Q&A With George Barker, Owner of Mayfield in San Juan Capistrano

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Originally from London, Laguna Beach resident George Barker moved to O.C. to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant.

What led you to opening Mayfield?
I grew up in a family that owned restaurants. My parents opened a restaurant when I was 5. I (grew) up there, helping on Saturdays folding napkins—that kind of stuff. I worked at various fine dining restaurants, hotels, and gastropubs. My brother lived (in O.C.) two years before I did. I came out two times before coming up with the idea of opening a food truck (The Hungry Royal). I saw the food truck as a good opportunity to get a visa and look for a restaurant. I can learn how to run a small business, test things, see what it’s like in different areas of Orange County, and see if I want to commit to opening a restaurant. This has been about four years in the planning and the food truck was a step towards it.

What type of atmosphere did you want to create at Mayfield?
We wanted this to be a fun experience and a very casual experience with the food still being the best that we can deliver. There’s a bit of London, a bit of Europe, and the style of L.A. and New York where it’s light, bright, and vibrant rather than heavy wood and old furniture. We wanted it to be modern and slick and feel very open and fresh. I worked with a company called Studio Saint that originated in Washington D.C. and they built restaurants like Smyth and The Loyalist, Toki Underground, and Birdsong, a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco. I just really loved how they talked about how space should evolve over time, develop, and not grow out of fashion. I wanted a space that won’t feel dated and old in two years’ time. (For example), we went with a brown leather banquette because in 10 years’ time, that will look better than it looks today because it will age, crack, and crease. Whereas, if we went for a pink velvet one, in two years’ time, it will look out of date. 

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

How would you describe Mayfield’s food?
We call it California heart, Mediterranean soul. So, it’s taking the flavors and the ideas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East and doing it in our setting and style. We bring a different style of cooking but using these flavors and drawing (from) them. (Our) California-style approach is sourcing produce from local farms. We work really closely with The Ecology Center down the road, and go daily to pick up produce. We also shop at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

What items can people find at your on-site market?
Anything that kind of relates to eating and drinking well. Whether it’s homeware, kitchenware, natural wine, cookbooks, or food produce. I’m really interested in getting people to enjoy the flavors that we love and using flavors that aren’t necessarily your home staple ingredients whether it’s shawarma spice mix or pomegranate molasses. You can start using these flavors in your own cooking.

Tell us about your curated natural wines.
A huge focus for us is our natural wine. Our wine director Geno helps source exclusive, hard-to-find wines. A lot of these wines you can’t even find online. We buy direct from the wine producer, not from a distributor. Everything’s natural (made with organically or biodynamically farmed grapes) and very small-batch. I can tell our wine director I want a Portugeuse vinho verde and he’ll go and find 15 versions, taste them all, and find out which one’s the best for us.

How can people still support with the latest stay-at-home order?
We are open for takeout, the market is open, and we have added additional items like our curated liquor cabinet, more pantry items from Mayfield, and more homeware.

Mayfield is open for takeout Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Check instagram.com/mayfield.oc for the latest operational updates.

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