Chef Nick Phelps

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Nick Phelps

Nick Phelps

320 Main
2007
Latitude 45 Catering
2011 – Present

If you move quickly, you just might be able to catch Nick Phelps in Seal Beach at 320 Main – Seal Beach before he moves on to Commonwealth in Fullerton – to reign over the kitchen in the second restaurant he has been involved in establishing since moving to southern California a year and a half ago.

This Boston area native, though just shy of his 34th birthday, is already making his mark on the local culinary scene. Nick’s childhood buddy Rob Marshall, (they’ve known each other since they were seven years old) convinced him to leave his New England home to embark on the daunting task of opening a successful restaurant in the ever-competitive Los Angeles/Orange County market. The timing was perfect, as the large steakhouse he was employed by was getting ready to close for renovations and his parents had just moved to Georgia – so he packed his bags and moved to sunny California.

Though not “formally” trained in the traditional sense, Nick studied under several chefs in the Boston area developing his culinary talent. He has an Associates degree in Sociology from North Adams State in Vermont and attended two trimesters at the famed Johnson and Wales culinary school, but it was “the wrong time” in his life for that type of regimented learning and he feels that learning “on the job” is the best way to really learn the business. Nick says he is always learning and feels that no chef anywhere can say he/she knows everything.Nick loves creating new dishes and flavor combinations and doing something no one else has done. He also loves looking out from the kitchen to watch people’s reactions when they are served one of his dishes. The kitchens at both 320 Main – Seal Beach and at the new restaurant Commonwealth, allow him to do just that.

When asked what the big differences were between cooking in Boston and cooking in California, Nick stated that they were totally different styles of cooking. In Boston, the style is more “homestyle” with robust, rich dishes and lots of fresh seafood, including his favorite Wellfleet oysters, whereas here the trend is lighter and more health conscientious. The avocado is his new friend and is featured in his repertoire, including a deep fried version topped with carne asada or chicken and a cilantro-ranch dressing.

He tells us that people screamed when he took his signature dish, a double-boned 14 oz pork chop with a balsamic pomegranate reduction off the menu at 320 Main – Seal Beach to substitute a pork tenderloin dish that also gets rave reviews – so it’s going back on, even though Nick will not be behind the stove on a regular basis there. He didn’t want to leave 320 because he cares so much about this first venture and the community that has embraced him, but he is looking forward to the new challenges at Commonwealth – even though it means going back to 100 hour work weeks.

To him, the best feeling in the world is looking out of his exhibition-style kitchen and seeing happy customers.

Chef Phelps Trivia
What is your anniversary with this Restaurant?
Restaurant opening 5/2/07

1st Cooking or food memory:
BBQ in the back yard with my folks

What was your first job?
Dishwashing at a local restaurant

What first interested you in the hospitality industry?
The creative aspect

If not a chef, what would you be?
Bullpen coach

Favorite Kitchen Gadget or Tool:
Paring knife

Favorite Kitchen Appliance:
Charbroiler

Favorite type of cookware:
Montague

Favorite Condiment/Spice:
Coriander

Signature or Favorite Dish to make:
Pork Chop

Other Cuisines worked with:
Latin, Asian, middle eastern.

Hobbies:
Playing squash, wine tasting, movies

Favorite OC restaurant:
Wildfish

Favorite Dish to eat:
Rotisserie Chicken

Favorite Junk Food:
Gummi Bears

Favorite Raw Ingredient:
Shallots

Favorite Food TV Show:
Barefoot Contessa

Culinary Hero:
Julia Child

What 3 words best describe your culinary Style?
Patient, simple, progressive

Previous industry employers:
Sky Restaurant – Mass., Wildwood Steakhouse – Mass. and Donacesca – Mass.

320 Main – Seal Beach and Commonwealth
320 Main – Seal Beach
320 Main – Seal Beach Street
Seal Beach, CA 90740
www.threetwentymain.com
562.799.6246

Hours:
5-11 Tues-Sun

Average Cover for one guest including beverage:
Dinner $35

Commonwealth Lounge
112 Commonwealth Avenue
Fullerton, CA 92832
www.commonwealthlounge.com
714.525.8888

Hours:
5 a.m. – 2 a.m. Tues-Sun

Average Cover for one guest including beverage:
Dinner $35

Mussels Penelope
1 lb Prince Edward Island mussels
1 ea large shallot (sliced)
3 ea large crimini mushrooms (sliced)
1 ea medium clove garlic (minced)
1 T chopped chives
4 oz chardonnay
1 oz lemon juice
2 oz cold butter
2 oz olive oil
salt and pepper taste

In medium saute pan, heat olive oil. Add shallots, mushrooms, and garlic-cook for 30 seconds. Add mussels lemon juice and chardonnay. Cover with another saute pan and steam for three min or until mussels have just opened. Uncover and add cold butter and chopped chives. Let butter melt and serve immediately.

For a dining bonus serve with warm brioche or french loaf!

by LJ Carlson