Q&A With Chef Sam King of Water Grill

by Anne Marie Panoringan

We chatted with Sam King, co-founder of King’s Seafood Company, about the opening of Water Grill, his latest project.

Q What attracted you to this landmark site at South Coast Plaza?

A We believe it’s one of the most iconic locations in the state, not just in Orange County. It’s close to our home office and seafood distribution center. We’ve always wanted to partner with the Segerstrom family because we believe their culture and philosophy match well with ours.

Q When and why did you start your own seafood distribution center?

A King’s Seafood Company has been in total control of the quality and sustainability of its seafood since 1994, when we first partnered with Santa Monica Seafood. In 2006, we opened our own King’s Seafood Distribution center in Santa Ana. This allows us to personally handpick, cut and deliver top-quality seafood to our restaurants.

Q What will be the “wow” factors here?

A Water Grill South Coast Plaza will feature our largest oyster bar, showcasing multiple oyster species, both Eastern and Pacific, as well as a tremendous variety of chilled shellfish. We’ve worked with Hatch Design for over 35 years to create an aesthetic synonymous with our history. Using their creative vision, we will include elements such as custom blue tiling surrounding the bar and a concrete bar top, poured in place, and infused with actual oyster shells.

Q Chefs Michael Cimarusti of Providence and David LeFevre of M.B. Post and Fishing with Dynamite spent years at Water Grill L.A. before they opened their own restaurants. How has their legacy impacted culinary in your operations?

A First Michael, and then David, had a profound effect on making our entire company better. Each helped improve our culinary expertise exponentially. I am proud of what both have accomplished since they left King’s, and I am confident that they learned some skills while we worked together.

Q What are some of your favorite dishes at Water Grill?

A I enjoy the large oyster selection. A two-pound, local spiny lobster or a perfectly cooked piece of our Faroe Islands farm-raised Atlantic salmon are very satisfying. 

Q Which restaurants at South Coast Plaza have you enjoyed?

A We are surrounded by excellent restaurants here; establishments like Antonello and Vaca are run by terrific restaurateurs. Orange County has an extremely vibrant dining community, and we are excited to add Water Grill to the mix.