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.

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

Categories: On the Line

Photo by Anne Watson
Focused much?

I interview restaurant chefs for the most part. But sometimes, I go off on a tangent and get to know another aspect of the industry. Located at 4th Street Market, Michael Puglisi's Electric City Butcher is teaching folks about meat. Like a modern-day Sam from The Brady Bunch, but with more of a backstory.

Could you elaborate on your "wholistic" approach to butchery, and how it differs from a traditional one?
There are several different understandings of "wholistic", and all are radically different from traditional butcher shops. My approach centers upon respecting the whole product given directly to me from the rancher that raised it. I respect his work by not purchasing cuts, but rather purchasing whole animals from him and utilizing that animal from snout to tail in various applications, whether raw, cooked or cured.

Most undervalued cut of meat:
The neck. Braised neck is more tender and unctuous than any other cut.

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On the Line: Charlie McKenna of Lillie's Q, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Lillie's Q
Ready to 'cue
I continue my interview with Lillie's Q founder and Chef Charlie McKenna. Our subject not only spends time cooking meat, he enjoys the hunt. Get to know the military brat below.

Where did you grow up?
I'm a military brat and was actually born in California at Vandenberg Air Force Base. My family roots are South Carolina, and I've lived there as well as Florida and Bucktown, Chicago, Illinois. When in California, I stay in Yorba Linda.

Hardest lesson you've learned:
Being able to trust people.

Last song playing on your radio.
Pearl Jam's "Porch."

Do you have any skills that aren't related to food?
I'm an avid hunter with a bow and gun. Growing up, I used to go bow hunting with my father for deer, boar, duck, doves, antelope and pheasants. I loved being in nature and enjoying time with my father.

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On the Line: Charlie McKenna of Lillie's Q, Part One

Photo courtesy of Lillie's Q
Grill 'em up!
Pairing award-winning 'que with local brews is a no-brainer. So when Charlie McKenna and Joe Manzella joined forces to launch Lillie's Q next door to TAPS in Brea, it only made sense. This week, we hear from the man whose resume includes Chicago's Tru and operating his own luxe lonchera. Talk about a range in talent.

Why cook with both wood and charcoal?
So that I can impart the right smoke flavor to the meat, and not overpower it. I believe smoke is a flavoring agent, like spices and herbs, and should be used to enhance the piece of meat you're smoking. Not dominate the flavor profile.

Explain the meaning behind your restaurant's name.
It is named after my 88-year-old grandmother who gave me the inspiration to begin cooking and focusing on Southern food and culture.

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On the Line: Kai Robison of MRK|Public, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of MRK|Public
Kai, Rayne and Moriah: Just hanging around

Kai was the designated spokesman this week, as he clued me in on all things MRK. Today we address the clicking and stress of being restauranteurs.

We started the conversation with Kai yesterday over here.
And we wrap things up below.

When you're not at work, what are you doing?
All three of us are surfers, so we are usually trying to get waves. Rayne and Moriah both have kids, so they have full-time jobs outside of the restaurant.

Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
I've always been a creative type. I do a lot of drawing and mixed media artwork. Rayne is a good artist as well and the MacGyver of the group. He is always making things work that I would never have thought of. Moriah is an awesome athlete. The guy is good at whatever he tries.

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On the Line: Kai Robison of MRK|Public, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of MRK|Public
Three times the work ethic

Friends, co-workers, business owners. Brothers Kai and Moriah Robison and Rayne Frey collaborated to open MRK|Public last year. An approachable spot for locals, they have a fan in previousOn the Line subject Jeff Clinard. Kai fills us in on how things got started.

Please explain your concept, and how you chose it.
Well, originally we had started with the concept of doing a really small, hot sandwich shop with chef-inspired flavors. As we were looking for a location, we found that the old Love Burger (a divey, local favorite for 30 years) was available. We snatched it up and realized this space had potential to be a bigger concept. So we took everything we love: craft beer, good wine, flavor-forward food and casual/modern atmosphere to create a gastropub.

