Spread the love

These Chefs are Cooking Up Something Delicious

Written By: Dani Jara El Paseo Palm Desert

Last month we presented our readers with a selection of restaurant owners in the very popular area of El Paseo in Palm Desert. After reviewing the results, we have discovered some intriguing facts, opinions and journeys of the following five restaurant owners chosen by you as the “Top 5 Restaurateurs on El Paseo.”

El Paseo Palm Desert

Engin Onural, Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge

Q: What advice would you give someone starting to run their own restaurant?

EO: Don’t, unless you are ready for the non-ending ride. Get ready to live at your restaurant and call it home. Your hours will be crazy. Don’t forget other people’s time off is your busy time. You could be a great chef but owning any business is not easy, especially a restaurant business where you have many moving components to control employees, guests etc. If you’re not willing to get your hands dirty, this industry is not for you.  

Q: What inspired you to become a sake connoisseur?

EO: It is important to understand what pairs well with your cuisine. Sake is another big world just like wine. The more you learn, the more your palate gets trained—the more it is exciting.

Q: What does the future hold for your restaurant?

EO: We are going on a solid [few] years. I cannot believe how fast time is passing by. It feels like yesterday when we opened our doors. It’s time for my second location. I am pleased to announce my second venture which is among us; Sandfish by Engin Onural in Uptown Palm Springs, where we will continue to showcase my award winning creative sushi paired with an amazing whiskey bar focusing on Japanese whiskey.

Q: How does it feel to be voted one of the Favorite Restaurant Owners on El Paseo?

EO: I am humbled, once again, to see how much continued love and support we have. I could be the best sushi chef out there, but if I don’t have my customers to share this with then it doesn’t mean anything. That’s why I am very appreciative of all our customers who continue to love and support us. Another season is around the corner and we’re ready with our new fun and delicious dishes.

 

Deborah Quinn-Buchanan, The FIX on El Paseo

Q: How long ago did you begin your venture into the restaurant business?

Deborah Quinn: We began the FIX on El Paseo as retail for our Pastry Swan Bakery, as a café in 1997. The bakery was started in Palm Desert in 1985. Our neighbors had a fire in 2009, and we reopened a few doors down in May of 2010 and called it the FIX.

Q: What advice would you give someone starting to run their own restaurant?

DQ: I’ve always told anyone who has had dreams of opening anything, including our employees, to follow your dreams, as you will never know unless you try. Doing something and failing is better than always wondering ‘what if.’ If it’s your passion, don’t give up, as you will not fail.

Q: If you weren’t in the restaurant industry, what would you be doing?

DQ: My biggest passion is flying, as I have a private pilot’s license, and would do it all day every day if I could, but do not have the time to do as I wish with it. That’s where the “follow your dreams” comes in. Just do it!

Q: How does it feel to be voted on of the Favorite Restaurant Owners on El Paseo?

DQ: I feel honored to have even been in the vote, with such great company because they are all wonderful and deserving. Thank you for making us feel great!

 

Kelly McFall and Kreg Alexander, Wilma & Frieda’s Cafe

Q: How long ago did you begin your venture into the restaurant business?

Kelly McFall: I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 18 years old. I’ve worked in many facets of the business and was in the coffee business for over 15 years as well. Kreg and I have been in business for four years, and Kreg was also a Food & Beverage director in Santa Barbara managing many catering events for a historic hotel.

Q: What new menu items can customers look forward to?

KM: We have new items every day on our specials board, such as Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a cheesy hollandaise, seared pancetta and two fried eggs. We’re creating new items for our upcoming Palm Springs location. I’m excited about our Country Fried Steak made with filet mignon. It’s delicious! Our Chef Julian makes the best gravy to complement this dish.

Q: Having named your cafe after your two lovely grandmothers, what comment do you think Wilma and Frieda would say about any particular menu items?  

KM: Frieda would be happy with the décor. She was always a smart dresser and Wilma would smile that her meatloaf recipe inspired the creation we now have.

Q: How does it feel to be voted one of the Favorite Restaurant Owners on El Paseo?

KM: Kreg and I are so grateful to have been received this well in the community. There are a lot of hardworking restaurateurs in the area and to be considered one of them is a compliment.

Suchada Soramaki Blue Orchid Thai Bistro

Q: How long ago did you begin your venture into the restaurant business?

Suchada Soramaki: In Thailand, 1999-2000, I attended Dusit Thani cooking school for 18 months, [and trained] at [the] Marriot Hotel in Bangkok. [I] worked at a Thai restaurant in Coachella Valley cooking for two years, and after that as a server for about five years.

Q: What advice would you give someone starting to run their own restaurant?

SS: [You] must have a love for cooking, and it must come from the heart. Be honest with customers and be good with customer service.

Q: What inspired you to choose Southeast Asian cuisine for your Blue Orchid Thai Bistro?

SS: Thai culture is my background. Every meal in my childhood was cooked at home, my mother and grandmother [would teach] me and that gave me the inspiration.

Q: How does it feel to be voted one of the Favorite Restaurant Owners on El Paseo?

SS: I’m honored and appreciative of all the votes.

 

Mitch Epstein, Mitch’s on El Paseo Prime Seafood

Q: How long ago did you begin your venture into the restaurant business?

Mitch Epstein: About 35 years ago—to be honest, it began by accident. I was going to SDSU and a couple of my friends had jobs at this restaurant and bar. I quickly became a barback and self-taught bartender. By the age of 22, I was the Assistant Manager of the same restaurant. This was my indoctrination into the industry.

Q: What advice would you give someone starting to run their own restaurant?

ME: You better surround yourself with good people. You have so many people trying to accomplish one goal on what it takes to produce one plate of food. The customer knows what they like and for me it’s a lot of empathy. I can make mistakes but don’t want anyone to have to pay for that. If I read 99 great reviews and one bad one, I take it to heart. It’s a family business. It’s not just a job for us.

Q: What do you enjoy most about running your business in the Palm Springs area?

ME: The people! I’ve been on this street for years. I am here with my wife every day to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ To make you feel warm and welcome, to make you feel not just like a number. My philosophy is you’re going to go back to where you feel warm and welcome and treated with the utmost respect. I know people by name that when they come here they know they’re going to be taken care of.

Q: How does it feel to be voted one of the Favorite Restaurant Owners on El Paseo?

ME: Pretty amazing! There are some unbelievable owners on El Paseo. I’ve got to know a lot of the entrepreneurs here, so just to be included in that unbelievable group is a definite blessing.

You Voted: Here’s Your Favorite Restaurant Owners on El Paseo