What are your favorite O.C. restaurants (aside from yours)?
Anjin, in Costa Mesa, is a Japanese barbecue spot. For antipasti and pizza, it’s Trenta Pizza and Cucina. Two Italian guys own it and make a 30-inch pizza.
Who was your biggest influence?
I appreciate that working with Florent Marneau introduced me to a different style of French cooking. Watching Anthony Bourdain also—seeing him go to places and eat dishes I’d never seen before.
Do you have a secret talent?
I play the guitar, primarily an electric Gretsch … good old-fashioned rock and roll. Right now, it’s lots of Van Halen because my son is interested.
What’s your dream project?
Opening Populaire. It took almost 30 years of cooking.
Verdant, the restaurant at the Orange County Museum of Art. It’s very vegetable forward, which I love doing. We’ll pull in from the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia; they have all these great sauces that are big and bright and bold and highlight the vegetables as well. I’m using miso to add some umami and depth to the dishes. And there will be a full cocktail program there.