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Former Chef for Mastro’s Ocean Club and Oak Grill is Red O’s New Executive Corporate Chef

Written By: Alana Aronson Chef at Red O Restaurant

Locals and visitors to Orange County—and Southern California for that matter—are familiar with the highly sought-out tastes of our creative cuisines. From coastal fare to farm-to-table fresh dishes, the chefs and culinary creatives that inspire Orange County’s menus are what contribute to the much-loved locale. Formerly at the helm of Mastro’s Ocean Club and Oak Grill at the Island Hotel, Chef Marc Johnson has served up countless dishes packed with flavor and creativity. Now the Executive Corporate Chef at Red O Restaurant, Marc Johnson is set to carry on the inspired flavors of the restaurant and its multiple Southern California locations. We got the chance to ask him about his new position, what is on the horizon for Red O, and what locales he loves in Orange County.  

Q: It was Jason Miranda, COO of Red O and former Senior VP of Operations at Mastro’s Ocean Club who approached you to be the Executive Corporate Chef at Red O. How does it feel being back with so many former Mastro’s team members again? Chef at Red O Restaurant

Marc Johnson: Yes! It feels great to be able to work with old friends and familiar faces. The transition is so much easier when you’re able to do it with people you have already worked with. Chef at Red O Restaurant

Q: What are you most excited for in this new position? Chef at Red O Restaurant

MJ: It’s exciting working with a new concept that is rapidly growing. Also, playing with a new cuisine. Who doesn’t love Mexican food?! I get to eat it everyday now and not feel guilty.

Q: Are there any changes you are looking to make, if any, at Red O? Chef at Red O Restaurant

MJ: For now, the most important part is understanding the operations and our conceptual direction. The menu will be tweaked here and there but mostly familiarizing myself with the already great brand and preparing to open La Jolla’s location.

Q: Tell us about being able to work with Rick Bayless. Chef at Red O Restaurant

MJ: Chef Bayless is an incredibly talented chef and I am privileged to be able to work and learn from him.  

Q: How is being at Red O different than your experiences at Oak Grill and Mastro’s Ocean Club?

MJ: The main difference is that I am now responsible for overseeing three restaurants while the fourth is being built. It’s really just a matter of applying the same successful formula though.  

Q: Where do you like to eat when you aren’t working?

MJ: Sushi Noguchi in Yorba Linda! The best sushi ever! And Costco, can’t beat a good $1.50 hotdog.

Q: What are your favorite dishes to cook at home?

MJ: Whatever I’m researching at the moment. BBQ ribs, fried chicken, molè or experiment with desserts. My wife is always asking for homemade pasta.

Q: Do you think your cooking styles have changed since becoming a dad?

MJ: YES! 100 percent! Fast and easy is the theme. Most of the time we are eating out of the pan. Twin boys keep you on your toes.

Rapid Fire Round:

Go-to drink: Pellegrino   
Favorite ingredient to cook with: Fish/seafood
Least favorite ingredient to cook with: Broccoli…boring
Favorite place to surf in Orange County: Ha! When is there time to surf? It once was Salt Creek
Meet Marc Johnson, the New Executive Chef at Red O Restaurants