Chef Ryan Adams has been a driving force in the Orange County culinary community for years. He attended California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked for restaurants like One Market and Stars before returning home. Three Seventy Common has been a culinary beacon in Laguna Beach since 2011. This looks to be a big year for the life-long local. His monthly Sunday night fried chicken feast at Three Seventy Common has proven so popular that he spun off Buttermilk Fried Chicken in Old Town Orange, serving his beloved bird on a daily basis. He’s also dedicated Parallel Pizzeria in Dana Point to New Haven-style pizza. Adams shared his approach to both comfort foods and to his career.
Joshua Lurie: Did you always plan to cook for a living, or did you consider other careers?
Ryan Adams: I considered other careers when I was younger. It was around the age of 14 I knew cooking would be in my future. I had my first dishwasher job at 15.
JL: What are the criteria for a dish to make the Three Seventy Common menu? How have those guidelines evolved since you first opened the restaurant?
RA: There are two simple, but meaningful rules I keep in mind when creating new dishes: “look good, taste good, feel good” and “What would Grandma do?” Those guidelines haven’t changed.
JL: Tell me the story about the most recent dish you created. What was your inspiration and approach?
RA: We recently created our kampachi dish at Three Seventy Common which is served with aguachile, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and chile. The inspiration for this dish came from our initial idea of chile with shrimp. We came up with this dish by using familiar flavors that we built on to make them even better.
JL: What are your keys to great fried chicken?
RA: A few key tips are to use a really good frying oil. We recommend a high-quality peanut or cottonseed oil. Always fry chicken at the proper temperature and use good quality chicken that’s been air-chilled and not water-chilled.
JL: How did you decide on New Haven-style pizza, versus other styles? What steps are you taking to make the style your own?
RA: I love the New Haven-style, personally, for several reasons. For starters, it’s not as common as other styles, and you can ferment the dough. New Haven-style is cooked with charcoal to help impart more flavor, and this method gives the crust a distinctive char. I love the unique toppings on this style of pizza, such as clams, and with the thin crust, it doesn’t weigh you down after a couple of slices.
Our pies will demonstrate the West Coast lifestyle by using all-natural ingredients. Some of the unique pies that will set us apart include the Clam Pie with littlenecks, bacon, pecorino, chile flakes and parsley; the White and Green with prosciutto, Parmesan, ricotta, garlic, arugula, chile flakes and basil pistou; and the Mashed Potato with bacon, jalapeño, pecorino, onion, and garlic, to name a few.
JL: Who are some other chefs that you look to for inspiration in Orange County and what stands out about them?
RA: I pull inspiration from many different sources – when I’m out in nature, shopping at the farmers markets as well as from other chefs or colleagues in the industry. The Orange County chef I’ve been most inspired by is Mike Rossi from The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon. He is a well-rounded chef who works with a talented team and is consistent with his cuisine. I’ve also drawn inspiration from Aron Habiger and Florent Marneau, among others.
JL: What are some misconceptions that people may have about the Orange County dining scene, and how would you like to address them?
RA: Orange County has a very dynamic dining scene to go along with a multi-cultural population. Depending on where you go in Orange County, you can find Little Persia, Little Saigon and [Little Seoul] for great culturally diverse dining. Orange County is also starting to get some impact with finer dining as well as younger chefs who are coming in and focusing on a specific ingredient or style. And speaking of Orange County, Carlos Salgado’s restaurant Taco Maria was just named Best Restaurant of the Year for 2018 by The Los Angeles Times.
JL: Pulling from all of the dishes you’ve created for Three Seventy Common, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and Parallel Pizza, construct a dream dinner. Also, which people would join you at the table?
RA: I would start with an individual-sized white clam pie and chopped salad from Parallel Pizzeria. Then Three Seventy Common’s Bone Marrow with parsley, radish, fennel, citrus and chimichurri. We would then enjoy Buttermilk’s Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and braised greens along with a side of Three Seventy Common’s Baked Mac & Cheese. The sweet ending would be The Presley from Three Seventy Common. I’d enjoy this meal with my wife, family, chef friends, and good friends. And if I could bring someone back to join us, it would be my best friend Dano.