For Tin Vuong, it's all about balance - balancing the textures and flavors of a new dish he's creating as executive chef of Abigaile restaurant and brewery, 1301 Manhattan Avenue, balancing the choices on a menu to include old favorites and new things to try, balancing his demanding work schedule with having a life.
Vuong will be greeting the public at the restaurant's open house this afternoon, where the public will be able to sample complimentary bits of Vuong's cooking, along with a free tasting of restaurant brewmaster Brian Brewer.
"It's about balancing flavors," Vuong said about a daily special he had recently created.
In that case, he was balancing the crispy texture of bits of fried pig ear with the tartness of pickled eggplant with the mild spiciness of an arugula salad.
"I think you've got to keep a couple steaks on the menu," he said. "It needs to be a balance."
Particularly in a beach community such as Hermosa Beach, where there need to be some significantly lighter items on the menu, as well, including salads of apple and watercress, or heirloom tomatoes and avocado.
But there also has to be a challenge.
"I'll push the envelope as far as the people here in Hermosa Beach will let me," Vuong said.
His style of cooking isn't quite Asian fusion, although he's perfectly happy referencing his Chinese roots cooking up ox tails and pigs' ears and other parts that are slowly becomming more popular.
"Being Chinese, I've eaten that all my lifetime. It's nothing new to me," he said.
That being said, he doesn't want to be typecast as an "Asian" cook. He prefers to balance out the traditional with different twists and new techniques. For example, the trend of cooking sous vide - in a water bath of about 180 degrees. He prefers that for poaching eggs, but also used it to braise some oxtails in red wine and tomato sauce.
"The oxtails hold their shape better," he explained.
Vuong, age 32, didn't start his career path in the restaurant industry. He was a business major at UCLA and about to graduate, when he and two other friends just decided to enroll at what was then the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. While they finished the course, the other two friends left the food business, but Vuong went on to work at the St. Regis Hotel and Resort in Monarch Beach, California, and then, most recently as Corporate Chef at Sapphire Lounge in Laguna Beach.
"I'm just trying to have fun right now," he said. "Trying to have a balance of life."
As for opening his own restaurant, he might be interested.
"It's somewhere in my life, I just don't know where," he said.
In the meantime, there's his work at Abigaile, where part of his job is matching his food to the beers that are brewed on site at the restaurant.
"The dynamic is endless," he said about his new job. "It's an open book that needs to be written."