In Downtown Long Beach on the corner of Pine Avenue and First Street, just up from Long Beach Harbor, sits what used to be a bank. Built in a more romantic age, this particular building is a Grecian marvel – guarded in front by ionic pillars that give way to a stone and mortar egress.The bank is now long gone, but please trust that some treasures still remain. Today, the Madison Restaurant keeps watch over the culinary assets and currency that Chef Reynaldo Tovar lends out to interested patrons. The restaurant opened in 1997 and stayed true to the design and architecture befitting the era in which the building was constructed.
For nine years, Chef Tovar has worked at the distinguished establishment. First, Chef Rey was a line cook and then sous chef for a few years under one chef. He was then sous chef under a new executive chef before stepping into that role himself. Now the menu, the aplomb, and the satisfaction of being a part of The Madison are all his.
As is the case with many households, the mother cooks. So it is not surprising that many aspiring chefs garner much of their inspiration from their mothers and grandmothers. The situation was no different for Chef Rey. His mother and grandmother inspired him to cook. While still in high school, Chef Rey began working at diners in truck stops. At the time, he liked to cook but had not really settled on making a career of it. His interest was first piqued when he spoke with a professional chef at his high school’s career day. The chef told Rey how exciting and adventurous the culinary industry could be. He even mentioned to Rey that he had cooked for the likes of Madonna while she was on tour. This was a surprising revelation to Chef Tovar; could the culinary industry be that glamorous?
While working as a dishwasher, Chef Rey got a break. The chef of this particular restaurant was not fond of doing any prep work – but Chef Tovar was willing to help out. As time passed, the chef began to let Rey cook and also began to teach him culinary techniques. This experience was of great value to Chef Tovar, as it helped secure his desire to pursue cooking as a career.
Right out of high school, Chef Rey attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He worked at the Diablo Grande Golf Course for some time to gain more kitchen experience before moving on to Chosettis Restaurant. From there he moved directly to The Madison Restaurant and has been living the dream ever since. During his time at The Madison, Chef Rey has met celebrities such as Rod Stewart, Danica Patrick, John Salley, and Ice Cube. There have been several movies made inside the restaurant because of its distinctive charm and nostalgic décor. Apparently, the culinary industry really is that glamorous.
Chef Rey is not just satisfied with his job because of the celebrity company he keeps, but continues to push his culinary skills and take ingredients to their limits. He likes to experiment with new spices and unconventional ways to use ingredients. Chilies are his favorite ingredient, pasilla chilies to be exact, and he is currently trying to develop a way to incorporate scotch bonnet peppers into desserts. He has tried them in zabaglione and is now attempting to candy them. First, he slices the peppers into thin strips, then dehydrates them, and then covers them with a sugar glaze to use as background notes in both sweet and savory dishes. Whenever an idea strikes Chef, he will sit down with his trusted kitchen staff and brainstorm on ways to bring his idea to fruition. They begin to experiment until they have worked out the best, most delicious method of creation.
Despite his affinity for glamorous food and glamorous patrons, Chef Rey has a humble demeanor. Given the opportunity, Chef Tovar would prefer to open a small deli rather than have his own lavish restaurant. In his deli, he would like to make his own salumi and have the freshest meats and ingredients in order to make traditional sandwiches with slight twists. He says that he truly appreciates food and always wants to make sure the quality can be tasted and felt in his finished products.
Chef Tovar loves the restaurant and culinary industry because he says they are fun. In keeping with his humble and sociable character, Chef Rey says that if he were to ever have a retirement banquet, he would prefer that finger foods be served so that people could eat and enjoy themselves while still being able to walk around, mingle and socialize. Unsurprisingly, Rey likes to make comfort foods from scratch and loves to indulge his sweet tooth in the form of rocky road and buttered pecan ice creams.
Rey Tovar has gone from star struck to star studded during his culinary career. His food and the ambience of The Madison restaurant both transport diners to a more nostalgic time and evoke a sense of prestige in diners as well. One feels as though they have walked a red carpet or two just from having the pleasure of dining at the restaurant. The trip to beautiful Downtown Long Beach is well worth it. Just remember when driving by to look for a vintage bank instead of a restaurant and there will be no problems locating this impressive eatery.
To view Chef Reynaldo Tovar’s Horseradish Mustard-Crusted Roast Beef with Warm Potato Salad & Grilled Tomatoes recipe, visit our recipes page.
Chef Reynaldo Tovar
WHAT IS YOUR ANNIVERSARY WITH THIS RESTAURANT? Oct. 31, 2001.
WHAT IS THE RESTAURANT’S ANNIVERSARY? April 15, 1999.
AVERAGE NUMBER OF HOURS YOU WORK IN A WEEK: 55-60.
FIRST COOKING OR FOOD-REALTED MEMORY: Making cookies with my mom.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? Dishwasher.
IF NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? Photographer.
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: 12-inch chef’s knife.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Robot Coupe.
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: KitchenAid.
FAVORITE CONDIMENT/SPICE: Chili.
MOST RECOMMENDED KITCHEN TOOL AND SOURCE (ONLINE OR RETAIL SHOP) FOR HOME KITCHENS: KitchenAid.
MOST RECOMMENDED FOOD INGREDIENT SOURCE (ONLINE OR RETAIL SHOP) FOR FOODIES: Trader Joe’s.
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: Cocoa butter encrusted scallops with wild mushrooms.
HOBBIES: Video games.
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Riley’s – Brea.
FAVORITE DISH TO EAT: Macaroni & Cheese.
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Baby Ruth.
FAVORITE FAST FOOD: Hamburger.
DO YOU WATCH FOOD TV? IF SO, WHICH PROGRAM(S) IS/ARE YOUR FAVORITE? Iron Chef.
FAMOUS CHEFS YOU’VE MET: Julia Child.
CULINARY HERO(ES): Julia Child.
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: 3 years.
SCHOOL: California Culinary Academy.
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE AND LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES: Mexico.
WHAT THREE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Creative, passionate and innovative.
YEARS IN THE BUSINESS: BOH: 13.
PREVIOUS INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS: Diablo Grande – Patterson, CA.
The Madison Bar & Restaurant
102 Pine Ave., Long Beach
Tue-Thu: 5pm – 10pm,
Fri-Sat: 5pm – 11pm,
Sun: 10am – 3pm
True Day Boat Scallops with Sauteed Shitake and Oyster Mushrooms with Meyer Lemon Butter Sauce
2 oz Vegetable oil
4 Scallops – (6-10’s)
3 oz Shitake mushrooms – sliced
3 oz Oyster mushrooms – sliced
2 oz Butter
2 oz Meyer lemon juice
1 t Shallots – minced
1/2 t Fresh thyme
1 oz White wine
6 oz Unsalted butter – cubed
1 oz Chives – chopped (for garnish)
In a pan, add the lemon juice, thyme, shallots and wine and cook on medium-low heat until half of the liquid is reduced. Whisk in the 6 oz of cubed unsalted butter until it’s all combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
In another pan over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and add to the pan to cook for 2 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove scallops and set aside. In the same pan, add the 2 oz of butter, mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute.
Place the sauce on the bottom of the plate, then the mushrooms followed by the scallops. Garnish with chopped chives.