over the world, not necessarily because they are vegetarian, but because they taste amazing. It also helped that I knew these two items well, and honestly felt that we did not have good options for them in Southern California.

What is your beverage of choice?
Morning beverage: Turkish latte from Kean. Evenings: A good Belgian-style craft beer (which goes great with a falafel sandwich, by the way.)

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On the Line: Alan Jackson of Lemonade, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
See that smile? That's because he just opened another location.

From the time Alan Jackson was 18, he knew that cooking and restaurants would be his path. He worked his first restaurant job at Gladstone's when he was 14. Jackson spent all summer cleaning the copper boat that hung out front and washed dishes. He cooked all through college, and opened both his first restaurant, Jackson's, plus the Farm in Beverly Hills at the age of 23.

Check out the first part of our interview with Alan over here.
And then continue below with part two . . .

Tell us about your family.
My wife and business partner Heidi and I have three beautiful daughters who are all so different in their own ways. I come from a big Hollywood family: my grandfather was Alan Ladd, most known for the movie Shane; and my father is the venerable talk show host, Michael Jackson. I am deeply rooted in Los Angeles, with tons of cousins, extended family and friends. They have all supported me in my goal of being a chef and restauranteur.

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On the Line: Alan Jackson of Lemonade, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
Who's thirsty?

With the exception of their pot roast, one of the reasons I appreciate the Newport Beach outpost of Lemonade is their ability to offer a menu with many, many options under the $10 mark. We're not just talking standard fare, either. Figs with arugula and blue cheese, Voodoo Indian lentils with cauliflower and mango, even cilantro mint curry chicken are offered-- and the menu changes with the seasons. Their cafeteria concept can be found throughout Southern California, but Chef Alan Jackson saw a need on this island for his Lemonade experience.

How long does it take to prepare the hot menu (stew) items?
Our braised items take nine hours to cook. We cook all our pot roasts sous vide, which allows us to control the outcome, guaranteeing a perfect flavor.

How did you decide on the name?
Lemonade is so perfectly symbolic of Southern California. The simple word embodies a sense of light, simplicity and playfulness . . .and this one word name explains the way I think and cook food, how we serve our customers and the way we want to make people feel. While the word is nostalgic, it is also modern and timeless.

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On the Line: Koa Duncan of Stax Cookie Bar, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
Koa and cookies make the world go 'round

Hey UCI students (and cookie monsters): Stax Cookie Bar is hiring! They will be accepting applications this Thursday and Friday and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Stop by 4255 Campus Drive, Suite 250 (above 24 Hour Fitness) to be considered.

Read the first part of our interview with Koa over here.
And now, let's continue with part two below . . .

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Trust your instincts. Listen to what they tell you, in any situation, anywhere.

When you're not in the cookie bar, what are you doing in your free time?
I love gardening with my daughter, collecting antiques and tending to my Etsy store, CakeBoxVintage.

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On the Line: Koa Duncan of Stax Cookie Bar, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
The new dessert gatekeeper

I'm having difficulty typing up this week's interview, because each time I start to elaborate on the work pastry chef Koa Duncan does I get a grumbly in my tummy. They may not be open until later this month, but fresh baked cookies make for excellent bookends around quality ice cream. You may need to fix up a sandwich before reading up on Stax, Duncan and her desserts. Ugh, and those hunger pangs strike again . . .

Where are you located exactly, and when do you hope to open by?
Stax Cookie Bar is located in University Center across from UC Irvine, and we'll be open at the end of September. It's an exciting time at the center with Eureka! also opening soon. We think this is a great combination, and can easily be reached from Irvine and Newport Beach.

How often will you rotate flavors? Will there be gluten-free options?
We will rotate the cookie selections often. Of course, we will have the standards every day, but the fun, more exotic cookies will change all the time. We will offer about 16 cookie flavors daily, and we'll always have at least two to three gluten-free and vegan options every day. All of our cookies are made with 100% organic flour (or gluten-free flour), and we feel this is a big point of separation from us and our competitors.

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On the Line: Rosa Heidler Of Fusion Bites, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Chef Rosa Heidler.

Our conversation with Rosa began yesterday, but you can catch up by looking here.
And now, let's wrap up our interview with part two below . . .

Did you always know you wanted to be a chef? Did you study anything else in school?
I didn't know that I wanted to be a chef, but I knew that I wanted to own a restaurant as early as the age of 13. I wish I started out younger as a chef, but unfortunately, I started put later than most. Before culinary school, I was a floral designer; I owned a retail flower store for six years. Floral design and cooking goes hand in hand, a lot of creativity goes into both.

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On the Line: Rosa Heidler Of Fusion Bites, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Chef Rosa Heidler

It is always a pleasure to interview a female chef, because the opportunity doesn't come around often enough. This week, we learn more about an establishment inside the Ayres Hotel in Fountain Valley. Not your typical dining space, her creative touch breathes new life into the term Asian fusion.

How did you select Fountain Valley?
I felt the city of Fountain Valley was a great, centered location in Orange County. I also happened to stumble upon an ad on Craigslist. The Ayres Hotel was looking for an Asian fusion restaurant to lease their space. I presented them my menu, as well as concept ideas. In the end, they chose me to open up in their brand new hotel.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Yuzu. It is a Japanese citrus that has such a unique, yet complex taste. It can enhance any dish and take it to a new level. I wish it was more available in grocery stores.

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On the Line: Christopher Tzorin of Tortilla Republic, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy Alan de Herrera
With a prime spot along Laguna Beach's main drag, Tortilla Republic's modern cuisine blends well with Christopher Tzorin's culinary background. Today we discuss fatherhood and his other artistic talent.

Read the first part of our interview with Chris over here.
Now let's learn more about our local boy below.

There's a split opinion between attending culinary school and having real life experience. What made you decide on doing formal training (since you already had the experience)?
It is important to go to culinary school as it prepares you to meet the demands of a professional cooking career. You'll learn culinary techniques and management skills that will train you to work in a restaurant.

Last thing you looked up online:
Since we are expecting another child, I have been Googling how to make healthy baby food, as I would like to create my own purees to feed to my baby.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Working so much taught me how important it is to spend time with your family. My biggest priority now is to spend quality time with the people I care about.

What has fatherhood taught you, and how do you plan to apply that to your next child?
Fatherhood has taught me how to appreciate life, and the importance of family. I will make sure to be patient and understanding in every situation with my next child.

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On the Line: Christopher Tzorin of Tortilla Republic, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Alan de Herrera
Wait for it

First impressions of chefs are generally positive. While it might be a dog and pony show for me, instinct will say whether they are genuine in their demeanor and response. The first time I met Chris Tzorin, he was working alongside Pascal Olhats during a culinary competition I judged. While he hammed it up for the audience, chef's On the Line interview showed there's a history of hard work behind that smile.

Your earliest food memory:
My father, Luis Tzorin, was the executive chef at 21 Oceanfront in Newport Beach, and he taught me how to peel potatoes when I was five years old. It was my first great experience in the kitchen.

Tell us about working with your father.
Working with my father was very special, because my first experience in the kitchen was with him. He initially taught me how to prepare food, which is when I fell in love with cooking. I wasn't allowed to call him dad in the kitchen, so I called him chef or his nickname "Chicko." He expected so much from me, which was very difficult at the time. But he taught me to set high standards for myself, and molded me into who I am today.

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