by Robert Johnson
Delicious food, great personality, sophisticated, approachable, as well as environmentally conscious. I am talking about both Chef Jeff Platt and O’Neill’s restaurant at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo. Because of the symbiotic nature of the relationship between Executive Chef and restaurant, it is not difficult or particularly interesting to imagine the two share similar attributes. Certainly they are both unique in their own right, but what makes the connection between restaurant and executive chef special in this case is that both had these like qualities independent of each other before coming together. Chef Platt has taken these attributes and refined them to create a dining experience to propel O’Neill’s to the front of the minds of diners and foodies alike.
Though Chef Jeff Platt was born and raised in Southern California, he spent some time travelling to different parts of the U.S. before settling down in Irvine with his wife Angela. The two have been together for 15 years and have a 4 year old son, Hayden. Unlike many professional chefs Jeff was not necessarily raised in the kitchen learning techniques and recipes from mom or grandma. He does admit to helping his mother with her catering business, but claims that the closest he got to the food was carrying it. He happened to really like food; eating it, savoring it, and talking about it. His wife simply mentioned to him that he should look into cooking classes since he loved food so much. Based on that suggestion Chef Platt joined the Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena.
After two years at Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Platt honed his culinary skills at recognizable Orange County culinary landmarks such as Roy’s, Napa Rose, Tabu Grill, Loft at Montage, Hotel Laguna, and Sundried Tomato. Despite working at some of the best restaurants in Orange County, Chef Platt found himself coming back to what he knows best and that is simple, recognizable food at a good value. His love of wine and his designation of sommelier influences what he produces in the kitchen and vice-versa. He tries to create dishes similar in scope to “wine country cuisine”. This means that he creates entrees with a specific wine in mind and then goes out to get the best type of wine for the price to accompany the dish. The artistry involved to pull off this concept without the menu or wine list seeming pretentious and out of reach is a true art.
O’Neill’s at Arroyo Trabuco has been the perfect canvas on which Chef Platt can create his rustic, complex, yet approachable food. The wooden features of the restaurant and the beautiful 180 degree views of the golf course play along perfectly with his simplistic elegance in the kitchen. There is truly something sublime about eating a delicious meal on a patio overlooking a nature reserve and watching a golfer lace a 300 foot drive down the middle of the fairway. The well maintained fairways, and delicately manicured greens add another layer of depth to an already tantalizing experience.
The groundskeeper is not the only one on property with a green thumb. Chef Platt has planted and continually maintains his own working garden on the premises. Though not large enough to sustain regular menu items, Jeff loves to incorporate seasonal herbs and vegetables from his garden into his specials every chance he gets. In addition to growing his own vegetables, Chef Platt’s kitchen does not throw away any food waste. One hundred percent of the food that comes out of his kitchen is either gobbled down by satisfied patrons or placed in a food dehydrator which turns the food waste into mulch which he uses for his on-premises garden and shares with the groundskeeper to be used on the golf course as needed. This has allowed him to reduce the amount of waste and the amount of trash pick-up required at the restaurant. When asked if there is any money savings in being so eco-friendly, Chef Platt’s response was that he wasn’t as concerned about saving money as he was about doing the right thing for the environment. Rather than save a few hundred dollars here and there, he was more happy with the intrinsic value and the example he sets.
Jeff has an endearing personality and he loves to share his passion and knowledge for cooking with those around him, but he also offers wisdom and witticism that can be applied to life in general as well. He keeps a running list he calls “Kitchen Wisdom” on display in the kitchen. For example:
“If it seems like a big number, count it twice.”
“Never tell the Chef you got everything done.”
“Read a cook book, if only just one.”
Whether treating yourself to a meal after a round of golf, enjoying an elegant and affordable dinner, or relaxing for brunch on Sunday, O’Neill’s at Arroyo Trabuco golf club is a true dining destination thanks to the skills, vision, and wisdom of Chef Jeff Platt.
Chef Jeff Platt
WHAT IS YOUR ANNIVERSARY WITH THIS RESTAURANT? July 2009.
WHAT IS THE RESTAURANT’S ANNIVERSARY? April 2004.
