ORANGE, Calif. August 5, 2012—Lamb neck, goat curry, goose pastrami? Those might sound hard to sell but fans of Haven Gastropub in Orange and Pasadena have come to trust Chef Daniels. The menu changes often although certain items are now classics: housemade potato chips, roasted spaghetti (spaghetti squash), fried sardines, mac n’ cheese and hanger steak.
Daniels’ Taco Asylum, a fast-casual restaurant, serves multi-lingual tacos such as curried paneer, ghost chili pork, grilled octopus and just-added falafel. Craft beers on tap and in cans complement the menu.
More from Chef Daniels:
Early food memory: I watched my dad carefully garnish his tacos. He probably doesn’t realize the influence he had on me to make food taste good and look beautiful.
Life as a bartender: When I worked the front of the house, I could work a few nights a week and make the money that most people make working 5 days/40 hours.
If not a chef: I would be a writer.
A favorite cooking tool: The Smoking Gun has a special place in my heart. It’s under $100 and allows you to cold smoke anything from fish to beer.
Favorite spice: Salt. I’d argue food has taste with, and lacks any true flavor without.
Recommended ingredient source: www.terraspicecompany.com.
Pet peeve: I have a lot of them, but when it comes to the kitchen, I think fingerprints on plates are a huge one for me. I hate it. I make my team clean every plate before it goes out. I hate when I’m out somewhere, and I’ve ordered this beautiful meal with greasy fingerprints on the edge of the plate. A chef spends so much time making sure the food is perfect, and presented beautifully; it’s just horrible when the final delivery is smudged.
Life as a new father: I couldn’t be happier. My daughter is my #1 priority. She takes precedence over everything else. It makes it difficult to manage three restaurants, but somehow we get by. Our team helps us through, and we appreciate every little bit of help.
Favorite home-cooked meal: Carnitas. I make them without lard - just braising them in beer, tequila, citrus and aromatics. I keep them held in the braising liquid, and take a little out at a time for tacos or whatever else. A few minutes in the broiler makes the pork nice and crispy. That combined with my wife’s guacamole and salsa, and I’m in heaven.
Recently read: I’m reading Rant by Chuck Palahniuk at this moment. It’s not often that I read anything that isn’t related to food. It’s a good escape from reality.
Amazing food experience: One of the best experiences I’ve had recently was at Sons & Daughters www.sonsanddaughterssf.com in San Francisco. My wife and I took our daughter with us to this Michelin starred restaurant - she was 6 months old at the time - and they couldn’t have been more accommodating. The chef was also a new father, and we were seated next to the restaurant’s gardener - we had an amazing time talking about food, and eating it at the same time.
Coming next on menu: I’m working on incorporating more specials - things we just want to try out for everyone’s enjoyment. Sometimes we over-think our food, and have to return to basics. Fried green tomatoes, grilled cheese with tomato soup - anything else that my team wants to play with. We have a bounty of produce to work with in Southern CA, and when we don’t play with it, the season passes too quickly.
Linda Mensinga was editor of Culinary Trends for 15 years, now a contributing writer to Great-taste Magazine. If you have a great restaurant, recipe or food you’d like to share please send an email. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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