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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On the Line: Matt Meddock and Max Schlutz of Sessions Sandwiches, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
Matt & Max know their branding

As we explained earlier, Sessions is a sandwich restaurant. But in fact, they've expanded their menu to include some morning offerings like The Notorious P-I-G (Virginia ham, smoked bacon, sausage, baked eggs and Vermont cheddar on an everything bagel. What?). At dinner, try their flatbread concept of Flavor Town (meatballs, creole mustard cream, mozzarella, arugula and shaved Parmesan.). And remember to order the chips made in-house. Addictive.

Read the first part of our interview with Matt and Max over here.
Then keep the party going by continuing with our second part below.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Matt Meddock:
Being successful takes A LOT OF HARD WORK!!!
Max Schlutz: Trust your gut.

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On the Line: Matt Meddock and Max Schlutz of Sessions Sandwiches, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
Something tells us they're also interior designers

Let's be clear about this week's interview: Sessions is a sandwich RESTAURANT. Sure, sandwich is in the name. But between flatbreads, breakfast selections and salads, they are so much more. That's why it took two of the masterminds behind the coolest concept by the water to explain it all. Local boys who have their flavor profiles and customer service in check, Matt Meddock, Max Schlutz and I chill outside one afternoon to discuss our love of beer and excellent sandwich combinations. Oh, and the mayor walked by to order lunch.

Where does the name come from?
Matt Meddock
: Sessions is a common slang term used in Southern California (i.e. I'm going for surf sessions, skate sessions, snowboard sessions, etc.)

What's the difference between an East coast deli and your West coast deli?
Max Schlutz
: An East coast deli tends to celebrate quantity. Most feature menus that are 100 items long. I won't speak to them beyond that.

West coast deli represents simplicity in design, extensiveness in flavor profiles and health consciousness at its core. We are the place to refuel for the active person, the avid athlete and for those who appreciate attention to detail. Surf, skate or ski over to Sessions.

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On the Line: Roland Barrera and Joey Oehrlein of Casa, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
And the beat goes on

You know it's a team effort when Roland sends me cool cocktail videos and photos of Joey lighting things up in Casa while he's on vacation. I gave Joey the night off and had Roland cruise through the rest of the questionnaire. Looks like he's dropping hints at another venture in the works. Stay focused, Roland! You're almost done here.

I started our conversation with Roland and Joey yesterday.
But we continue with Roland in part two below . . .

What was the last spontaneous thing you did?

Purchased a ticket to New Orleans for the "Tales of the Cocktail" show last week for five days and literally just landed at LAX. Boy, oh boy, what a great time and experience. Soaking up all that French Victorian architecture, visiting 300-year-old graveyards and getting dinner and cocktails served by bartender Chris McMillian just by accident was all pretty surreal.

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On the Line: Roland Barrera and Joey Oehrlein of Casa, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Dustin Ames
Joey and Roland are ready and waiting

On the Line is more than just restaurant chefs. It's individuals with a vision. People who specialize in giving the best possible experience to their guests. Individuals who are business savvy and give exemplary service all blended together. It's subjects like Roland and Joey of a speakeasy named Casa. Roland is one of the founders, while Joey keeps clients smiling with his original concoctions.

Describe Casa to someone who's never been.
Casa is a 1940s French and Spanish inspired classic cocktail lounge that was designed to make you feel like you were just transported to your great grandfather's local lounge somewhere in France or New York.

What do you keep the capacity at?
Ideally, we would love to keep it around 45, max. It all depends which days we are working with, too. We do offer live music nightly, and some artists have larger draws than others. In most cases, we'd like to accommodate these guests as much as we can without compromising the room's intimate vibe. We do our best to gauge the room and permit entry accordingly.

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On the Line: Justin Lopez of Stonefire Grill, Part Two

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Justin's smiling because he's not sitting in traffic . . .yet.

A family guy in the non-traditional sense, Justin Lopez joined the restaurant business to make a good thing even better. His commitment to Stonefire translates to food-centric extracurricular time and travels that inspire new dishes. Here are a few more noteworthy facts about our subject.

We started our interview with Justin yesterday in part one.
And now, let's continue with part two . . .

What's your favorite childhood memory?
As a big family, we used to spend weeks of every summer and winter in June Lake, California. It's still one of my favorite places on the planet.

How do you incorporate your degrees in political science and communications to your work?
I'd like to think they come in handy every day. More than anything, both of them very simply taught me the importance of a consistent, relevant message. It's a concept that plays in my head over and over again when I'm at work.

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On the Line: Justin Lopez of Stonefire Grill, Part One

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Change is good

Stonefire Grill didn't use to be synonymous with vegan or vegetarian diets. Back in the day, it was definitely more of a meat-and-potatoes destination. Justin Lopez knew that expanding the menu to include these options would help the already successful brand continue to grow. I admit to being skeptic, but open-minded to learning more.

Updating the Stonefire menu to include healthy vegetarian options was risky. How did you convince your mother and aunt that it would pay off?
While I think industry observers would think it risky, I really didn't believe our guests would have a problem with it. more than anything, we saw it as another great opportunity to bring a sense of our kitchens to the public. It's how we all cook at home, but they (my mom and aunt) eat healthier than I do. There were lots of fun nights testing our ideas on one another and also seeing how our guests reacted to them. We recognize the need to be as inclusive as possible, and two of their sons (my brother and cousin) have gluten allergies, so these new recipes worked well on that front, too. As a company, we're committed to keeping things exciting and constantly evolving.

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