How would you sum up your experience over the past year?
Challenging, yet inspiring. I feel like I’ve been prepared to do this my whole life even though you’d think that experiencing a pandemic is something you can’t prepare for. Being in this business for over 35 years and having traveled to several locations in the U.S. and to Mexico City, I’ve always been forced out of my comfort zone. When I was in Mexico City, I had to deal with H1N1, where we shut down for almost six weeks. I’ve had to just persevere and overcome challenges—that’s what the restaurant industry is all about. I had a mentor who used to say, “Adversity is the motherhood of invention.” I’ve been able to reinvent myself and lift this restaurant on my shoulders because it’s been such a challenging time.
What were some of the changes you made to adapt to shifting guidelines?
We had to create menus that were competitive to every restaurant in O.C. We created different tiers and prix fixe packages with two, three, or four courses. We gave people an opportunity to think of us in a different way and enticed new people that never even heard of us before. As bad as this pandemic was for everybody and it was horrific for us, I was able to find new clientele and people who were excited to find out who we were once we (reopened). We also did this marketplace every second Saturday of each month and featured all of our products at a 60 percent discount. We wanted people to know that you could get these products which are better than your local butcher or favorite market at a competitive price if not better. We offered things like Jidori chicken and our own house spice rub. When we had holidays like Mother’s Day or Easter, we created these family package dinners like beef Wellington for two, seafood platters, braised short ribs, and buttermilk-marinated fried chicken. We were just constantly throwing every opportunity out there for everyone to think of us.
How did the local community show their support?
The Brea community is a really tight-knit community. There’s a sense of family here. Right from the beginning, we were flooded with people. That core group has literally kept the lights on for us through all of these marketplace events and special menus. They spread the word to all their friends and family. I feel endeared to these people.
Tell us about your outdoor dining area.
We transformed our courtyard into a beautiful steakhouse experience. It has market lights and has a very European feel to it.
What are you looking forward to post-pandemic?
I’m really just focusing on what I can do to generate revenue, keep the staff inspired, and give them job stability and faith. I like to say to my inner core of staff that this is their last job. This is a place that they can rely on for the rest of their lives. That’s my immediate goal. In the future, I just want to keep building on what we have.
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