Some of the Greatest Chefs in the World are found in Orange County, California.
Chef Amy Lebrun
What is your first food memory?
Making Bisquick biscuits with my mom in my Easy Bake Oven. My mom bought the oven for me but my dad ate the biscuits. He was my guinea pig for sure. I was 4 years old and that was my way of making him happy.
Did you grow up in a cooking family?
No, but I was inspired to be a great cook based on my upbringing. Our family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so we ate affordable meals like hot dogs, mac and cheese, pan-fried ground beef with peas, etc.
I never had a taste for any of it, so I would kind of pick at my plate at home and then make my way to a friend’s house for a second dinner almost every night. My friends were of all ethnicities, so early on I was exposed to Hungarian food, Chinese food and BBQ. Things were just tastier there.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
My first culinary motivator and mentor was Julia Child. After that it was Suzanne Goin of a.o.c. in Los Angeles. She’s hyper seasonal but she has the same traditional French classicism in her blood that I do.
Why did you become a chef?
‘Cause, I was hungry! Actually, it started because I love hospitality. When you can get positive reactions from your guests or clients. Over time it turned into an even greater love for food than I had before. I love to eat!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a chef. I never deviated from that.
If I weren’t a chef, I’d be:
I never thought about it. A mom, maybe.
Who are your favorite chefs?
Other than Julia Child and Suzanne Goin, some of my other favorite chefs include Wes Avila of Guerilla Tacos, Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco, Sara Kenas of Anarchy Seafood, Dee Nguyen of Break of Dawn, Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria and Curtis Stone of Maude.
Which seasonings don’t you respect?
I love all ingredients! If you don’t love a seasoning, challenge yourself!
Which spices are underrated?
Sumac, a sour berry used in Middle Eastern food. Turmeric and Madras Curry, too. That’s a blend with curry powder, cardamom, coriander … I use Madras on a lot of things! My other love is Oaxaca chile because it’s smoky, bright and easy to incorporate in a variety of ways.
Are there any culinary trends you like right now?
I’m not good with keeping up on trends. I’m in my own world at the moment, trying to let my recent travels influence my cooking more than anything else.
What do you think is the next worthwhile food/dining trend?
I think the next trend will be a fancier take on fast-casual Mexican food, inspired by people like Wes Avila, Carlos Salgado and Enrique Olvera.
Restaurant: Lido Bottle Works | Restaurant Website
What food is your guilty pleasure?
Anything sweet! I love making all types of sweets, but especially ice cream. I could eat a gallon of ice cream right now.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
Juniper Berries. I can’t do it! I don’t like gin. Other than that, I’ll eat anything.
Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
Eggs. Fried eggs. Seriously it’s all I eat. Eggs are a very time efficient meal.
Your worst kitchen nightmare?
The printers stopped working and all of the tickets are handwritten during a busy dinner. It’s happened before. We did dinner for 400 people entirely with handwritten tickets and I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
Best cooking tip for a novice?
Bend your fingers in when you’re using a knife if you want to keep them.
What’s your last meal on earth?
Fried chicken sounds good. It would have to be with coleslaw, too, because I’m Irish. And biscuits with butter and jam. Cherry pie a la mode for dessert!
Give us one reason why Orange County’s food scene rocks.
We have a bunch of of young and very hungry, food-driven individuals up and coming. There’s so much talent and the depth chart keep growing. We have a lot to offer too as far as ingredients go and the variety of food available here.
What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
I listen to everything … dance music, bad music … we even have the bad dance moves to match. Some of our favorite bands in the Lido Bottle Works kitchen include The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Toots & The Maytals, Devo, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and early 80s hip hop.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, David Bowie and Kurt Cobain, preferably at the same dinner. I don’t know what I’d serve them particularly, but it would be a feast!
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a customer?
French Onion Soup, no onions. I took the soup and strained the onion chunks out of it. They were happy because they wanted the flavor of onions, just not the texture.
What’s the best part about being a chef?
The relationships you build with not only your staff, but your friends, family and extended family, mentors and community. I love those relationships. Also, the food! The quality of the ingredients I’m privileged to work with is hyperlocal and impeccable.
What’s the most challenging part of being a chef?
The restaurant industry is ever-changing, and you always have to roll with what’s happening in the moment while still making sure that over time you’re progressing your vision of what your cuisine is and should become.
Anything you’d like to share with the readers?
Follow your passion … and eat at Lido Bottle Works!
Just for fun, what is your favorite color?
Ocean blue, seafoam green … any of the beachy colors.