Chefs Of The L.A. Food and Wine Festival Tell Us What To Look Forward To
The annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival kicks off tonight, and some of the event's most anticipated chefs gave us the lowdown on what they're looking forward to the most at this four-day event.
Now in its fifth year, LAFW festival is, in a way, the grand ball of the city's food fests. Featuring a star-studded cast of local and international chefs, a giant red carpet covering Grand Avenue in front of the Disney Concert Hall and enough wine to make anyone lose their glass slipper, the yearly fête is a stunning spectacle of the gourmet food world.
Beginning Thursday, August 27 and running through to Sunday morning, the festival features large tasting events, as well as smaller lunches, dinners and cooking demos. Far from the cheap eats of the L.A. Street Food Fest, tickets to most of the events will set you back a pretty penny. But think of it as an indulgent night out to enjoy signature and unexpected flavors from L.A.'s biggest chefs and quickly-rising talent, as well as chefs from New York, San Francisco and beyond. There are also so many excellent wineries to sample from, including Justin from Paso Robles, Priest Ranch of Napa and others from California, Europe and beyond. Oh, and did we mention that Mike D of the Beastie Boys will be kicking off the party with a DJ set on Thursday night and The Roots will be taking to the stage Saturday night while you dine and drink? Yeah, there's that.
We're also really looking forward to Friday night's Night Market, which will take over Grand Avenue for a big party of food, booze and music. Celebrated chefs from over 30 restaurants in L.A. and elsewhere—including Charles Phan (S.F.'s The Slanted Door), Jet Tila (L.A.'s Stir Market and Dallas' Pakpao Thai), and Hannah An (L.A.'s The District)—will be dishing up elevated street food bites, many with a heavy Asian influence. Admission, which starts at $125, also includes free-flowing custom cocktails, sake, beer and wine—lots of wine.
To get a glimpse of what's in store for this year's festival, LAist spoke with some of the chefs who will be participating in this week's events. From Alvin Cailin of Eggslut- and Ramen Champ-fame to the familiar face of Maude's Curtis Stone, here's what the chefs had to say about what they're looking forward to this week and the L.A. food scene in general:
What can we look forward to tasting from you this year?
Brendan Collins of Hollywood's newly opened Birch: "We are doing a variation on a Birch dish. It's pork cooked in Palm sugar with fermented cabbage and Zaatar scented yogurt."
Curtis Stone of Beverly Hills' Maude: "This year I am putting up bites with an Aussie twist—mini pork pies with a passion fruit mustard and mustard greens."
Yoya Takahashi of Westwood's Hamasaku: "I will be serving bara chirashi. It's a traditional chirashi bowl from southern Japan."
Steve Samson of Pico-Robertson's Sotto: "Goat meatballs—yum!"
Akasha Richmond of Culver City's recently opened Sāmbār: "We are doing 2 dishes from Sāmbār: our Sev Puri Chaat with Mango & Avocado, and our Vindaloo Porchetta."
Chef Jason Fullilove of downtown's Clifton's Cafeteria: "Friday night I'll be preparing a modern take on a Waldorf salad (at LAFW Lexus Grand Avenue Night Market), and Saturday night at the after party I'll be offering a composed version of a lemon jello cake." (Fullilove will be serving up our first tastes of the soon-to-re-open Clifton's Cafeteria)
Alvin Cailin of Downtown's Eggslut and Chinatown's Ramen Champ: "I'm teaming up with chef Charles Olalia of Rice Bar to cook the traditional Filipino dish Arroz Caldo: a rice porridge which has a Spanish name, but a Chinese flair. It's made with chicken, a blend of rices, a prevalent flavor of ginger and kalimanis, which is like lime. There will also be a toppings bar with cracklings, tofu, Thai chilis, micro-cilantro, scallions and hard-cooked egg, which adds a great texture and is really traditional."
Which other chefs are you looking forward to checking out this year?
