How old were you when you first started cooking?
Chef Andrew Gruel: Both of my parents worked, so the microwave and Sara Lee were my best after-school buddies. I was about 10 when I realized that it could be a lot more interesting cooking with fire.
But you never intended to become a chef …
Nope. I had always cooked in restaurants for high school and college jobs, but my interest had to do with sustainability and science. It wasn’t until I was working as the director of Seafood for the Future at the Long Beach Aquarium that all the dots connected. I’d been working with chefs across the country to establish more awareness for sustainable seafood, and the opportunity to act on that education was staring me right in the face. I started with a food truck that based its entire menu on sustainable food items (mostly fish), and it just mushroomed from there.
You’ve been on a number of Food Network shows … Chopped, Food Truck Face Off, Chopped Junior … as both a participant and judge … what’s your best memory in that whole experience?
It’s so much fun; I feel like I come up with the newest great memory every day … a couple years ago, though, I was a judge with Meghan Markle before she became the Duchess. She really is an awesome person.
But I’d say the best memory was when I was judging Food Truck Face Off and we were filming it in Canada. The contestants came from all over North America, but the winning team came from Huntington Beach, about a 1-minute drive from my original Slapfish restaurant. That was pretty cool. I still check in on them.
You’re a repeat Chef at OC Chef’s Table. Why do you keep returning?
I love everything about OC Chef’s Table. I love the Chef’s Breakfast beforehand where you get to meet up with your buddies again. I love hearing all the stories of redemption from the stage … it’s everything, from start to finish.
OC Chef’s Table isn’t about the actual event but getting involved and understanding and following what Illumination Foundation is doing from a closer angle. Every year, I’m amazed at how much progress they’re making to help our homeless population and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I’ll do anything I can to support the great work they’re doing.
The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes …