They say first impressions are made within moments of meeting someone. Our introduction with Gary Mead led us to believe that he may be a man of few words. However, by the time we met for his interview, his Bazinga! t-shirt (a nod to both The Flash and The Big Bang Theory we learned) changed our tune. A spiritual, family-oriented individual, Mead's desire to heal others through his cuisine lends to the warm vibe each time we step through his green doorway.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Morning stack with hummus, shredded carrot, arugula and our buffalo hot sauce, or chili eggs with our house-made quinoa chili.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Sharp knife and an open heart.
For those that might not know, why do receipts print out with PJ's Abbey on them?
It's our legal name from our previous restaurant.
One food you can't life without:
A daily sweet.
Let's discuss the coffee served.
We brew coffee from Old Town Roasters, who roast and sell custom blends at MGDC. We also like to support local small businesses.
What's up with the green door?
It's a doorway to a “greener” way of eating.
Where was your most recent meal?
The Fall Fling, our newest salad creation. Roasted Brussels sprouts, pomegranate seeds, kale, arugula, fennel, golden raisins and house-made dressing.
What do you suggest for first-timers, both meat-eaters and vegetarians?
Rancheros burrito or the taco salad with our buffalo cauliflower.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?)
When we get special requests, we always try to accommodate them.
Chef Ito at Au Lac (also his favorite place to eat), because of his “Humanese” philosophy: The belief that we have more in common than we realize.
Favorite meal growing up:
I wasn't picky. Anything my mom made was my favorite!
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Your earliest food memory:
Enjoying pumpkin pie with family on Thanksgiving.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Tell us about your mom's pastries.
My mom comes from a long line of bakers. We opened PJ Mead's Book and Coffee 20 years ago, and everyone fell in love with her baking. She has been doing it lovingly every day since then.
Your best recent food find:
Vegetarian eggs benedict (not on the menu) and yacht rock [Editor's Note: We did clarify that Mead said yacht rock. Quite the specialized genre.] at Memphis in downtown Santa Ana.
Strangest thing you've ever eaten:
When I was a kid I ate chocolate-covered grasshoppers.
Is there a dish that you'd like to learn how to make?
What is your beverage of choice?
Depends on the mood . . .champagne with my wife at home. Hot tea in the afternoon when I'm at work, contemplating life. Fresh homemade Moscow mules with friends.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.