by Lachelle Brown Mar/Apr 2008 Issue
Chef Jack Daniel Robertson comes in a package that all can admire. His all-around Orange County laid back personality combined with an innovative and ever-evolving talent makes Jack Daniel naturally garners attention beyond his given name. Great Taste Magazine sat down to talk with Chef Jack – we enjoyed the relaxing afternoon and calm marina view Restaurant Tantalum has to offer. Since there was no evidence, we knew nothing of the Valentine’s Day fury that had occurred in this very restaurant the day and night before. Despite his lack of rest, Chef Jack was upbeat as ever, as if he were exactly where he should be.
Q. So tell us, what’s the story of how you came to be where you are today?
“Growing up, I always thought I was going to become a professional baseball player or surfer. Cooking allowed me to work at night, and gave me time to be active during the day doing the things I loved.” At age 17, Chef Jack worked at restaurant Paolis under Chef Jason Beissonette, who grew to become a mentor and father figure and helped to shape Jack’s future – “He taught me a lot at a young age.”At the time, Chef Jack was attending business school and then his plans changed: “Before I knew it, I fell in love with cooking. When I attended Culinary School, everything was fun to me. I wanted to go, I wanted to read the books the instructors gave out…it was just pure enjoyment for me. I went to Culinary School at Orange Coast College which was great, because they teach you everything, and it’s a lot cheaper than some of the other options [laughing]. I was able to get a great education – without the debt.”While attending OCC’s Culinary School, Chef Jack continued to work in the kitchen at night, learning in the classroom and through experience. “I feel you get out of your job what you put into it,” Jack says, which is exactly what he and culinary partner/restaurant owner Curtis Fullerton did when they located, designed and opened Long Beach’s corner gem, Restaurant Tantalum. High school buddies, Chef Jack and Curtis, “grew up raising hell together,” and as their experience shows, this successful combination has been, and continues to be, a favorite as guests enjoy all that Tantalum has to offer.
Q. When looking back on the challenges you have faced while making your way up the ladder, how has your experience been?
“Working in the kitchen is not glamorous and you need to be prepared to pay your dues!” says Daniels. While working at the Four Season’s in Newport Beach, Chef Jack, “learned everything about how a kitchen should be run,” through dealing with and organizing all the various encounters the luxury hotel endures.With friends and family on a different schedule, Chef Jack sighs, “You know, no one told me that as a Chef you work all day and all night, but I could never leave for a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job, it’s just not me.”
Q. What is the driving force behind your talent? Why a deep passion for food?
“For me it’s an art form presented on all of my plates.” Designing Tantalum’s creative menu together, Chef Jack and partner Curtis like to keep things fun. “We like to be the restaurant that continues to evolve. It keeps the cooks and I excited,” as he describes the seasonal changes to Tantalum’s menu and daily specials. His latest favorite? A dessert special named “Sensual Seduction,” after Snoop Dog’s recent hit song.
Q. As an artist, where do you find your inspiration?
“Reading…I never copy a recipe, but I get ideas for incorporating different ingredients and for innovative preparations.” Lovingly incorporating his signature elements into each dish, Chef Jack pulls his creativity from within. “Art is in me,” he says. “It’s in everything that I see and everything that I do.”
Q. Out of all the amazing menu selections, which do you call you favorite(s)?
“The Wasabi Crusted Sterling Silver Filet really does well for the steak lover and the overall restaurant decor…It is a great representation of Tantalum. Another is the Miso Caramelized Halibut…is an unbelievable combination.” For his ultimate favorite, ” the White Marble Pork Chops…best in your life.”
Q. What signifies the combinations you create in each selection and the presentation in which you deliver them?
“I consider my cooking style very simple. Being Classically trained [in the French style], I like to combine Asian flare with it…[laughing] no matter how hard I try, I always go back to Asian influence. Their color, spice, sweetness, vibrancy, saltiness – their everything!” Searching for new combinations, Chef Jack finds balance, “in the trials and tribulations of trying to create food, sometimes I amaze myself at how good I am [laughing], sometimes I muse that’s horrible, what the heck was I thinking,’ but that’s how you learn.”
Q. From here, where do you see yourself and your talent going?
“I’ve always had a lot of inspiration to leave the country for a couple of years…every surf trip I take I realize that there’s so much in this world to do! I want to get out and see it.” Although the business keeps Chef Jack busy, his passion provides him the ability to work in any kitchen around the world, “whatever I need to do to make ends meet I’ll do in order to learn other cuisines.”