$5 craft beer-- What?!?!
The $5 beer thing was an idea that our cousin/beer buyer/Saint Archer rep, Nathan Squillace, had. Having the beer at an affordable price all the time encourages people to try a wider range of styles, and makes it so there is no need to have deals or happy hour at any time. It's a deal every day.

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On the Line: Marc Johnson Of Oak Grill, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Oak Grill
Daydreaming about his next tee time

Part two is where we learn a little fact we otherwise wouldn't know about our featured subject. Whether it's about their childhood or hobbies, I usually stumble across some insight that causes me to respect them even more. In the case of Marc Johnson, I get the story behind his nickname, Moki.

I always prefer that you begin at the beginning, which means clicking here for part one.
Then you can power through the second part with ease.

We saw you studied to be a sculptor in school. What changed your mind and caused you to be a chef?
I have always loved working with my hands, and when I didn't get into business school I decided to go the art route. It gave me a sense of freedom. I couldn't paint or draw, but I was good at sculpting. It was sort of a natural fit, because as a chef, you are kind of a sculptor as well. Also, at the time, Moki's Open Kitchen was in full swing, and I was really able to imagine a future on the culinary side, so I opted to go that direction instead.

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On the Line: Marc Johnson Of Oak Grill, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Oak Grill
Speak softly and carry a big fish

I was a fan of Marc Johnson from my first meal at Oak Grill. The revamped culinary destination at The Island Hotel was memorable enough to make my Top Five last year. Don't let his youthfulness deceive you-- there's a love of cooking that sparked a successful concept in college.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
These days, with TV shows like Hell's Kitchen, people tend to think that all chefs yell and scream at their staff, which is just completely not true.

How did you father influence your love of cooking?
I grew up with my dad doing the cooking. Our weekly food schedule included salmon, pasta and (my favorite) tri-tip with baked potato and asparagus. He was always in the kitchen, which really gave the two of us a chance to bond. He used to say, "If you buy good stuff, the food will turn out good." My dad, in turn, got his cooking bug from his grandmother. It's funny, because on my dad's side all of the men and women were in the kitchen. It was the opposite on my mom's side.

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On the Line: Jo-Jo Doyle Of Honda Center, Part Two

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Honda Center
He knows how to play the blues

The first part of an interview is typically my favorite. However, Jo-Jo's responses to part two included some memorable details. From how he met his wife to his hardest lesson learned, I appreciated his candidness. If you read all the way through, you'll know what I mean.

If you prefer to begin at the beginning, then click over here for part one.
Then continue from this point for more on Chef Doyle.

Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
I play the blues harp, a.k.a. the blues harmonica.

What turns you on: creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I love being surrounded by other creative people. It allows me to bounce ideas off of them and take the creative process to a whole new level.

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On the Line: Jo-Jo Doyle Of Honda Center, Part One

Categories: On the Line

Photo courtesy of Honda Center
After this, he's having an Oreo break.

Running a restaurant kitchen is tough work, but to be Jo-Jo Doyle takes it to a whole other level. Responsible for the operation of 3 restaurants, 24 concession stands and 88 suites inside Anaheim's Honda Center, Jo-Jo launched multiple concepts this past year to meet the changing needs of concert and hockey fans. Fortunately, he carved out some time to complete our questionnaire.

Tell us a little about your Southern and Creole influences.
Growing up in the South means that we always used the freshest ingredients possible. We believed in farm-to-fork before it became a popular model. I remember using fresh fish that we caught that day, and vegetables from our own garden to create home cooked meals. Creole food is a blend of whatever tastes good, regardless of boundaries, and I like to apply the same philosophy to my cooking.

Some items on the Honda Center menus that have been influenced by my background include a Louisville original, The Hot Brown, served in Standing 'O'. Also, the sauce on the Mahogany Wings in the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Club is a traditional sauce you would find on shrimp dishes in New Orleans.

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