Orange Hill owner keeps it all in the family – Orange County Register

The restaurant business is notoriously tough, conventional wisdom holds. Eateries come and go, many with a lifespan that seems only slightly longer than a house fly’s.

But you can’t prove that by John Tallichet, president of Specialty Restaurant Corp. The family-run company based in Anaheim operates more than 20 restaurants across several states. That includes Orange Hill in Orange, for generations a favorite spot for couples looking for a romantic, panoramic view of the county.

It all started with Tallichet’s dad, David, a World War II bomber pilot who came out of the service and fell into the hospitality business, working for the Hilton Hotels Corp. at a few properties. Then in 1958, he and a buddy – George Millay, who’d later become the founder of SeaWorld theme parks – came up with a concept for their own place. That became The Reef on the Water, the longtime fine-dining place in Long Beach across from The Queen Mary. Except, when it started, there was no Queen Mary.

Picking out-of-the-way places before they became popular seemed to be a particular genius of the senior Tallichet. Take, for instance, Orange Hill. “It opened in the ’70s, and at that time there wasn’t a lot out here. No one thought they were going to make it. People thought he fell off the turnip truck. What was he doing building restaurants in these out-of-the-way places? Of course all of Orange County kind of grew up around it.”

John and his siblings grew up around the business too. His older sister and brother logged time as dishwashers in their dad’s restaurants, but by the time John was old enough to have a job, he’d heard enough about the gig to “talk my way into being the salad boy. I made salads when I was 14.”

A summer working in a bank and one at a leveraged buyout firm while he was a finance major at USC notwithstanding, John – a husband and father of two college-age kids – has made the family business his life. “I spend as much time making sure relations with family are as strong as the relationships with my staff and guests. It’s something we all work hard on. My dad was able to tie the family together over this.”

My neighborhood: Newport Beach

Why I live here: Well, this is kind of a funny story. I live in Eastbluff, across the street from my cousin, who’s a pastor. My cousin’s wife’s mom is a real estate broker. We told her we wanted to move around Newport; we were in Turtle Rock at the time. She said, ‘there’s a house…

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