Some of the Greatest Chefs in the World are found in Orange County, California.
What food is your guilty pleasure?
Homemade soup. So comforting.
Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to eat?
I don’t like snails, or insects. At all.
Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
Pasta with fresh tomatoes and cheese.
Your worst kitchen nightmare?
Cutting my finger, bleeding profusely and passing out in front of our team.
Best cooking tip for a novice?
Practice your knife skills beforehand.
What’s your last meal on earth?
Give us one reason why Orange County’s food scene rocks.
It presents a great variety of food from places all over the world.
What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
Romantic songs. They give me good memories and vibes.
If you could cook for anyone who would it be?
My parents, who unfortunately passed away.
What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a customer?
A request from a couple to cook at their home for their anniversary. It was the day before and they had no ideas what they wanted.
What’s the best part about being a chef?
Being able to express my creativity through my food.
What’s the most challenging part of being a chef?
Not spending enough time with my family.
Restaurant: Taps Fish House & Brewery, Brea | Restaurant Website
What is your first food memory?
My first food memory was being a child and helping my mom cook and I burned myself. It scared me from cooking….just for a little while.
Did you grow up in a cooking family?
Yes. Cooking was an honored family tradition and important to my Mom to teach me.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
Definitely my time in Las Vegas. I was young and impressionable and had the good fortune to work in the Spago kitchen. Wolfgang Puck’s passion and focus on all the details was the best teaching environment in the world.
Why did you become a chef?
It’s been a lifelong passion since I was a kid.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor, but that sort of education was beyond my reach financially.
Which seasonings don’t you respect?
Which spices are underrated?
Saffron and Za’atar.
Are there any culinary trends you like right now?
Yes—food trucks because it can combine creative, great food done fast and be enjoyed be a wide audience.
Any trends you consider overrated?
Food that is so spicy it blows out all the flavors and is almost inedible.
What do you think is the next worthwhile food/dining trend?
Vegan food for sure.
Chef Nelson Barillas