On the Line: Laurent Vrignaud of Moulin Bistro, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy Moulin Bistro

On opening day, I visited Moulin Bistro with friends for dessert. We were the only non-French people there. From the vibe to the cuisine, Moulin felt as authentic as any cafe I strolled passed last year. It was no surprise when Laurent announced plans to expand the space. They appear to be on schedule with the build-out, so what better time to question the self-proclaimed rookie restauranteur than the present.

Why did you create Moulin?
I grew up in Montmartre, a very down-to-earth district in Paris, and moved to California to surf when I was 18. During the next 30 years (while I was in the action sports business), I always told people that I was going to open a traditional bistro like the ones I missed back home. I wanted it to be full of big display cases packed with beautiful foods, just like places I would pass by when I walked home from school as a kid. But really, I just wanted to create a French man cave for my friends and I to hang out.

More »

On the Line: 85°C Bakery Cafe, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Who's hungry?

I kicked off yesterday's 85°C Bakery Cafe interview with a joint effort from some of my favorite bakers. Today, I squeeze in just a few more questions. This week's subject rolls in the dough wherever they open, upping the ante on crafting pastries and coffee to the masses.

Check out the first part of our unique interview over here.
We wrap up with a few more questions below. . . .

How did the name of your bakery come about?
85°C is the perfect serving temperature of espresso!

More »

On the Line: 85°C Bakery Cafe, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
We'll take two!

While researching another story last year, I was introduced to one of the executives from 85°C. You know, the bakery with the lines that spill out onto Irvine's Diamond Jamboree. The folks with the sea salt coffee. Those people. When we eventually got in touch, I was at a loss for questions. Not being my typical chef post, I reached out for help. So to assist with this week's interview, I want to thank bakers (and former On the Line subjects) Jonathan Eng, Dean Kim and Tarit Tanjasiri for allowing me to pick their brains for ideas.

Is your growth in the US faster than your Asian market, and is it vastly different?
85°C has over 745 locations in Taiwan, China, Australia, Hong Kong and the United States. Mainly, it is more concentrated in Asia. However, the U.S. market for 85°C is staying competitive, as we have just started our expansion in recent years.

How many stores and employees do you have in California?
We currently have 15 stores in Southern and Northern California. Approximately 1,500 employees.

More »

On the Line: Raj Dixit And Michael Mina Of Stonehill Tavern, Part Two

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Taking a moment

After a whirlwind day of discussing, learning about and dining on local cuisine, both chefs were still game to put on their whites back at Stonehill Tavern. A chef with 26 concepts (and counting) across the country, it is no surprise that Michael Mina was just nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restauranteur. Our final installment focuses on Mina's family values and his devotion to his craft.

Don't forget to check out the first part of our interview, featuring Stonehill Tavern's very own Raj Dixit. That can be found over here.
When you're ready . . .Michael's responses are below.

Let's talk about being a 15-year-old Garde Manager in a French restaurant. What was so intriguing about the restaurant industry?
Seeing guests interact with one another over food was so fascinating for me. The fact they could be so moved by a dining experience I had helped to create was incredible. I've built my career on continuing to provide that exceptional experience for guests. I crave that ability to help others create lasting memories together over a meal.

What made you select Orange County/Dana Point for Stonehill Tavern?
The St. Regis brand is known for providing a bespoke experience for their guests. When the opportunity arose, we felt like it was a perfect fit for our philosophy on superior guest service.

More »

On the Line: Raj Dixit And Michael Mina Of Stonehill Tavern, Part One

Photo by Jennifer Fedrizzi
Staring contest

The opportunity to interview is always a pleasure, but to be invited to spend the day with a subject is another story-- especially when it involves an establishment I already enjoy dining at. I joined Executive Chef Raj Dixit and Michael Mina at the Santa Monica farmers market for a tour and lunch one recent morning. While there was still shop talk on the drive up, having the two outside of a kitchen made for a relaxed atmosphere.

This week, we divide up the interview between both chefs. Today's installment features Stonehill Tavern's main man. I saved Mina's responses for tomorrow.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
Chefs have egos! You're only as good as your last plate and meal.

