CHEF & KITCHEN MANAGER | THE ALCHEMISTS
THE IRON PRESS, THE BLIND RABBIT
Chef and Kitchen Manager Hiroki Uchida was born on June 10, 1991, in the city of Anaheim, California, where he was raised by his Japanese father, and his Costa Rican mother.
Uchida developed a fondness for cooking after watching his mother cook at home, and learning from her throughout his childhood. In 2008, he enrolled in the ROP Culinary Arts Program at University High School in Irvine. From there, he went on to work in the Hyatt Hotel kitchen for a few months and compete in the Best Teen Chef OC, and brought home a bronze medal and culinary scholarship. Upon his high school graduation, Uchida applied and was offered a few grants and scholarships to the Culinary Institute of America. It had become his dream to attend CIA in New York so that he could become classically trained in French cooking. He spent the next year training at CIA in Hyde Park, New York where he learned and acquired a well-rounded curriculum of all the fundamentals of culinary and baking. Part of the curriculum at CIA required Hiroki to complete an externship. In an attempt to be closer to home, he decided to complete his externship work at the Ahwahnee Hotel located in Northern California. There, he trained under Certified Executive Chef, Percy Whatley (Chef of the Ahwahnee hotel, AAA four-diamond hotel in Yosemite National Park). His time working at the Ahwahnee helped show him the importance of keeping balance and finesse of a dish while also being able to effectively mass produce dishes on a large scale daily.
Upon successful completion of his time at the Ahwahnee, Uchida returned home to Southern California and was offered a line cook position at Roy’s Restaurant in Newport Beach. Uchida worked closely with Chef Partner Edgar Agbayani where he learned and refined most of his culinary techniques, while also broadening his knowledge of Pacific Rim cuisine. He eventually worked his way around the kitchen learning and excelling in every single station. In his free time, particularly around the holidays, Uchida was often asked to cater private events ranging from intimate dinners of 8-12 guests, to large corporate holiday parties of 100+ guests. Each time, he would have to creatively think up a new menu that would be able to satisfy the palate of each guest. He found that his training at CIA as well as Roy’s really helped him come up with unique dishes that would be categorized under the “fusion” style of cooking.
In 2014, Uchida was hired to help with the opening and kitchen development of the second location of The Iron Press, and the new speakeasy concept, The Blind Rabbit, both located in The Anaheim Packing House. Both concepts fall under the umbrella of The Alchemists, SoCal restaurateur Leonard Chan's group of restaurants. Uchida admitted that going into both The Blind Rabbit and The Iron Press simultaneously was a bit tricky, so he decided to leave his job at Roy’s to dedicate his time to the new restaurants. He had to learn how to balance two different restaurant menus with only one kitchen, while also cross training staff to work together and learn both menus so that service could have a good flow and consistency. This opportunity helped push him and further his kitchen management skills, as well as interpersonal skills dealing with each of his employees. Since he enjoys coming up with dishes and menus that are more on the eclectic and non-traditional side. Nowadays his primary responsibility is to adjust the food menu at The Blind Rabbit to pair with the creative, seasonal cocktails offered by the bartenders.