Some of the Greatest Chefs in the World are found in Orange County, California.
Chef Mike Grant
Restaurant: Coastal Kitchen | Restaurant Website
What is your first food memory?
We lived in Washington DC and my father flew F-4’s in the Air Force. He was making a cross country trip and his relatives gave him fresh Salmon from Vancouver, so he flew it home. He woke my brother and I up around midnight to eat the freshest salmon I’ve ever eaten.
Did you grow up in a cooking family?
Growing up in the South my mother did all the traditional cooking. When I graduated college, my mother retired her cooking duties. At the same time, my father’s best friend was a German chef who owned a deli and restaurant. My father really got into cooking, so I learned alongside him.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
George Biel-the founder of Hillstone Restaurant Group. He sets the standard for clean, straight forward, high-quality dishes.
Why did you become a chef?
I’ve always loved the restaurant business and have always been around great cuisine. I wanted to share my passion with our guests.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor - I graduated Florida State University with a BS in Biology and a minor in Chemistry.
If I weren’t a chef, I’d be: A pilot
Who are your favorite chefs?
Thomas Keller. Alice Waters. Wolfgang Puck. Emeril Lagasse.
Which seasonings don’t you respect?
Truffle oil. Doesn’t taste like real truffles and most are awful.
Which spices are underrated?
Vadouvan - it’s an Indian curry blend.
Hungarian paprika - it’s milder and slightly sweeter than Spanish paprika. Use it or throw away in 4 months.
Are there any culinary trends you like right now?
Gourmet tacos. Guests love them for appetizers, and the kitchen gets to have fun and be creative. We offer Filet tacos, Salmon tacos, and Tri tip tacos.
Any trends you consider overrated? Truffle fries.
What do you think is the next worthwhile food/dining trend?
I am not vegan but have recently enjoyed some amazing vegan dishes.
What food is your guilty pleasure? Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat? Liver.
Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home? Linguine and fresh clams
Your worst kitchen nightmare?
Dish washing machine goes down - No one is happy.
Best cooking tip for a novice?
Pick a recipe. Make it 10 times in 3 months to learn what small changes can create.
What’s your last meal on earth? Burger, Fries, and a Coke
Give us one reason why Orange County’s food scene rocks.
There are always more and more new restaurants opening. Also, because it’s a great place to live and is a lot less expensive to operate in than Los Angeles.
What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
Lately Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
My father. He passed away 8 years ago and is missed daily.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a customer?
A guest brought his own steak in and asked us to cook it. It looked like low-end choice cut and we refused to cook it.
What’s the best part about being a chef?
Getting to do all the R&D!
What’s the most challenging part of being a chef?
Every ingredient changes every delivery - you must keep a close eye on the quality and simply refuse delivery if it’s not up to your standards.