Taking root within Roger’s Gardens, Farmhouse reflects warm country charm
As told to Susan Irby
Photos courtesy of Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens
Although influenced by the city, farms and farmers who share his culinary “pursuit of excellence” also touch popular local chef Rich Mead. With over 35 years of experience in successful restaurants such as Sage, Sage on the Coast and Canyon, chef Mead is no stranger to palate pleasing dishes, like those on the menu at the recently opened Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens.
Locals know Roger’s Gardens as a lush, plant-filled mecca of outdoor living in the heart of Newport Beach. So when Farmhouse, an al fresco cafe, opened there last fall, patrons flocked to the new dining establishment. Here, chef Mead reveals why a fresh experience on the plate starts with a trip to the “farm.”
Who has been the most influential person in your culinary journey?
My mom inspired me with her Chinese cooking. Early in my career, I was fortunate to open a restaurant in Sherman Oaks called Stanley’s. The owners allowed me the freedom to create dishes and influence the menu with continuously changing specials. Also, my friend, Joe Miller, who owned Joe’s Restaurant in Venice, has been a big influence [on] my culinary style and in business.
Farmhouse exudes “field to fork.” How did that become important to you?
I grew up in the city, yet was drawn to learning about farms and the role of vegetables in my cooking while at Stanley’s. Then, while working at a restaurant in Santa Monica, some local farmers came to the back door with lettuces. Through meeting them and exploring farmers’ markets, I began to recognize the importance of working with and sourcing foods from local farmers; people like-minded in their pursuit of culinary excellence.
Talk about “sourcing locally.”
Working with local farmers inspires me through the changing seasons. Weekly trips to farmers’ markets create an opportunity to look and think about food in a different light… [how] the colors, tastes and textures translate to the plate. I enjoy supporting culinary artisans who have a commitment to the environment.
What unique approach are you taking at Farmhouse? How has the menu evolved?
Because of the restaurant size and the environment, I simplify the food with an emphasis on freshness. Our kitchen is small; we focus on keeping dishes simple in terms of preparation and plating. Simplicity with a touch of elegance.
What are your three must-have ingredients?
Fresh seasonable vegetables, citrus and vinegars.
One of the most popular Farmhouse dishes is the House Cured Salmon. Any secrets to how it’s prepared?
We cure the salmon in salt, sugar and fresh herbs for 48 hours and then “paint” the salmon with a pastrami-type mixture we make in-house.
What is special to you about Farmhouse?
The venue is spectacular and a perfect fit for what we are doing.
What can diners look forward to on the menu this spring?
With spring, you will see asparagus, strawberries, stone fruit and spring onion.
FARMHOUSE 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, CA