For anyone in the Long Beach food scene, Chef David Coleman—the former executive chef of Michael’s Restaurant Group who oversaw Michael’s on Naples, Michael’s Pizzeria, Chianina, and the sadly closed Working Class Kitchen—is a force to be reckoned with. In fact, it is fair to say that Coleman’s work influenced other chefs like Jason Witzl of Ellie’s and Thomas Ortega of Playa Amor to open their spectacular restaurants here.
And now, thanks to a stamp of approval from Pacific6—the group of investors overseeing the rehabilitation of two of DTLB’s most beloved historic buildings, the famed Breakers Hotel and the Pine’n’Ocean gem that is Ocean Center—Coleman will take on not one but three culinary adventures related to the Breakers in the hopes of elevating not just the hotel food scene but the city’s food scene as a whole. (Disclosure below.)
Coleman was initially proposed to take over the Sky Room during its waning days before the entire building began undergoing its two-year renovation for a handful of months.
“It made little sense to have me come in and take over what was essentially a failing restaurant,” Coleman said. “Attaching my name to something that isn’t beneficial to [the investors]—coming into a system that’s entirely broken, only to have it for a few months before closing up shop again just wasn’t a viable option in my mind.”
The nod toward a broken system isn’t necessarily as shady as it comes off: Investors of the building have inherited a dilapidated structure and restaurant space that is far from the glory days the building had as a part of Conrad Hilton’s initial hotel empire—and in this sense, Coleman feels that his ideas should coincide with the new Breakers.
While that would typically mean patiently waiting for two years, the investors behind him have another idea: a food truck dubbed the Breakers Roadshow, which began serving patrons today and will continue to do so on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. By next week, the Roadshow will be in front of the Breakers every Wednesday, along with other locations throughout the region the rest of the week.
This week’s menu? A $6 meatball sandwich made with tomato-braised Piedmontese beef. This isn’t to mention a Chicken Torta, Grilled Octopus Taco and “End of Summer” Salad.
Coleman’s talent should not be dismissed; for those who have never experienced his menus at Michael’s or Chianina or his much-missed personal dinners for 10 at Working Class Kitchen, Coleman’s food is thoughtful, witty, and extremely layered in references, styles and flavors.
With this, the Roadshow provides someone of his caliber a small dream for a chef: A testing ground that goes beyond the streets of Long Beach.
With the ability to play with food, albeit in a limited setting since it’s on a mobile kitchen, Coleman can spread not only the brand of the Breakers across the LA and Orange County regions—he plans on being in Long Beach twice a week with the truck, followed by ventures in LA and Orange County on other days—he can meet new audiences that challenge him with nuances in palates that he might not experience were he to remain solely within Long Beach.
“It gives me a place to work with and test things we might able to offer in the future at the two restaurants at the Breakers,” Coleman said. “It’s going to be a bit more rustic … That’s we’re calling it American street cuisine. We don’t want to come off as pretentious and we don’t want to come off as unthoughtful.”
Coleman’s interpretation of American food is one which recognizes that, in and of itself, there is no such thing as “American food.” A land of immigrants, American cuisine is an amalgamation of cultures, ideas, and endless references—in fact, it’s impossible to create a sense of American cuisine without some sort of fusion of outside grub.
“What is ‘American?'” Coleman asked. “There’s this idea going around that it’s an exclusive concept when, in reality, anything American automatically means it’s inclusive… I want the food—the food from the truck and the food from the future restaurants—to reflect that. Even this particular project… A lotta chefs have big egos, they want it ”
While the menu will be constantly revolving—”We might have a staple like a burger but the type of burger will alter while every other menu item will be different, hopefully, each time someone visits,” Coleman said—ideas he has brewing inside his head pay homage to the hand-held, to-go street food that have defined a huge, important part of the culture of SoCal, as noted in his current menu.
“We have time—there is no reason to get ahead of ourselves because we have two years,” Coleman said. “The main point is to create something that people can experience; something that is a hint of what’s to come.”
Editor’s note: Pacific6, the parent company of the Long Beach Post, is the owner of the Breakers Roadshow.
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