Get in Line if You “Wanna Spoon”
June 6, 2011
Writer: Kristal Docter
Remember the days of drive-ins (not drive-thrus), where you placed your order for that strawberry shake, burger and fries, and then headed to your car for an impromptu picnic? This convenient concept has been modernized by today’s food truck mania,
which is making it even easier to taste the wonders of the world, bringing the clever trucks to our neighborhood streets. These contemporary meals on wheels offer specialized focused conceptualizations for everyone – whether you want to see how many dishes can be made with bacon or you want to try traditional Indian food without having to make the 30-hour flight, food trucks are enabling the masses to taste delicious, clever food from talented chefs at affordable costs. I had the pleasure of participating in a tasting preview of the food from the hottest food truck Orange County has yet to see: Chef Joe Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon. (Coming in July!)
Joined by my friend and famous Southern California foodie Bobby Navarro of 100eats100days, we made the trek to Tustin, ready to indulge in a private preview of Chef Joe Youkhan’s Italian inspired, global comfort-style treats for his new food truck Tasting Spoon, coming to Orange County this summer.
I met Chef Joe Youkhan tasting ribs at Costa Mesa’s Beach Pit BBQ. Chef Joe Youkhan has been brought into the Beach Pit family of restaurants to take their comfort food menu to a new level. That’s what you might say Chef Joe Youkhan’s food is known for: bold flavors, memorable and craveable guilty pleasures, elevated by a culinary artist’s delicate touch. He is the creator of Beach Pit’s new tasty and tangy California Gold Mustard Sauce (which is excellent on their brisket sliders!), and certainly knows how to mop some mean ribs, but that’s just the tip of his talents.
Practically born in the kitchen, Chef Joe Youkhan says cooking is the only thing he has ever known. You will instantly be drawn to the passion that runs through him for his love of everything culinary. His father is a chef in New York, and when Chef Joe Youkhan returns to his roots today, he walks off the plane while tying on his apron, and spends his entire stay in the kitchen with his family. Rather than pay for expensive formal training, Chef Joe Youkhan says he lived in bookstores and libraries where he engrossed himself in reading culinary books. His early mentors were surprised and impressed by his dedication as he was the first one to arrive and always stayed two hours later to learn everything he could consume. “I was too busy cooking to ‘learn’ how to cook,” he said. After tasting his food, you will be thankful he chose the path to keep cooking.
For the past 13 years in California, he has honed his craft as a high-level executive chef for local standouts like Saratoga Grill, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, Chat Noir, Savannah Chop House, Chimayo Grill and French 75. He has received numerous culinary awards, including featured chef recognition for best chef or featured flavors in Orange County and LA three years in a row and was a Five Star Award recipient while at the Ritz-Carlton. In 2010, he broke out with his own culinary company called Chef Joe Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon. He currently caters private events for small groups and groups of up to a few thousand, and in July, he will be rolling out his already coveted food truck.
Designed by a friend who is a painter and tattoo artist, Chef Joe Youkhan’s food truck identity is captivating (much like his personality) with the tag line: “Wanna Spoon?” He’s also begun selling his popular Tuscan Garlic Spices to the public and mentioned plans to package his homemade pasta.
Food trucks have been lining the streets of OC for several months, but Chef Joe Youkhan’s culinary company is doing something different. Tasting Spoon fuses the artistry of a professional chef with global comfort food in a hip and trendy concept. So, I know what you’re thinking: let’s get on to the food already!
“I don’t think I can fit that in my mouth,” I blurted as we received our first delightful dish. A triple meat meatball and Parmigiano slider oozing with San Marzano tomato sauce and stuffed between homemade a brioche bun. I peeled back the bun just to take a look at the goodness that was sliding down the sides of this monster (and the corners of my mouth) and discovered roasted slices of garlic – heavenly.
I took a sip of Chef Joe Youkhan’s nourishing juice concoction made with muddled strawberries, lemon verbena, house-made soda and agave syrup to wash down my beastly slider before the chef arrived with our second delectable item. I don’t know about anyone else, but both Bobby and I had never seen nor heard of the next item Chef Joe Youkhan brought to the table, which was a Pizza Pinwheel stuffed with roasted chicken that had been brined, roasted artichokes, more garlic, pesto and lots of provolone cheese. It was phenomenal not only in taste but also in presentation – like a perfect little package, browned to perfection. The Tasting Spoon food truck will offer three types of pizza pinwheels, including Four Cheese, Porcine with a combination of house-made sausage, peppers and sweet potato as well as the charming and surprisingly light version we tried.
“When I eat, I want to eat something that will surprise me. My customers always know when it’s my food,” Chef Joe Youkhan said.
And rather than saving room for dessert (although Chef Youkhan mentioned a candied ginger crème brulee that sounded extraordinary), my foodie friend and I decided to dive into two more entrees just to make sure we’d tasted it all. Chef Youkhan placed the most beautifully browned lasagna – fresh out of the oven – between us. Wrapped up with Chef Youkhan’s delicate and perfectly-cooked pasta (he uses only unbleached King Arthur flour of the highest quality), this lasagna is – hands down – the best I’ve ever had. Layers of basil, Calabrian chiles (imported from Calabria, Italy), fresh garlic and more of the sweet San Marzano tomatoes blended together beautifully with a glue of a light ricotta béchamel sauce. Chef Youkhan will have market-inspired specials like this lasagna or other items like Barolo Slow Braised Short Ribs on his regular truck route.
And for those of you who can’t feel the pleasures of Italian food without grabbing a slice of pizza, Chef Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon truck will also be offering Grilled Artisanal Pizzas. He prepared our Napa Pizza, crisped to perfection and topped with roasted pears, gorgonzola, baby arugula and a very inspiring cabernet onion jam – a perfect ending to an inspiring preview.
If you just can’t wait until July to taste Chef Joe Youkhan’s mind-blowing culinary creations from his Tasting Spoon food truck (follow him on Facebook or Twitter for location updates), the chef is booking a variety of private parties and catering events until then. But be prepared to get in line: in addition to the list of clients already on his current schedule, I’m definitely having him park his portable gourmet kitchen in my driveway within the month.
Chef Joe Youkhan’s Tasting Spoon Gourmet Food Truck and Catering
www.chefjoeyoukhanstastingspoon.com | @ChefJoeYoukhan | (949) 357-7020