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Get the Inside Scoop to Your Favorite Chefs in Oceanside

Written By: Omar Velasquez Favorite Chefs in Oceanside

With local vegetables and local meats comes local restaurants with local chefs; Oceanside truly knows how to keep it local. Oceanside has a beautiful scenery of the ocean water and is filled with spectacular restaurants and pubs just off the shore. These restaurants serve a variety of top notch choices from luxurious seafood to southern style barbecue. You can also always have a fresh made hamburger for brunch or a lovely steak dinner all created locally. Behind it all, there is a community that not only consumes but supports their local chefs. In our recently released poll, readers voted for their favorite chef in the Oceanside community. We got to know the local favorite chefs who bring the taste to the town.

 

Daniel Pundik, Local Tap House & Kitchen

Q: Where did you grow up and how did you get your start of becoming a chef?

Daniel Pundik: I grew up in south Florida where I was raised by a very large family. I got my start cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen.

Q: How did you link up with Gabe Hogan (owner of Local Tap House & Kitchen)?

DP: I met Gabe through email and we shared the same goals to be successful and give back to the locals something great. The rest is history.

Q: What is your favorite meal to cook?

DP: I enjoy cooking authentic Cuban food.

Q: What is your current trending meal?

DP: Farro Fried Rice.

Q: Can you tell us something about yourself that we wouldn’t have guessed?

DP: At one point in my life I was in a punk rock band touring the United States.

Q: What does it mean to be one of the top chefs in Oceanside?

DP: It is an honor to be apart in such a growing local community, we are all at the top in Oceanside.

 

Mark Millwood, That Boy Good

Q: What is your upbringing that made you want to become a chef?

Mark Millwood: I was extremely lucky to be raised by a mother (Miss Lequita) who kept a coffee can of bacon grease on the stove to cook with. My father died when I was young so my mother had a hard task with two unruly boys. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always ate like we did. My mom traveled and lived all over the world with my father who was a Naval Officer. She could make anything from lumpia to Mongolian barbecue to grits and grillades. My exposure to a very diverse range of food at an early age was definitely a huge part of my bringing.

Q: You’ve cooked in some amazing places, what made you want to stay in Southern California?

MM: My wife talked me into it! It wasn’t the plan but is seems to be working out okay. I just have a hard time with the traffic and the amount of time it takes to get places. I was doing the daily drive from Redondo Beach to the Ritz Carlton in LA a few years back and that is no joke. So I always think of that miserable commute whenever I start getting mild rage [laughs].

Q: Congrats on opening up your own restaurant, what step did you take to get there?

MM: My wife Kim did all the leg work initially. While I was putting in 80 plus-hour work weeks at the Ritz Carlton she was coming down to O-side to scout out locations. I called some childhood friends to borrow some money and we just kind of figured it all out. I am thinking of doing some video tutorial on what not to do. Believe me, we made a whole lot of mistakes, but we’re still here!

Q: How did the name “That Boy Good” come about?

MM: “That Boy Good” is a southern slang. When I was a kid one of my uncles would belt that out when someone at a family gathering would start playing an instrument. Guitar, harmonica, or banjo would usually be the instrument of choice in my family. It could also be heard as a line in the Eddie Murphy movie “Coming to America” or in the song “New York” by Jay Z and Alicia Keys.

Q: What is your secret to make the best barbecue?

MM: I wouldn’t call it a secret much as it is just years of putting flavors together and knowing how the average person’s palate reacts to taste and texture. A really great lesson I learned from one of my mentors was being able to marry together sweet and salty, soft and crunchy etc. Contrasting textures and flavors help keep the plate engaged. At TBG I did keep in mind that we are next to an enormous Marine base which houses a whole lot of southern Marines. What I mean is there is going to be a demand for Texas barbecue, Memphis barbecue, and Carolina barbecue etc. I created TBG recipes to try and compliment all of those regions, which isn’t easy. For example, we make a ketchup based sauce similar to Memphis area but I use a lot of mustard and vinegar in which that is predominant in Carolina sauces. I know we can’t 100 percent please everybody, but we’re trying our best everyday!

Q: Can you tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t have guessed?

MM: My favorite meal as a kid was Miss Lequita’s warm skillet cornbread crumbled in a glass and covered in cold buttermilk, and fried green tomatoes on the side. I still treat myself to it every now and then!

