Q&A with Chef John Park and Restaurateur Ed Lee


The newly opened Tableau Kitchen and Bar is on its way to becoming a local favorite.  A collaboration between Chef John Park and restaurateur Ed Lee, this casual eatery in the Crate and Barrel wing is all about New American cuisine with global influences and unique twists.

For Lee, previously known for co-founding the popular Wahoo’s Fish Taco with his brothers, this eatery is the latest addition to his successful independent restaurant ventures.

Meanwhile, Park brings to Tableau a resume full of diverse experiences under the tutelage of major chefs, including stints in Los Angeles at the Michelin-starred Providence, XIV by Michael Mina, Lukshon, Father’s Office, Koi, and Water Grill.

Park’s strong pastry background shines at breakfast, with dishes ranging from mushroom toast to an Asian-inspired take on chicken and waffles. Lunch savory offerings include delicious sandwiches made with crunchy artisan toast and unusual fillings like roasted eggplant or fried burrata.  For dinner, green curry mussels and uni pasta are foodie favorites. Some diners like to pick up the freshly baked pastries or cookies on the way out to enjoy at home.

South Coast Plaza recently chatted with Lee and Park about their latest venture. Here are excerpts from that conversation.


SOUTH COAST PLAZA: After your success with Toast Kitchen + Bakery, why did you and John decide to open a restaurant at South Coast Plaza?

ED LEE: John and I initially met while he was working a pop-up shop selling pies at a restaurant that I was helping out at. One day, while at the Wahoo’s at South Coast Plaza, I noticed an empty space available to rent. Every day I would walk by the vacant space and sensed that we could utilize it.  Since Toast’s main focus has always been breakfast and brunch, I knew John wanted to showcase his culinary skills surrounding other food, and that this would be the perfect location.

John Park and Ed Lee

SCP: How would you describe food and approach at Tableau?

LEE: You can always tell when John has touched something because it will have his own unique flair. He uses flavors that oftentimes, you aren’t quite able to put your finger on. His ability to put unexpected twists on classic dishes is unparalleled. For example – our jasmine tea French toast – who does that? His approach is unlike any other.

Photo: JT Harsadi

SCP: John, when people talk about your culinary talents, they always mention your mastery of savory and sweet.  How did that develop? 

JOHN PARK: The focus of my career has always been sweets and pastry but I took time to pay attention to the savory cooks. I have been fortunate to have worked at some great establishments and under the tutelage of talented chefs. I took advantage of that and learned so much.

SCP: What’s your attraction to brekkie dishes?

PARK: Breakfast is easier to incorporate my pastry background since some dishes are sweeter, like French toast and pancakes.  I use my baking background for the house-made everything spice bagel for the citrus-cured salmon.

SCP: What’s a personal favorite?

PARK: My favorite breakfast dish now is our play on chicken and waffles. We make classic Korean fried chicken wings glazed with sweet garlic soy and instead of a traditional waffle we serve two taiyakis filled with kecap manis pastry cream. Kecap manis is an Indonesian sweet soy sauce that when mixed with custard creates an amazing salted butterscotch-maple flavor. 

LEE: My favorite dish is the curry mussels — it’s mind blowing and unlike anything I have ever tasted. Another favorite is the avocado mousse. The dessert brings me back to drinking avocado smoothies during my childhood in Brazil. If you grew up anywhere such as South Asia or South America and you taste this mousse, you will be immediately brought back in time.

SCP: How about a favorite among the many seafood dishes?

PARK: On the dinner menu, I love our salmon dish with misugaru gnocchi, lima bean pesto and fish sauce vinaigrette. Misugaru (a powder made from roasted grains popular in Korea) lends a nuttiness; the fish sauce vinaigrette brightens it up.

Our most popular seafood dish, however, has been the green curry mussels with sweet potato, fresh herbs, serrano chiles and an outstanding poblano chorizo that we source from The Chori-Man in San Pedro.

SCP: Please tell us about the plan for the upcoming community table. 

LEE: The idea behind the community table came about when John asked, “What else can we do to help our community?” The community table gives us the opportunity to fundraise once a month while simultaneously showcasing the remarkable talents of John and the kitchen team at Tableau.

John’s dream is to end world hunger and homelessness. The community table allows us to work to this goal one small step at a time. It also helps build connections with the community members that we are helping, and to perhaps one day, provide them a job at the restaurant.

SCP: We understand it’s important for you to support the underserved in the community.  At Tableau, which organizations are you assisting?

PARK: Our first non-profit partner at Tableau is Vocational Visions, based in Mission Viejo, whose mission is to create pathways to employment, life-long learning and social inclusion for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

SCP: About the restaurant’s name – what’s the thinking behind it?

PARK: Tableau comes from the old French for “picture or painted target.” We usually use tableau to describe a vivid lively scene like a happy gathering around the table. The significance for me is that gathering and connection.

At Tableau there’s a great photo of my four kids at a table, celebrating a birthday. Guests have commented how happy they look. My hope is that our guests can experience that same joy whenever they dine with us.



Hot drinks at Tableau are served in beautiful handmade ceramic cups from Match Stoneware. “We’re excited to be the first restaurant in Orange County to showcase Match’s ceramics,” Park said. “What I love about their pieces is that it looks like a lot of time, effort and thought went into them. We hope that guests have the same reaction to our food.”


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