More »

On the Line: Konstantine Marougas Of El Amerikano, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
He's thinking about the beach

I get a dose of humor in today's installment with Chef Konstantine. Plus we learn what he really thinks of customer requests. There's still more to learn, so what are you waiting for?

I bet you haven't read part one yet, so check it out here.
Chef's interview only gets better below. . . .

Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I was a competitive Greek dancer for 12 years! I started when I was 12, and competed until I was 24. After I stopped, I still managed events. But after Kentro opened, there was no time for that.

Hardest lesson you've learned.
Never take your eye off the knife. Trust me, it hurts.

More »

On the Line: Konstantine Marougas Of El Amerikano, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo by LP Hastings
Time to get cooking

A year ago, I spotted a new establishment in downtown Fullerton while en route to a chef interview. Owned by the same group that handles Kentro Greek Kitchen, I finally sat down with the team that bounces between the thriving concepts-- specifically, Chef Konstantine Marougas.

How would you describe the cuisine of El Amerikano?
It's a fun American kitchen with a Latin flair.

How do you balance overseeing the kitchens of both Kentro and El Amerikano?
We spent a lot of time putting systems and great management in place at Kentro, so by the time El Amerikano opened, that restaurant was pretty solid. I have been devoting most of my time to El Amerikano, but because both restaurants are so close (50-feet, door-to-door) I can always check in on the other, regardless of where I am.

More »

On the Line: Cole Carson Of Thrive Juice Lab, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy Thrive Juice Lab
He never did tell us how old he is

Getting to know our OtL subjects is one of the best parts of this job. I may not always get to speak to them in person, but I learn so much about someone by the way they respond to our questions. We find out more about our south county subject in today's installment.

Read the first part of Cole's interview by clicking over here.
And when you're ready for more, just continue below . . .

Hardest lesson you've learned:
You can't always wait for an opportunity to arise; you have to make your own opportunities.

Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I play a pretty mean game of 8-ball. Billiards was my elective class of choice at the University of Oregon.

More »

On the Line: Cole Carson Of Thrive Juice Lab, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy Thrive Juice Lab
Green is good

Business owners run all types of foodservice establishments. This quarter alone, I've interviewed a chocolatier, butcher and BBQ champ. So when Cole Carson reached out for an interview, I was happy to learn more about Thrive.

What differentiates Thrive from other juice concepts?
Thrive is different from other juice concepts out there for a number of reasons. We cold-press on location every day. Many juice bars cold-press in a commercial kitchen sometimes hundreds of miles away and ship their juices. Our juice is raw and unpasteurized. Everything we carry is vegan, non-GMO, organic and gluten-free. Thrive sources all organic ingredients for all of our products, top to bottom.

We have an extensive list of detoxifying 'Superfoods' that we include in our smoothies and our specialty cleanse program, that was created with the help of certified nutritionists. For a healthy fix, we offer various wellness shots, including our 'Carbon Cleanser' (activated charcoal, cold-pressed lemon, alkaline water, maple syrup). 'E3Live' (blue-green algae), and cold--pressed lemon, ginger and cayenne.

Our menu has an extensive offering of everything from organic superfood smoothies to our Thrive acai bowl, pitaya boal, freshly made organic soups and salads, and all organic coffee and loose leaf teas. Last, but not least, we have a beautiful open-air ceiling space with both indoor and outdoor seating where we offer free wifi and great tunes playing at all times.

More »

On the Line: Michael Puglisi of Electric City Butcher, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Anne Watson
This is how he feels before his commute home

The second part of my interview is always telling, since I inquire about their life outside of the workplace. Learning about Michael's family and expectations of others make for excellent reading, as he manages to express a great deal in few words.

Read the first part of our interview with Michael over here!
We wrap things up below . . .

Let's talk about growing up in a Sicilian family steeped in culinary traditions.
My family owns a restaurant and restaurant supply company. My father had the first pizza delivery company in the tri-state area. I saw the hours and true dedication that was required just to survive in this industry, and it led me to attempt a very different career path at a young age.

More »