All posts filed under: Behind The Feast

A Mexican Chef Cooks Mexican Food…Finally.

Why aren’t more Latinos spearheading their own food movement? It’s a question that Los Angeles Mexican chef Henry Orellana is trying to answer. The topic is certainly emotionally charged: he tells me he is “completely irked” that Mexican cuisine is continually portrayed as simply a “taco and burrito stand culture,” although he acknowledges that in some ways “we’ve [Mexicans] allowed it to happen.’ Orellana is fighting against the notion that Mexican food is just eating burritos at 2.am after a night of drinking: “It can and should be part of the gastronomic landscape,” he asserts. For Orellana, restaurants claiming to deliver upscale Mexican food feel as though something is missing. “Most times, the person conceptualizing [these restaurants] is white,” he tells me. “90% of the people actually cooking the food are Mexican, but they don’t feel like it’s their food and they wouldn’t eat there themselves.” He adds, “It’s not a race thing, it’s a culture thing. People forget that cooking is more to do with being immersed in a culture or tradition than anything …

Coi’s Chef De Cuisine and the Art of Fine Dining

At Oakland’s Boot and Shoe, amidst aromas of brick-oven baking and freshly ground coffee, I ask Chef De Cuisine Justin Mauz of two Michelin-starred Coi if fine dining is still relevant. Unequivocally he states, “There will always be fine dining in society, but its place has shifted…I see myself staying in this. Very simply, it allows me to create an unparalleled guest experience which is not present in more casual dining these days.” It’s an intriguing answer, especially given the ongoing trend of fine dining chefs opening less formal, less expensive restaurants. “Fine dining” evokes images of the white tablecloth and the triple-digit tasting menu, but it goes far beyond an ornate and expensive meal. According to Mauz, what distinguishes fine dining is the deep commitment to deliver guests “a seamless experience of comfort and luxury” from the moment they enter. “One of the many benefits of cooking for fewer people on a nightly basis with elevated expectations is that we have the opportunity to deliver this…If some element of the food or dining experience …

The Slanted Door’s Chef De Cuisine Does This On His Days Off

Brandon Kirksey didn’t plan on becoming a Korean chef. His career began in San Francisco fourteen years ago at Jardinière and The Grand Cafe, two of the city’s long-standing institutions. After honing his skills on the line, Chef Brandon relocated to Seattle to establish several area Italian restaurants. He returned to San Francisco briefly to be chef de cuisine at flour+water, but received the opportunity for a partnership at a Korean steakhouse in Seattle called Girin. His background, namely whole-animal butchery and scratch-making noodles, translated well to this new concept. During his time at Girin, Chef Brandon received numerous accolades, including a James Beard nomination for “Best Chef Northwest” and a spot on Seattle Met‘s “Next Hot Chefs 2015” list. Perhaps more importantly, his tenure there unearthed his passion for Korean cooking. After two years at Girin, he was drawn back to the Bay Area, where he is currently the chef de cuisine at The Slanted Door, San Francisco’s popular upscale Vietnamese restaurant. Recently, he left his post in this prestigious kitchen to pursue Korean cuisine full time. Chef Brandon’s version of …

This Pastry Chef Traded Nougat For Noodles

In November of 2013, the Philippines was hit by Haiyan, a typhoon that devastated the country and killed over 6,000 people. Chef Francis Ang and his wife Dian were fortunate enough to survive, and they returned to the U.S. determined to raise money for their home and all who had been affected by the disaster. They hosted their first Filipino dinner as a fundraiser, and Pinoy Heritage was born. In Chef Francis’ words, Pinoy Heritage is “a contemporary popup with a nod to tradition.” His hope is that it will bring diners closer to Filipino food by highlighting its diversity and all that it has to offer. The Philippines is a conglomerate of 7,107 islands and the cuisine has been influenced by everything from Malay settlers trading in China to colonization by the Spanish. To research dishes and experience the varieties from different provinces, Francis and Dian spent half of 2016 traveling through the Philippines. During their travels, they learned from relatives and locals, immersing themselves in the culture and in the cuisine. This popup is …

On The Edge of Uncertainty With Chef Aron Habiger

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 solely entail residing within the four walls of a traditional kitchen. Washington provided the inspiration he had lost, which he now channels into his current pop-up. On The Lam is 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.”  California may be credited with the inception of the original farm-to-table movement, but Pacific Northwestern food producers and artisans perpetually uphold its tenets, from the foraging to the …

Hut, Hut…Chop?

Most football players aren’t found in the kitchen. A former Division I running back at Dartmouth, Tommy Brown got his start sourcing and prepping meals for his roommates as an alternative to campus dining. “We were broke college kids,” he says. “But we ate better than anyone else in town.” Now, he introduces his new pop-up concept, the Elevated Game Day series. Elevated Game Day was born out of Chef Tommy’s desire for a place where people could socialize and watch a game (on a giant projector screen!) without sacrificing food quality. He was tired of spending too much money on mediocre eats at crowded bars, but he didn’t want to always host at home. Elevated Game Day is like the best Super Bowl party every Sunday, with upgraded classics and interactive activities. The winning game bet wins leftover brisket! Chef Tommy credits football with teaching him the useful lessons he takes into the kitchen, so we asked him to list five ways the sport has influenced him as a chef: 1) Timeliness: Tommy’s coach instilled in him …