Q: What does it mean to be voted favorite chef in Oceanside?

MM: I am very proud to represent O-side’s emerging culinary scene. I tell everyone that I’m more and more excited that we are getting a better caliber of chefs here in town. With good chefs come good cooks and that is the true backbone of all kitchens. To the often overlooked and overworked ladies and gentlemen in the back of the house that make all of us chefs look like rock stars, I salute you!

Luis Lopez Sr., Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill

Q: Can you tell us the backstory of where it all begun and what made you want to become a Chef?

Luis Lopez Sr.: After moving to Palm Springs when I was 18, I began working as a dishwasher at the Hungry Tiger in Rancho Mirage. It was my first restaurant job. I also got a job at the Erawan Garden Hotel as a busboy. My passion for cooking started when I was promoted to work the ‘oyster bar’ at the Hungry Tiger in Rancho Mirage. Being an exhibition style kitchen, I prepared and cooked all food in front of customers. After falling in love with the kitchen I asked to be moved to the back house at Erawan. A few months later, I was promoted to Banquet Chef there. Seeing my guests’ expressions when eating my specials gave me joy and inspiration to hopefully one day open a restaurant of my own. Fast forward 14 years, I moved my family and I to San Diego. I was the Executive Chef at the Beach House in Cardiff by the Sea. My cooking style really started to take flight here over the next 20 years building menus, creating ideas for other restaurant concepts, and coaching my team to become better chefs. In 2010 my family and I decided to open our own restaurant, Lighthouse Oyster Bar & Grill, in the Oceanside harbor. Dreams do come true!

Q: How do you start your day to operate the kitchen?

LL: My day always starts with inventory of my daily deliveries. I take pride in checking our fish and seafood products ensuring freshness and quality. Then I make myself and our staff lunch.

Q: What is one rule you have in the kitchen?

LL: My kitchen staff has been with me for well over 15 years, we have all become family and we know that having fun while working is our glue to the operation. We all made the transition to Lighthouse in 2010 and we have all agreed that the number rule is ‘If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it.’ We all eat and bring our families to eat at our restaurant. We treat our customers like family; our regulars know all of us by name as we know theirs. For my culinary team and I, our kitchen is our home, we welcome you to sit with us and share our story through our dishes.

Q: There’s so much creativity in creating food, how do you get your ideas for the perfect dish?

LL: I come from an old school mentality, the simpler the better. While I appreciate changes to the classic dishes with new ideas and ingredients I never forget they are ‘classic’ for good reasons.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to become a chef?

LL: Mistakes will always happen learn to minimize them; create a dish that can be prepared by anyone. If you doubt your cooking, remember all the amazing smiles you have brought to people you may have never met through food.

Q: What does it mean to be one of the top chefs in Oceanside?

LL: To be considered as one of the top chefs in Oceanside is truly an absolute honor. I have had the privilege to cook for presidents, celebrities, professional chefs etc.—nothing brings me more joy than serving my Oceanside community day in and day out. My personal mission above all else in restaurants is to provide a memorable dining experience and to see people smile. Oceanside is one of the best communities to be part of, which adds to just how special this is.

 

Davin Waite, Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub

Q: What pushed you to become a chef?

Davin Waite: I’ve loved food and cooking since I can remember. This job never gets old and the longer I do this, the more I realize that I have to learn.

Q: What is your favorite dish to cook?

DW: My favorite dishes to cook are the ones that take the most love, such as ‘off cuts’ and things that aren’t typically eaten in the US.

Q: What is one rule you set in your kitchen?

DW: Stay humble, remain teachable and if it’s not ‘WOW,’ don’t send it.

Q: Who comes up with the names for the menu items like “Chronic” and “Ginger Devils?”

DW: All the creative side of things are a team effort, but I am the biggest kid in the sandbox. The Chronic is a shout out to an old friend and fellow chef from the Japengo days and the Ginger Devils is a play on words (my brother and I both have red hair).

Q: Who is the ideal chef you look up to?

DW: Picking a favorite chef is like picking a favorite band or a favorite artist, but I’m lucky to be surrounded by amazing chefs that I really look up to right here in the greater San Diego area.

Q: What does it mean to be one of the top chefs in Oceanside?

DW: It means a lot to me, especially because the people who have deemed me on the top chefs are friends and family, the opinions that matter the most.

Get Local With The Top Chefs in Oceanside