Chef’s Corner with Chef Michael Vaughn of Twenty6 at La Quinta Resort & Club
La Quinta Resort & Club is located in So Cal’s famed Coachella Valley, about 19 miles southeast of Palm Springs. Located within the resort is Twenty6– a modern bistro featuring inventive, updated versions of traditional dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients. And the man behind the curtain at Twenty6 is Chef de Cuisine, Michael Vaughn. journeyPod.com was wowed (over and over) by the creative cuisine and presentation of Chef Michael.
We sat down and chatted with Chef Michael, while enjoying a dinner tasting of Buffalo chicken lollipops, deep fried devil eggs, fried tomato soup, hanger steak with tater tots, and a TV Dinner. (Yes!) And for dessert, Chef made us Captain Crunch ice cream. Then for breakfast the next morning we started off with a Bloody Mary—made with bacon infused vodka! Then a pizza was delivered to our table—a green eggs and ham pizza. We spoke with Chef for hours, and learned how he got his start (and the inspiration for that start!), and of course inside scoop on food!
What do you look for when you first enter a restaurant?
I take notice of the servers, the hostess, the staff. You can tell a lot about the restaurant—it’s flow, it’s energy, it’s mood. That first impression when you walk in really sets the tone for the entire experience.
How did you start off your career as a Chef?
I started bussing tables at a friend’s family-owned diner in Arizona. I was always in awe of the cooks. They got all the pretty girls, and just seemed so cool. I was 15 and I wanted to be cool like them!
If you weren’t a Chef what would you be?
Growing up, I wanted to be in construction. But, now I have a growing interest in the study of psychology/sociology. People and their personalities are really interesting, especially being in the F&B business you come across a lot of people, team members and guests that have some very interesting ways about them.
What’s in your fridge at home?
SmartWater, limoncello, crepes. In my freezer I have Hangar One vodka (my fav!), sake, my Mom’s butterhorn rolls, and WhiteCastle sliders—hey, I’m a guy from the mid-west!
What’s your favorite restaurant in the desert for a night out on the town?
I’m a big fan of Robert Douglas’ Sense in Palm Desert. And my favorite sushi is Tanpopo.
It’s your Last Supper. Who’s cooking it? And what is on the menu?
My Mom! No question about it. She can choose the menu. I love my Mom’s home-cooking. I’d love to indulge on the food I grew up with as a child. She made this amazing casserole with crème of mushroom soup, broccoli and tater tots. It was a rare occasion casserole, but oh so good!
What’s the most unique thing you’ve tasted?
Well, since you shared your “most unique experience” with me, I feel like I can truly share mine now. When I was working as the executive chef at Rock Creek Cattle Company a 80,000-acre working ranch in Montana the cowboys—and they were truly cowboys—invited me to go calving with them. After the snipping, one of the cowboys put a Rocky Mountain Oyster on his knife, seared it quickly on a branding iron and offered it to me. My first reaction was, “it’s not even cooked.” To which I received the response, “it’s still warm, don’t need to be cooked.” Talk about freshness…
For more information on Twenty6 and La Quinta Resort & Club, please visit: www.laquintaresort.com. And be sure to listen to our luxury podcast on La Quinta Resort & Club’s “Groves in the Groove” Jazz Series.