This Orange County Chef Show Us His Fave Meals to Cook at Home

Here’s What Chef Pfleider Cooks in his Home Kitchen

Written By: Ameihia Turingan
Photographed By: Brenda Winburn

For chefs, the kitchen is their domain. They manifest their craft by using kitchen tools and the finest ingredients to make meals. The kitchen is not only a place for work, but it is an environment for experimentation and an opportunity for cooks to express their artistry by developing tasty dishes. As the kitchen operates as their office space, what do chefs eat when they come home after the work day is over? We spoke to Karl Pfleider, Executive Chef of The Blind Pig and The Trough Sandwich Kitchen in Rancho Santa Margarita, to understand the differences between cooking at home and cooking for work.

Pfleider got his start in the culinary world during high school when he joined a new restaurant that was started by his friend’s stepfather. “My curiosity got the best of me and I asked if I could come in and help out,” said Pfleider. “I went in and started staging, which at the time was The Crosby in downtown Santa Ana.” He was eager to learn and enjoyed the work so he kept showing up to assist for months. After the unpaid stage, he worked at an Irvine food truck where he learned short order cooking and then continued building his expertise by cooking at various food establishments in the Orange County area. He joined The Blind Pig as a sous chef to Chef Josh Han, who he met at The Crosby, and then became the Executive Chef after Han’s departure.

As Executive Chef of The Blind Pig and The Trough Sandwich Kitchen, Karl Pfleider spends his time crafting delicious dishes to serve to guests. The Trough focuses on sandwiches and breakfast items while The Blind Pig, a speakeasy-style bar and restaurant, serves progressive American cuisine and eclectic alcoholic drinks.

Pfleider’s favorite part about being an Executive Chef at these establishments is the “creative freedom” that allows him and his sous chefs to truly create what they want to. They are always working on something new and looking for ingredients to experiment with. “As seasons change and things start to appear on the market, [we] bring it in and really experiment. And that’s how things usually find their way onto the menu,” said Pfleider. He describes it as a process. His team communicates with purveyors and watches the farmers market to see what ingredients will be available. Once they obtain the product, the team figures out new techniques that will add to the dishes. Their approach is analytical and strategic and they later reevaluate dishes to see if they can substitute items or improve a dish’s taste.

In contrast, Pfleider views cooking at home as a means to provide him sustenance and describes his cooking style at home as “very, very simple.”  “I’m at the restaurant so much because of the separate concepts, [therefore] I keep it so simple and really fast,” said Pfleider. Since he spends much of his time being creative at his job, he likes to create food that eschews the bells and whistles. He cooks for one and prefers to make dishes that can be made using one or two pans. Pfleider loves to make meals that draw from Asian flavors and he frequently makes rice, a food that he grew up eating in many childhood meals and appreciates more so now as an adult. “I love rice. That’s my guilty pleasure, I feel like I cheated myself if I have a meal that doesn’t have rice in it,” said Pfleider. He usually pairs the rice with a salad and a protein such as chicken, fish or his go-to meat: steak. “[Steak] is my favorite thing to make at home. I just can’t stay away from it,” said Pfleider.

The chef’s home kitchen contains only the necessary ingredients and equipment that he “needs to get by.” He obtains ingredients from grocery stores and tries to avoid cooking vegetables and having leftovers later. “I’ve gotten really good at buying the minimum for myself enough to where I’m not gonna have anything leftover or anything that needs to be cut or cooked up later. I’m really just going per meal at home,” said Pfleider. He truly enjoys crafting the simple dishes, which is reminiscent to when his father would make similar meals for the family. Ultimately, his home cooking approach allows him to have zero waste and easily whip up a meal after a long shift at work. While his home cooked meals may not be as elaborate as the restaurant’s, it’s assuredly delicious, sustaining and satisfying nonetheless.

The Great Outdoors: Pfleider loves riding motorcycles and dirt bikes, camping, snowboarding and walking with his mini poodle.

Advice for Future Chefs: He suggests aspiring chefs get comfortable in their home kitchens and also find a kitchen that will allow them to stage (similar to an internship). “You really need to get the first hand experience of what the life is like and the work that goes into it,” said Pfleider

Locals Only: The Blind Pig opened almost four years ago and currently has many locals returning each week. “A lot of the same people that weren’t doing it in the beginning love it here. They love coming out here and trying new things,” said Pfleider.

New Flame: When he is not cooking at home, his go-to restaurant is Flame Broiler. He also enjoys getting to try new things when dining with friends that share his love for food.

The Blind Pig
31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

The Trough Sandwich Kitchen
31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy, Ste N
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

705 E Balboa Blvd
Newport Beach, CA 92661

Here’s What Executive Chef Pfleider of The Blind Pig and The Trough Sandwich Kitchen Cooks in his Home Kitchen

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