Chef Childress Shows Us Around His Favorite Dishes While Lauren Bock Stuns Us With Stellar Flower Arrangements
Written By: Robyn Wyman-dill Diegan Sun Rustic Root San Diego
Photographed By: Eder Escamilla
Deep in the hub of the Gaslamp Quarter, more than 100 of the finest restaurants, pubs and nightclubs are abuzz with people dining al fresco on city sidewalks. Suddenly, as July sets in, Rustic Root has developed the first dedicated rooftop restaurant in town. To up the ante in the space, they placed animal topiaries and bright orange chairs that mix whimsical with trendy—a very Alice in Wonderland vibe. A few months later, Chef de Cuisine Marcel Childress took the helm as executive chef and an already dynamic menu of rustic American cuisine—made with locally sourced meats, produce and seafood—evolved into its optimal form. Their Rustic Brunch Menu has scrambled skillets, brioche French toast and carnitas hash. For libations, the mimosa sampler is served with three kinds of freshly pressed juices. Then there’s coffee drinks and timeless cocktails like the 1927 (a Boulevardier), with a cheeky clue to the cocktail’s origin: Step Aside Europe, This is America’s Drink, made with Bulleit bourbon; and the 1915 (French 75), with the clue: It Will Hit you like a 75 mm Field Gun, made with Tanqueray gin. We caught up with Childress, a San Diego native, and floral designer Lauren Bock, at work where they were building the mood and food for the “ultimate dream brunch.”
Childress is busy in the kitchen preparing his favorites: brioche French toast served with blueberries, butter and bacon, the lobster roll with herb mayonnaise on a toasted hot dog bun, the RR Burger, the New England Cobb salad, and parfaits with seasonal fruits. Meanwhile, Bock is refining her floral selects, choosing acacia greens and smoke bush purple leaves to accentuate the dusty premier vintage roses with the peach-orange sorbet roses she will combine with purple double tulips, two kinds of kale and nigella stems. Her designs, anchored with rustic items like a metallic, patterned lantern vase with a worn rope handle, aim to be a feast for the eye. And yes, they deliver.
The Chef: Marcel Childress
Q: What do you hope to achieve every time you step into the kitchen?
Marcel Childress: I always have the same goals in mind: to progress and allow for growth—for myself, my team and Rustic Root—by creating and maintaining our workspace with good energy that produces great food.
Q: What process do you go through to design and perfect each dish?
MC: I begin with the protein and build each dish around it. As I’m building it, I try to keep the “umami effect” in mind and incorporate as many flavor profiles as possible into a dish without taking away from the natural essence of the ingredients or the dish itself.
Q: What ingredients do you need for a perfect brunch spread?
MC Farm-fresh eggs, local seasonal produce and, of course, mimosas and Bloody Marys are a must!
Q: Describe your favorite brunch dish?
MC: French toast is the perfect, quintessential brunch dish—it’s one of America’s most beloved dishes. Our Rustic Root French toast is made with brioche bread, eggs, cream, butter, cinnamon, salt and vanilla, and is topped with blueberries, pure maple syrup, applewood-smoked bacon and powdered sugar.
Q: What helped you decide on the dishes for today’s Setting the Table brunch fantasy?
MC: Well, I used my personal “brunch fantasy” to inspire the dishes I prepared for today’s shoot. These are dishes I dream about. Lobster rolls, burgers, a chorizo scramble and French toast. All of them are my personal favorites.
Q: Who are your go-to foods when you’re not cooking?
MC: Mama Kat’s, Carnitas’ Snack Shack and Urban Solace are a few of my favorites.
Floral Designer: Lauren Bock
Q: What do you look for when you create a floral design for a dinner occasion or table setting?
LB: With any event, table setting or special occasion, the goal is to create a mood that will linger with the guests long after it’s over. I do that with flowers.
Q: What is your creative process with every project?
LB: The process is always the same. When I am working on events, I begin with the client. We discuss their vision and the memory they want to create so I can build the concept to fruition. We talk about color so I can get a feel for the mood of the occasion, too. Whenever possible, I go to the location in advance of the event so I can design my floral arrangements to blend with the environment.
Q: What do you like best about flowers?
LB: Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated by a flower’s life cycle. How they reproduce themselves is a crazy miracle! I think I just got hooked on biology and find working with flowers very fulfilling because I get to create special memories for people.
Q: What dishes did you think work best with your designs?
LB: Without question, the French toast. Its textures and colors, the powdered sugar and berries and rustic color of the French toast, was the perfect dish for the delicate roses and purple tulips with the rustic lantern vessel arrangements. It added more of a French aura to the table setting.
Q: Take us through your process for this table setting.
LB: It all starts with the container—the vessel I use to create the arrangement in. That sparks my vision for the design. I like to work with varying heights, so I used three types of vases here that give the table a rustic feel and added air plants and branches with moss. I picked these flowers to create a bubbly look.
Q: What do you like best about being a floral designer?
LB: Florals are always changing with new hybrids and organic products, so the design aspect of it is always changing, which gives me a lot of range to do beautiful work.
Lending a Hand: Rustic Root currently supports AJ’s Kids Crane, which benefits Rady’s Children’s Hospital.
535 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
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