Q. If you could give out any advice to younger generations who aspire to become a successful Chef, what would you say?
“Get Out! Those would be my first words…if they stick around [then] I’d explain it to them. It’s a long hard road. You’ve definitely got to love it, and it’s got to be in you, or else you’ll get eaten alive… I was actually told the same exact words when I first started. I didn’t listen to him, but some days I wish I did [laughing],” he reminisces, reflecting on the words of his mentor.Thankfully for us, Chef Jack followed his passion for art and his love for cooking. As time goes on, the future for Chef Jack will only brighten, and we wait in anticipation to see what new and exciting ventures he will take. Our only hope is to have the opportunity to be a part of it.As we say our goodbyes, I am reminded that the overall feel that Chef Jack and Curtis have created within Tantalum; It is truly one of a kind. With the love of French-Asian flare combined with Indonesian culture, the Pan-Pacific style Tantalum provides has developed both naturally and perfectly…and we congratulate them.
Chef Jack Daniel Robertson
FIRST COOKING OR FOOD MEMORY: Peanut butter and jelly on the kitchen floor when I was four years old. Mom caught me!
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? Working nights…the excitement of the rush on a busy night, and creativity.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB? Started cooking at an Italian bistro named Paolis
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: Sharp knife, Japanese mandolin
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: Allegecy stainless pots
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Robo Coupe
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: Any fish
FAVORITE CONDIMENT OR SPICE: Sriracha
OTHER CUISINES WORKED WITH: Italian, French, and Japanese.
IF NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? Surfer, fisherman, poker player…whatever I could make a living off best.
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT WORKING IN A KITCHEN: It’s not glamorous. Be prepared to pay your dues.
HOBBIES: Surfing, fishing, poker
FAMILY: Mother is Etta, Brother is Todd, Sister-in-law is Tina; Nieces are Trista and Taryn
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Shin Sin Gumi
FAVORITE DISH TO EAT: Sushi
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: French Fries
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Toro
FAVORITE FOOD TV SHOW: Iron Chef, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
FAMOUS CHEFS YOU’VE MET: Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION AND SCHOOL: 2 years at Orange Coast College
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE AND LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES: Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico. Mainly surf trips, but always enjoyed the cuisine.
YEARS IN BUSINESS: BOH: 12 years
WHAT THREE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Evolving, clean, innovative.
PREVIOUS INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS: Hilton, Doubletree, Four Seasons, private catering, Pelican Hill, Paoli’s Italian Bistro
CHARITY AFFILIATIONS: Surfrider Foundation, Surf Aid, Heal the Bay, Monterey Bay Aquarium
6272 E Pacific Coast Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90803
Monday – Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Average Cost for One Guest Including Beverage:
Cedar Plank Smoked Wasabi-Crusted Filet Mignon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Rapini and Yakitori Demi-glace
Recipe by Chef Jack Daniel Robertson
4 8 oz Sterling Silver filet mignon
4 4×4 in. cedar plank
Garlic mashed potato
Season steaks with oil, salt and pepper. Grill until just before desired temperature is reached. Place on cedar plank and add 2 oz of wasabi crust to top. Cook in 400 degree until desired temperature is reached.
For wasabi crust:
8 oz kewpie mayo (regular is fine)
2 oz prepared wasabi
1/2 oz garlic – minced
as needed panko bread crumbs
In a mixing bowl whisk all ingredients thoroughly. For a loose crust use less panko, or for a firmer crust use more panko.
For garlic mashed potatoes:
4 Yukon Gold potatoes
6 garlic cloves – roasted
1 C manufacturing cream
3 oz unsalted butter
salt and white pepper to taste
Boil potatoes in salted water until cooked. While potatoes are cooking heat cream, garlic and butter in sauce pot. Puree. Strain potatoes and place in mixer bowl with paddle attachment. On low speed mix, slowly adding the cream mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
For Yakitori demi-glace:
2 lb beef scraps
1 lb mirepoix
1/2 C tomato paste
1/2 gal red wine
2 oz demi glace paste
1/2 C yakitori sauce
10 oz water
In a large sauce pot, caramelize the beef scraps until dark brown. Add mirepoix and cook until caramelized. Add tomato paste and coat meat and veggies. Deglaze with red wine and reduce. Add water and demi paste; whisk until paste is fully incorporated. Turn heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain through chinois into smaller sauce pot and return to low heat. Add yakitori sauce. Season; hold for service
For roasted rapini:
1 bunch of rapini
3 oz garlic oil
salt and pepper to taste
Blanch rapini in salted boiling water for about 30 seconds. Chill in ice bath. Toss rapini in garlic oil, salt and pepper. Place on sheet pan and roast in 400 degree oven for about 3 minutes. Plate immediately.