Saturday, May 26, 2012

On the Line: Anne Marie Panoringan, Part One

I'm neither a chef nor restaurant owner. However, I did graduate from the hotel & restaurant management program at Cal Poly Pomona. I've worked for Disney, Nordstrom, and a couple of financial services companies. These days, I divide my time between a government job, OC Weekly food writing, TaskRabbit gigs and CorePower Yoga. 

I spend a great deal of time typing up chef interviews for the weekly blog and print series, On the Line. I don't copy and paste anything, because my junior high and high school typing classes would go to waste. With just about 60 subjects covered, I thought it would be amusing to turn the questions on myself. Granted, I'm not savvy in the kitchen. I cook simple things and love following recipes. This is how I would answer the chef questionnaire. (Note: I'm tired of typing right now, since my current subject wrote a novella. So how do I blow off steam? More typing....)

One of my favorite things - the OC Burger at Burger Parlor
Part One

Your earliest food memory:
Searching for Del Monte chocolate pudding cups (the kind where you pull on the ring) in my grandparent’s cupboards. They would hide them in the back with the pots and pans.

Favorite meal growing up:
Fried rice made with with eggs, soy sauce and whatever breakfast meats I can find.

Your best recent food find (from where?):
Cookie Monster ice cream from Lola’s in Huntington Beach. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Most undervalued ingredient:
Nuts. They add texture and another layer of complexity to dishes.

How did you join the food blog team?
I randomly met Gustavo at his chica’s store, The Road Less Traveled. He was covering for her, and I had always wanted to check the space out. I only recognized him from a YouTube video he did where he dissed Taco Bell food. We started talking, and friended each other on Facebook.

Fast forward how ever many months, and I receive a message right around my birthday from him saying that they had extra money in the budget. He asked if I would be interested in being part of the team. I was surprised he even remembered my blog. It was a no-brainer.

How did the chef interviews come about?
I originally started writing something called Food Profiling, where I interviewed chefs who created food, but didn’t run a restaurant – home chefs, entrepreneurs, farmers, etc. They just had to be sans restaurant. The powers that be decided that it wasn’t doing as well as it could, so Gustavo asked me to take ownership of On The Line – make it consistent (i.e. having someone lined up every week).

It’s not always easy finding people who haven’t already been or want to be interviewed. Once I find a subject, I come up with original content (I tailor each document with some unique questions based on online research) before I can email the list. I have to make sure our art director knows so she can dispatch an intern for a photo shoot. Then it’s a matter of the chef completing their “homework” and scheduling the follow-up meeting. It never used to be this complex. Before, it was the exact same list of questions, and the team would do everything via email. However, now that it’s also in the print edition, I’m expected to draw more from my subjects. 

I found the best way is to just meet and let the conversation guide us. I record the interviews so I don't miss anything. More often than not, I’ll get some great anecdotes or observations to use in my introductions. And it’s always great to talk about food with someone who is as passionate (usually more so) as I am.

We hear your degree is in Hospitality Management.
I have a business mentality, but feel strongly about service, so this was an ideal mix of the two. I started at USF, bounced between a couple of community colleges, and wrapped up at Cal Poly Pomona. It’s an incredible, nurturing program. I had to complete 900 hours of work experience as part of my requirements. We even spent an entire quarter running our full-service establishment, The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch. I still keep in touch with alumni relations. I'm impressed that some of my professors still remember me by name. One of the managing partners at Capital Seafood graduated in the same class, and even he remembers me, even though we never hung out.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Mix of everything – between Little Saigon’s pho, foodservice industry giants who are headquartered here, and everything in between. I love how many ethnic grocery stores are within a five mile radius. And yes, I have to agree that so many chains (fast food, more upscale and celebrity) have made this their home.

What fast food do you admit to eating? Why?
I grew up on McDonalds. It’s so accessible. Filet-O-Fish sandwiches used to be a treat. It really depends on my mood. I tried a new item at Taco Bell the other day just because it piqued my curiosity.

What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
Nowadays it’s either draft beer or unsweetened iced tea. I drank wine before any other alcohol (thanks to Wine & Spirits class, where the prereq was being 21), but finally had my first Guinness a couple of years ago. I love craft brews, and am always looking at the bar menu for local ones on tap. I treat iced tea as a palate cleanser, but mainly I like it because I'm tired of drinking water.

Brekkie fan?
It’s from a Jamie Oliver cookbook. In it, he talked about wanting to open a restaurant that only served breakfast (brekkie). I loved the idea! If I was a chef, that’s what I’d focus on. Eggs, pork products, potatoes, French toast, and so forth. I can have it any time of day.

Do you watch any food-centric shows?
I used to be addicted to Food Network. Nowadays, I stick to Top Chef with the occasional Sam the Cooking Guy.

One food you can’t live without and why:
Eggs. They are the basis of so many tasty things. Sometimes I’ll make a scramble out of leftovers.

Where was your most recent meal? What did you have?
I was just having Happy Hour at Nieuport 17 in Tustin. Chicken Dijon bites, a mix of regular and sweet potato fries and a Moscow Mule.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Having your mise en place ready and cleaning as you go. Easier said than done.

Favorite interview subject:
I won’t even go there. But I’ve been fortunate that the chefs I’ve met have been very gregarious. I’veaccompanied Wing Lam in the carpool lane to conduct our Q & A. Hung out with the guys on The Viking Truck at Bootleggers Brewery and seen their entertaining interactions with customers. Listening to Bruno Serato talk about how important it is to feedhomeless children nightly was very emotional.

What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
Well, I’m one of them. The circle of friends I have who blog immerse themselves in social media. My peers are used to checking in, tweeting, and Instagraming; it’s like a ritual. Friends and co-workers used to ask me about where I dined and what I had, but I never used to photograph. It’s my way of sharing experiences, and they are entertained.

Favorite chef. Why?
Thomas Keller for obvious reasons. The man is brilliant.

Also Gary Menes. He just so happens to be my best friend’s cousin, but he has made an impact in the dining scene with his experience. Patina Group, French Laundry, and now his pop-up, LeComptoir. Gary can make me eat just about anything, especially the stuff I didn’t like growing up.

We hear you love Tasti D-Lite.
I used to follow a blogger named Michael Ausiello (he does entertainment news) who was obsessed with a number of things, Tasti being one of them. I just love the concept. When you get to the heart of the matter, it’s about people with control issues. Have things the way you want them. I’ll pay extra for that. Bananas Foster flavor rules!

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
It’s not really exotic in my opinion, but the notion of being coerced to chew on chicken feet was really disturbing at the time.

Sweet or savory?
Savory. Salty makes me happy. Sweet, not so much.

Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
I don’t have my own place, but I rarely turn down Loft Hawaiian, any good breakfast place, and dim sum.

Best meal you ever had:
Probably Per Se in NYC. I was proposed to hours before. The cuisine and service were impeccable. We got to tour the back of the house. It was an incredible evening.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
I started making fried egg sandwiches. Wow.

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