Craig Strong

Craig Strong

Orange County - Restaurant Owner and Chef

As a chef since the age of 15, it is no wonder that Craig Strong has finally opened his own restaurant after working at prestigious hotels and resorts around the world for most of his life. Strong, a California local has found his way back to the West coast to open up Ocean at Main in Laguna Beach. Strong explains that as a Gemini, there is a ton of duality in his life, especially related to his culinary tastes. “I have run fine dining restaurants that have earned Michelin Stars and Forbes 5 Star ratings, and have always had a deep love for tacos and pizza,” says Strong. Though the duality resides, Strong’s love for coastal California and its cuisine hasn’t seemed to change much over the years.

Q&A:

Hometown?

I grew up in San Diego but attended high school in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Place you call home now (neighborhood etc)?

Arch Beach Heights, Laguna Beach.

Any notes on your education?

I attended L’Academie de Cuisine for my culinary education. It’s a small school in the Washington DC area taught by two classically trained French brothers.

Favorite sport to watch?

NFL Football. I am a huge Chargers fan - Go Bolts!

Favorite sport to play?

I enjoy golfing and regularly go mountain biking in the trails of Laguna.

Best vacation ever?

Wakaya Club & Spa on the amazing island of Fiji.

Favorite dinner?

My ideal dinner is spent in the backyard enjoying simple grilled meats, fish, and vegetables from the garden with good wine and great friends.

Favorite dessert?

My all-time favorite dessert is spice cake. We offer my ideal of this dessert at Ocean at Main called Craig’s Spice Cake with hazelnut crumble, whipped créme Fraiche, and banana ice cream.

Underrated food?

I’m from Southern California - tacos are my go-to favorite.

Dish you’re best at cooking?

Perfectly roasted chicken with sherry vinegar sauce. You can often measure a great chef by his or her ability to roast chicken and make a good sauce.

Best meal you’ve had at a restaurant?

There have been many memorable meals, some of the very best include The Fat Duck in London, El Bulli in Barcelona, and Eleven Maddison Park in NYC.

Favorite actress and or actor?

Lissa Strong (my wife) she is an actress. She is beautiful inside and out with a great sense of humor and contagious laugh.

Favorite bands?

I listen to a lot of different music.
If I’m driving, I’m usually listening to Tool, Rush, or other 80s rock.
If I’m with friends at a dinner party, I enjoy Amos Lee, Alabama Shakes, Santana, to Jarabe de Palo.
When I’m mountain biking, I’m listening to music by Chevelle, Metallica, and Rage Against the Machine.
When I’m with Lissa, we’re listening to Eagles, Sade, Fleetwood Mac, or Gypsy Kings.

Car you drive now?

Audi Q5.

Wear a watch?

Not at work. In the kitchen, I wash my hands so often that a watch feels cumbersome.

Summer drink of choice?

Margarita. My wife’s family is Mexican, so you know we enjoy a little tequila from time to time.

Bourbon or Scotch?

Bourbon.

Vodka or gin?

Gin.

Cologne?

Only when I’m not working.

Go-to red on a wine list?

Rioja.

Go-to white?

White Burgundy.

Favorite beach?

Here in Laguna Beach, I like snorkeling in front of the Montage at Treasure Island Cove.

Best work advice you ever got?

Find something you love and give it everything you’ve got!

Best thing about your career?

I love working as a team and the feeling of a big family. I get to eat pretty well, too.

What do you do now for work? Tell us something about your work and career path.

I started working in restaurants when I was only 15 years old. I grew up in kitchens and have really had only one job as a cook. That passion has taken me all over the world and afforded me the opportunity to work in some of the world’s most prestigious hotels and resorts. It led me to the opening of my own restaurant, Ocean at Main.

Do you have any philanthropic interests/endeavors?

I am grateful to be able to participate in many charities that serve our local community. I have hosted events for Share our Strength to raise money to stamp out childhood hunger; have supported the local arts scene through fundraising efforts for Laguna Art Museum; and as well as dinners benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Add anything else about yourself here that you would like the world to know about you.

As a Gemini, there’s a lot of duality in my life. My passions and interests often have two sides: For exercise, I find zen through yoga stretch classes with my wife at the Art of Fitness then listen to heavy metal while mountain biking in the hills of Laguna Beach for cardio. I have run fine dining restaurants that have earned Michelin Stars and Forbes 5 Star ratings, and have always had a deep love for tacos and pizza. I am always trying to balance my time and the things that bring me joy: my work family at Ocean at Main and my lovely wife Lissa and darling daughter Scarlet.