A fixture on the Southern California culinary scene for more than 20 years, Chef Andre Guerrero has cooked in kitchens ranging from his family’s restaurant to the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel and developed his own style of contemporary ethnic and fusion cuisines as owner/chef of Senior Fred, Duet and, currently, Max. His latest project, The Oinkster, is the chef’s first foray into the quick-service arena. The concept’s unique menu is fueled by applewood and steeped in slow-food cooking traditions. With The Oinkster, Guerrero hopes to launch a new quick-service category, “slow fast food.”
Top-selling sandwiches at The Oinkster are filled with applewood-smoked, house-cured pastrami and slow-roasted North Carolina-style pork. Rotisserie chicken; fresh-ground, one-third pound, Nebraska Angus beef burgers; hand-cut Belgian fries; and salads round out the savory offerings. All items are priced under $10.
For dessert, locally made ice cream is turned into sundaes topped with homemade Valrhona chocolate hot fudge sauce. Milkshakes are made with the same ice cream, plus simple syrup, milk, and fresh seasonal fruit. Guerrero is not afraid to try something different. He uses the ube, a sweet purple yam popular in Filipino cuisine, in milkshakes.
The Right Ingredients
Guerrero also believes in taking the time to get his ingredients just right. Take The Oinkster’s pastrami, for example. The restaurant serves about 500 pounds of pastrami on a weekly basis, and its version of the seasoned, sliced beef is based on Guerrero’s own recipe.
Guerrero experimented for two years to replicate the distinctive combination of smoke and spice he recalled from childhood pastrami sandwiches in San Francisco. He started by using the more costly and flavorful navel end of the brisket. And instead of injecting the meat with the mixture of water, salt, sugar, and nitrates that many commercial manufacturers use to quick-cure pastrami in three days, Guerrero relies on traditional brining methods.
“I did a lot of research and, as far as I know, nobody house-cures pastrami anymore, not even the New York delis,” Guerrero says. “Now it’s farmed out to commercial manufacturers.”