Chef Aron Habiger has lived Mallman’s mantra. Formerly of Ludo Lefebvre’s Petit Trois in Los Angeles, he shed his traditional restaurant role of chef de cuisine for a life on the “edge of uncertainty.” After years of grinding in commercial kitchens, he thought he was done with cooking. A seven-month sabbatical of transient living, part of which he spent in Port Angeles, cooking for his family, helped him rediscover his love of food. The chef also realized that working with food didn’t necessarily limit him to the four walls of a traditional kitchen. Washington provided the inspiration he had lost, which he channeled into his roving pop-up. On The Lam was an amalgam of culinary experiences from his travels, his life in Orange County, and his Pacific Northwestern roots.
The Pacific Northwest is a chef’s Eden-like playground. The Seattle Times quips, “The food our chefs have to work with is unparalleled.” Although California may be credited with the inception of the original farm-to-table movement, Pacific Northwestern food producers and artisans perpetually uphold its tenets, from the foraging to the fishing and finally, to the cooking. Habiger tells me that “the forest in some areas just pushes into the ocean,” creating a diverse and widely-coveted natural pantry. He says that spending time in Washington changed how he looked at ingredients and their seasonality, which ultimately altered his entire approach to his cuisine.
His culinary style relies heavily on letting seasonal, high-quality ingredients shine on their own. In a past interview with Locale Magazine, he explained the obligation of the cook: “As chefs, we speak the language of food, and we can’t go out there and explain our dishes to every single table…the plate should say everything for you.” Chef Aron envisioned On The Lam as a reflection of the Pacific Northwest’s earthy mysticism, with menus that are “seafood-focused but veg-centric.” He finds it most interesting to pull flavors from the ocean and match them with umami tastes from the woods, always cognizant of the interplay between land and sea. He says, “Nature gives us the map. I’m just there to put the pieces together.”
Although Chef Aron is currently content to embody being “on the lam” through his food, he is always looking to what comes next. There are plans in the works for a communal retreat space, a venue for creative types who crave time to reflect and be immersed in nature. Where will it be? On the edge of uncertainty, of course.