AVERAGE NUMBER OF HOURS YOU WORK IN A WEEK? 60+.
1ST COOKING OR FOOD RELATED MEMORY: When I was seven I ordered oysters for the first time. When I was a young teenager, my mom put me to work as a strong back doing catering; the closest I ever got to the food was carrying it.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? Serving frozen yogurt.
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? I’ve always loved to eat and one day my wife told me I should look into cooking classes, so I did.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB? Catering with my mom.
IF NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? An air traffic controller. I like being in control and taking long naps.
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: My collection of plating spoons.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Combination steam/convection oven.
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: All-Clad.
FAVORITE CONDIMENT/SPICE: Saba dressing and Tandoori paste.
MOST RECOMMENDED KITCHEN TOOL AND SOURCE FOR HOME KITCHENS: I like Chef Toys in Fountain Valley.
MOST RECOMMENDED FOOD INGREDIENT SOURCE FOR FOODIES: La Sanctuaire.
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT WORKING IN THE KITCHEN: People seem to think that because I’m the executive chef I can make my own hours. My days and weeks are dictated by the necessities of our business and being there for our guests when it’s most convenient for them, not me.
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: I like changing things up based on seasonal inspiration, some of which comes from my own garden.
HOBBIES: Definitely golf, summers at the beach, and grilling with neighbors.
FAMILY INFO: My wife, Angela, and I have been married 15 years and we have a 4 1/2 year old son, Hayden.
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Lola Gaspar.
FAVORITE OUT OF TOWN RESTAURANT: Bouchon, Santa Barbara.
FAVORITE DISH TO EAT: Anything braised.
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Red licorice.
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Asian pears and salmon.
FAVORITE FAST FOOD: In-N-Out.
DO YOU WATCH FOOD TV? IF SO, WHICH PROGRAM(S) IS(ARE) YOUR FAVORITE? I like all the Cooking Channel programs, as well as Jamie Oliver.
FAMOUS CHEFS YOU’VE MET: Wolfgang Puck and John Ash.
CULINARY HERO(ES): Susur Lee.
WHAT OTHER PUBLICATIONS HAVE YOU BEEN FEATURED IN? OC Register, Coast Magazine, Southland Golf Magazine, Orange Coast Magazine, Coastline Pilot, and Westways Magazine.
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: 1 1/2.
SCHOOL: Le Cordon Bleu, Pasadena.
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE & LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES: I lived in New Mexico for five years and learned about the subtle differences between that cuisine and Mexican cuisine. In Maryland, I learned how good cracking open blue crab on a paper-lined table can be when it’s 95 degrees out and 90% humidity (maybe it was just the beer).
YEARS IN BUSINES: BOH: 11.
WHAT 3 WORDS DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Complex, rustic, approachable.
PREVIOUS INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS: Roy’s, Napa Rose, Tabu Grill, Loft at The Montage, Hotel Laguna, and Sundried Tomato.
CHARITY AFFILIATIONS: None just yet as I wanted to take the last two years working on the Club’s menus. I’ll be starting that back up in 2012.
O’NEILL’S BAR & GRILLArroyo Trabuco Golf Club26772 Avery ParkwayMisson Viejo, CA 92692949.305.5100
Brie en Croute with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
Appetizer – Serves 2
2 ozPont L’eveque cheese
1 ½ THen of the Woods mushrooms – sauteed with shallots and white wine,then cooled
1 sheetPuff pastry – 4×4 piece
Cut out a piece of puff pastry that is twice as wide as the cheese. Brush a little bit of whole egg around the edge. Place the mushrooms in the center, followed by the small brick of brie. Fold up the sides of the pastry to enclose the brie and mushrooms. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Pinot Noir Flavored Cherries
1 1/2 CCherries – dried
1 CPinot noir
1/8 tFive spice powder
2 petalsStar anise
2Cascabel chile – no seeds
3 TCorn syrup
Simmer all ingredients slowly for 35 minutes and reduce to a syrup consistency. Remove the chiles, star anise, and thyme. Pour over the top of the baked brie. Serve with 10 slices of baguette.