Marc Cohen

The man behind 230 Forest, Opah, and Watermarc carves out time to cook at home with his wife and kids

There’s a promise chefs make to themselves at least once in their careers: Cook what you know, and they will come. It’s a saying dear to Cohen’s heart. As a Maryland native, he grew up with an abundance of fresh seafood. Now that he calls Mission Viejo home, Cohen still cooks what he knows—and with aplomb. All four restaurants in his Orange County empire—Watermarc, 230 Forest, and the two Opahs—offer menus centered around seafood. It’s the same story at home, where wife Michelle and their kids are known to whip up bouillabaisse. “I really like teaching and educating younger  cooks,” he says. “It’s one of the things I enjoy about running a kitchen.”

Cohen’s kids are well versed in the language of cuisine. “Each has an apron with their name on the front. They love to make bouillabaisse with some mussels and clams. It’s probably their favorite dinner.”

“My kids don’t have to like everything they eat, but they have to try everything,” Cohen says of Sydney, 10, Emma, 9, and Jacob, 13, above, with Michelle.

“I’m from Baltimore, so Old Bay Seasoning goes with me everywhere I go. There are 25-pound bags in every restaurant I own.”

“When I plate, I like white dishes. I really think the ingredients should speak for themselves. At home, I usually set it up family-style, with larger platters so the kids can help themselves.”

Cohen also makes his own seasoning rub at home. “I always make a special mix of kosher salt, cracked black pepper, toasted garlic, and maybe a little Old Bay. It’s an all-purpose rub we use on everything—fish, chicken, meat, and vegetables. I just used it on Chilean sea bass.”

“If I could cook dinner for anyone in the world, it would have to be my father. He passed when I was a teen and he didn’t have the opportunity to see or taste my food.”

Running all of those restaurants, Cohen rarely has a chance to relax. But when he does, it’s all about the pomegranate margaritas. “We use a little POM juice in them. But for the kids, we’ll make blueberry-pineapple smoothies.”


230 Forest Avenue

Opah Restaurant and Bar


 by Cynthia Furey / photographs by Ethan Pines

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue.

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