Chef News

Emilio Morales of Sunshine Moon Peking Pub, Part Two

Keyon Fareghi
Yesterday we chatted with Emilio Morales of Sunshine Moon Peking Pub about what has brought him to this point in his life. Today our conversation continues as we discuss his plans for the future, Korean food and Anthony Bourdain.

Morales comes from quite a large family, which has contributed to the chef he is today. He has been through the corporate ringer, dealt with an entire staff where everyone spoke Japanese and now finally has sometime to just be happy doing his own thing.

Sushi know-how: I know a lot about sushi. I worked in New York three years ago at Sen. I also opened an izakaya in Arizona, which is a small pub that businessmen come into to have great pub fare. It's very difficult to acquire the skill and I wouldn't say that I'm a master sushi chef. I am better at the hot part of Japanese cooking, which is not as familiar to most people. Talk about respect - at the izakaya guys spend their entire lives training to be sushi chefs. As Americans, we don't understand the amount of honor and time that goes into that. I was fortunate enough to work with a kitchen full of master sushi chefs in New York. I was the executive chef/partner in the restaurant, so I had a translator - we would sit down and talk about specials and how things were going to run. When I got there, they hated me and when I left, we all cried. It was an incredible experience.

Find out which television personality Morales can't stand after the jump.

Not a fan of the bizarre food movement: I'm not into making exotic food that grosses people out just because it's a trendy dish. I've seen Andrew Zimmern, but I can't stand him. I think it's ridiculous. I actually have a hard time watching food shows because I can't taste the food. When people say 'mmm' to everything, I don't buy it. Anthony Bourdain is my hero. He is as real as it gets. I would love to talk to him.

Next five years: To me this is my dream job because I've always worked for people and now I'm working for myself. I hope we're successful enough to consider having a second location or even a different concept. I don't think I've ever been complacent where I am - I've always wanted more and it sort of drives. In five years, I want to be developing something new. I'm always trying to learn more about different cuisine.

I don't speak Korean: I was just reading that Koreans weren't given citizenship or visas until recently so the food isn't as understood - the tastes aren't as understood as Chinese food. The influence has been here for years. Thai I really understand and love; Vietnamese I really understand and love; Korean is the one I'd probably want to dig into.

Lighten up: I wish someone had told me to try not to be so serious. I am now, but not as much. I want to be perfect. And just to take it easy more. Enjoy life.

Hold the kids menu: I cook everything at home: Italian, Japanese, Chinese. My kids have their separate requests. Sometimes it's fettucini; other times it's a fresh pesto or grilled mussels. My kids eat everything. The other night we went out for sushi and we were eating quail eggs with siracha and soy. My son has to be told to stop. They'll both eat oysters - they'll eat anything because that's how we raised them.

First life-changing boss: A chef of mine in Santa Barbara from Chicago, named Carrie Nahabedian - she's a James Beard Award winner. She hired me as a chef di partie. She used to come into my restaurant near Santa Barbara. She would come in late at night, sit at the bar and ask me to make her anything. For two months she came in and then came up to me one day and asked, "What do you want to do with your career?" I told her I wanted to be an executive chef - I was 21 at the time. And she said, "Come work for me and I'll make that happen." I asked, "Who are you?" And she said, "I'm the executive chef at The Four Seasons. She opened the one in Beverly Hills after I took over the one in Newport Beach.

The food item you couldn't cook without: Garlic - I put it in a lot of things. I didn't realize how many people don't like garlic. A lot of people love it and a lot of people hate it.

4th of 10: I am the 4th child in family of 10. We fished a lot and had gardens where we grew our own vegetables. We cooked by necessity. I slowly figured out you were the first to eat if you helped.

Tune in tomorrow for Morales' recipe for Kung Pao Scallops and if you missed out on part one yesterday, go back now.

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Keyon Fareghi
Contact: Keyon Fareghi