Curtis Stone of Beverly Hills' Maude: "The lineup is seriously stellar this year," the Australian-born chef tells LAist. "Like most of the chefs involved in LAFW, we pull some pretty long and whack hours in the restaurant, which can leave little time to go out and enjoy the best bites in our own backyard. I’ll be arriving to the event with an empty belly ready to sample a plate from each stand and say g’day to my incredible peers. Chef Fretz and I used to work together so I’m always excited to try his food and Coolhaus Truck will be there. Who doesn’t want delicious ice cream at an LA food event like this? It’s going to be a top night for everyone."
Neal Fraser of Downtown's Redbird: Fraser tells us he's looking forward to visiting with a few fellow chefs from out-of-town, including Markus Glocker of New York's Michelin-starred Bâtard, Jenn Louis of Porltland's beloved Lincoln Restaurant and Charles Phan of the James Beard award-winning The Slanted Door in San Francisco.
Akasha Richmond of Culver City's Sāmbār: "Charles Phan, Pawan Mahendro [of Badmaash], Angelo Auriana [of The Factory Kitchen] and my buddy Bruce Kalman [of Union]."
Steve Samson of Pico-Robertson's Sotto: Samson tells us he's stoked to see David Lefevre of M.B. Post, Fishing With Dynamite and the recently opened Arthur J. steakhouse. "Total bromance," says Samson.
Brendan Collins of Hollywood's Birch: "I'm friends with a bunch of the chefs but with our busy lives it's always difficult to hang out and keep up to date with what they are doing, so this is a great way to taste some of their food and chat about the industry together."
What is the most exciting part about participating in the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival for you?
Chef Jason Fullilove of Downtown's Clifton's Cafeteria: "Interacting with the crowds of people. Seeing all the chefs can be a bit like a family reunion...tasting everyone's food, getting inspiration and meeting new people. It's also incredibly exciting that this event will be the first public preview for the new Clifton's!"
Curtis Stone of Beverly Hills' Maude: "Food, music and Los Angeles are three passions of mine, and all come together so beautifully each year in Grand Avenue, downtown, for LAFW. My restaurant, Maude, in Beverly Hills is super intimate, just 25 seats, so I get excited at the thought of sharing over 3,000 samples with all of the interested and excited guests over just one evening. That might sound crazy as there is a fair amount of work involved to pull it off, but it’s always worth it when you catch somebody with a big, satisfied smile on their face after they taste your food."
Alvin Cailin of Downtown's Eggslut and Chinatown's Ramen Champ: "I like doing these events because it's an outlet for me to be creative. At Eggslut and Ramen Champ the menus are pretty set, so when we do events like this it lets me play with different dishes and do something that isn't offered at the restaurants."
Yoya Takahashi of Westwood's Hamasaku: "The after parties! Just kidding. It's great to mingle with other chefs and talk to them about what they are doing."
How do you feel the L.A. dining scene has evolved over the past year?
Akasha Richmond of Culver City's Sāmbār: "It's exploded this year—so many great new places like Redbird, Cassia, SMYC, The Bellwether and Maré. I love what's happening down at Grand Central, and all the new food hall concepts like Lincoln, Gjusta, and Stir Market."
Alvin Cailin of Downtown's Eggslut and Chinatown's Ramen Champ: In addition to the growing presence of Filipino food in L.A., chef Cailin is really excited about new restaurants like Hachet Hall using wood-fired grills and ovens. "Cooking on wood and coals adds so much flavor and dimension, and also shows so much technique," he explains. "It's no longer just fine dining, a causal restaurant can have such amazing chefs and food, and use such great technique. And it's popping up everywhere in places like Odys + Penelope. The trend of using wood instead of gas this year was amazing and it makes L.A. food that much better."
Brendan Collins of Hollywood's Birch: "We seem to be seeing a lot of evolving in the ethnic food scene that's being refined and reinvented and told through the lives and culinary adventures of chefs."
Curtis Stone of Beverly Hills' Maude: "L.A. is making strides within the American dining scene and the tight-knit industry is constantly evolving and expanding— that’s why no two LAFW are the same. I think it's exciting to see restaurants like Gjusta and Petit Trois make the 2 and 3 spot in Bon Appetit's 2015 America's Best New Restaurant list. There’s a real spotlight on the L.A. food scene, which is only gaining momentum. L.A.'s an exciting place for a chef to be."