“Local Tastemakers” is a collection of intimate interviews exploring Newport Beach’s flavor and flair through the eyes of the city’s most captivating chefs and restaurateurs during a time that has heavily impacted the restaurant and hospitality communities. Follow along every week to get to know familiar faces and the secrets to the dish that made them a locals’ favorite.
Born and raised in Washington D.C., Chef Rich Mead’s vast culinary adventures landed him in picturesque Newport Beach spearheading one of the destination’s most popular restaurants, Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens. Setting the bar high for fresh, seasonal cuisine, Farmhouse is nestled in an al fresco, garden-like setting and Chef Mead’s specialized menu features sustainable field-to-fork dining.
In his personal life, he enjoys partaking in the laidback local lifestyle such as taking the Balboa Island Ferry to the Fun Zone at Balboa Village for some old-school fun. For Chef Mead, finding new places to eat great food is a passion, or as he likes to call it, an obsession. With over 37+ years of culinary experience, dining at Farmhouse is a culmination of Chef Mead’s explorations as an epicurean with award-winning signature cocktails and delicious healthy, seasonal cuisine.
Chef Rich Mead & Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens
What made you want to become a chef and what is the best part of your job?
It is a very creative job and I was intrigued by the concept of being a chef years ago—crafting the food you serve and then producing the environment in which you serve the food, the people you meet—customers, farmers, wine makers, the people you get a chance to work with—it is a very rewarding career.
What is the most popular thing on the menu and what is your favorite?
I’ve always loved the Roast Jidori Half Chicken, as well as, the Asian Chicken Salad – anything that includes protein from our friends at Autonomy Farms, who specialize in raising wonderful grass-fed proteins in Bakersfield.
Looking Back at 2020
Talk to us about all the ways you pivoted your operation in 2020/21.
Our dishes have changed somewhat since the pandemic—things are simpler as we emphasize takeout. From very early on, we realized we had to get creative with our takeout offerings to not only attract a new demographic of customers, but to keep more staff employed and keep supporting our local farmer friends who rely on weekly orders from us. We quickly introduced our Farmers Market Produce Boxes, started a Curbside Market with pantry items and house made goods, offered our cocktails to-go and weekly Family Meal specials including Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch.
How has this past year affected your staff?
This has been one of the hardest years ever. We had to lay off so many staff members —I felt so horrible. But the support we have received from our community with our efforts to raise money for those who aren’t working has been so generous. In the beginning, we had a GoFundMe page setup, and we received such great support through takeout gratuity, which we have been able to share with our staff who were not able to return to work.
The Silver Lining
What is your ultimate hope for 2021?
Hopefully in 2021 we are able to come back to a little semblance of normal and people will remember to respect others. I hope that those of us in the restaurant industry will be able to resurrect ourselves in a viable way — we are a resilient group, and with creativity and drive we will all come out of this better than before.