Costa Mesa chef John Park cooks out of the same kitchen for two restaurants: Fill and Toast Kitchen Bakery & Bar
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Toast Kitchen Bakery & Bar, envisioned by its creators as a modern diner, opened July 24 in Costa Mesa. (Courtesy of Toast)
John Park has his work cut out for him — times two.
He is chef of two Costa Mesa restaurants sharing the same kitchen: Fill, a malasada and ice cream shop, and Toast Kitchen Bakery & Bar, a 3,200-square-foot brunch/dinner restaurant with 93 seats. It opened on Tuesday, July 24.
Business partner Michael Cho was instrumental in finding the space, the former Golden Truffle. Another Toast Kitchen partner/investor/consultant, Ed Lee, a founder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco, knows Park can do the job. “John is super, super talented,” Lee says. “It’s hard to find someone with savory and sweet (skills) but his talent speaks for itself.”
Lee is referring to the chef’s experience as the founder of Quenelle ice cream shops in L.A. County. But Park also worked at some of the finest white tablecloth restaurants in Southern California before moving to Orange County a few years ago.
Park, who lives in Costa Mesa, said he was always a pastry guy, but his first job was line cook at Koi Restaurant in L.A. “I wanted to do pastry but they only had an opening on the line,” he said. “It’s amazing that Ed has taken a shot with someone who’s never been a chef before. I will say I think I’m a pretty smart guy and when I worked at Water Grill and Providence, I paid attention to how people were cooking fish and rice.”
Given the opportunity to develop around great chefs has been key, but so has his knowledge of pastry. “It elevates the food, especially on the brunch menu. We can use a lot of my baking experience.” Case in point, no boring eggs Benedict on an English muffin. Here it’s Green Eggs & Ham ($14) on a roasted garlic spinach scone with prosciutto, arugula, poblano mornay sauce and a sous vide egg. They don’t just serve chicken with waffles. You can also get it with a malasada. (If you want malasadas from Fill, arrive early; they’re popular and often run out after 1 p.m.)
There are plated entrées ($17-$29); rice bowls ($11-$15) sandwiches ($9-$12) and salads ($9-$15). All are geared with an eye toward fresh ingredients and making sure there’s something for everyone, including vegans and vegetarians. “I feel a lot of people are trending toward vegan and vegetarian, even if it’s not a full-on lifestyle change, but maybe just a weekend reset or for a week or two.”
Eclecticism goes with being a diner. “Back in the day a diner menu was like a book, you could always find something that you liked. We might not have 200 items but whatever your dietary restrictions are, we have something for you.”
There are many dishes to tempt hardcore foodies: Thai Chile Chilaquiles ($17) with pulled pork, Thai chili salsa verde, pickled onion, pinto beans, queso fresco and a sous vide egg, tastes like uptown nachos with a high note of chili; Short Rib, with galbi marinade, kimchi cucumbers, broccoli rabe, sous vide egg, pickled daikon and carrot is succulent, served in a bowl over moist, delicious rice ($17).
If you’re not sharing, be sure to request that all your entrées come up at the same time. Otherwise they will be served in the order that they’re ready in the kitchen.
Even kids will find favorites. Park said they gravitate toward fried chicken, yogurt parfaits, acai bowls and Nutella Stuffed French Toast ($13). “Honestly, the menu is stuff I like to eat and cook for my family,” Park said.
Doing double the responsibilities doesn’t faze him. In fact, his vision goes beyond the menu. He employs veterans, the formerly homeless, foster kids and victims of abuse. He is also partnering with local non-profit organizations.
“John has done an amazing job with the team he’s built,” Lee said. “I truly believe and have faith in what he’s doing as a chef and as a leader in this community.”
Toast Kitchen Bakery & Bar
Open: Brunch: 8 a.m – 2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Dinner: 3-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Happy Hour: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. Closed Monday.