“The fascinating thing about our history is that it’s very dark,” Brian Dunsmoor tells me, hunched over hand-scrawled menu notes for Fuss & Feathers, the supper club out of his Southern-American inflected restaurant, Hatchet Hall, that takes a deep dive into what we mean historically when we talk about American food. It also happens to be one of the most exciting tasting menus in Los Angeles.
“In almost every direction you look, it’s very dark. If you look at George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or anyone that was of influence at that time [of America’s origins] you can’t find a clean slate. That’s why we’re so fascinated with American food. And why so few people know or talk about it. I think because it’s all tied to some really horrible things. Our history is carnage. It’s carnage. A lot of that can be seen in the food. It’s food as carnage.”
“I was always really surprised that people would come to a complete stranger’s house from the internet for food,” says Burt Bakman.
The real estate agent / barbecue aficionado behind Trudy’s Underground Barbecue is known for slinging Texas-style brisket from his San Fernando Valley backyard. But he said the above while seated in the dining room of his soon-to-open barbecue restaurant Slab in West Hollywood, contemplating the unconventional route he took to get here. He’s staring closely at the fat lining a thick slice of glistening brisket hanging from his fork, as he mercilessly inspects a sheet pan of half chicken, spareribs, pulled pork and brisket that will be Slab’s signature combo when the restaurant opens later this month.
Bakman draws fans from as far as the Bay Area for his Texas-style barbecue, the carnivorous spoils of his signature copper-green smoker, and an 18-plus-hour exercise in patience and temperature control. The meat is covered in a rich yet rudimentary dark bark of salt, pepper and mustard, which encases deep pink to pale taupe flesh that weeps warm, clear fat with each slice of the blade or poke of the finger.
A work trip to Austin for a real estate conference solidified Bakman’s obsession with perfecting Texas-style barbecue. He ended up skipping the conference entirely in favor of bouncing around the city to try as much barbecue as he possibly could. Bakman learned by trial and error, making brisket and giving it away to friends, honing his craft and reaching out to another self-taught pit master, Texas’ Leonard Botello of Truth Barbecue — No. 10 on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints list — for guidance and insight. “He’s my smoker brother No. 1!” Bakman says now.
While Eleven Madison Park has long been considered one of the pinnacles of fine dining (and the best restaurant in the world), this new pop-up might actually offer Daniel Humm’s most unique food experience yet.
Restaurant 1683 is a three-night-long, invite-only pop-up coming to L.A. on May 21. In partnership with the luxury appliance brand Gaggenau, 1683 takes its name from the year that Gaggenau was founded, featuring a menu that spans the brand’s three centuries of existence.
Originally launched in New York in 2016 as an interactive dining experience complete with tableside cooking, models dressed in Black Forest folk clothes performing live interpretations of a cuckoo clock’s automata and even blacksmiths forging nails, this award winning pop-up transports diners to the mountainous southwest region of Germany.
In the restaurant world, there are very few awards dedicated solely to the art of pastry, making that recognition all the more coveted for the chefs who’ve chosen sugar as their medium. The most coveted award, perhaps, is the Best Pastry Chef from the World’s 50 Best, a title snagged yesterday by French pastry mastermind, Cédric Grolet.
From an edible Rubik’s cubes to lifelike fruits sculpted with paper thin chocolate, Grolet’s creations prove his singular vision. We caught up with the pastry chef (and Instagram legend) following his big win at The World’s 50 Best ceremony in Bilbao to get some insight into the next big trends in pastry and his buzzing new pâtisserie, Le Meurice Cédric Grolet.
(For background on the longstanding gender inbalances in the pastry world, please read this piece on the marginalization of female pastry chefs, and this piece on the World’s 50 Best’s problems with inclusion.)
When I think of Charles Olalia I think of halo-halo. Let me explain: Upon a recent visit to the Philippines I found myself in the backyard of Olalia’s childhood home. “You can’t go to the Philippines and not come to my house for dinner,” Olalia had said. At the end of the meal, he opened an ice chest filled with halo-halo in plastic takeaway cups. “It’s from Razon’s; it’s a two-hour drive from here, but we went to get it today because you had to try it. It’s the best in Manila.”
This is just how the chef operates, with an effortless hospitality and enthusiasm. Olalia has applied this same ethos to define and even name Ma’am Sir, the chef’s newest expression of Filipino cuisine, opening this week in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
If there’s one thing you should know going into the highly anticipated new Arts District restaurant, Bavel, it’s that you won’t be eating Israeli food. Nor will you be eating Turkish, Moroccan, or Georgian food, strictly speaking. Instead, you’ll be eating Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’ food.
The second restaurant from the husband-and-wife team behind L.A.’s perpetually buzzing Bestia, Bavel is the loosely defined as Middle Eastern concept named for the Hebrew word for “Babel.” The Judeao-Christian tale referencing a unified Middle East torn apart through the confusion of language, Bavel is a cuisine unified by the heritages and experiences of its two creators.
Influenced equally by Menashe’s Moroccan, Turkish, Georgian, and Israeli roots as it is by Gergis’ memories of her father’s Egyptian food and her mother’s Ukrainian pierogis, Bavel is the sort of chef-reflective cuisine that leaves a singular definition lacking.
On the eve of the April 9 opening of a Sweet Chick in his hometown, Long Island City, Nas recounts the origins of the dish his and partner John Seymour’s restaurant is famous for: chicken and waffles. “If Billie Holiday or Duke Ellington sang all night in Harlem, the whole city would drive into upper Manhattan and party ‘til the wee hours of the night and eventually, they’d get hungry,” he tells Food and Wine.
“Do they want breakfast; do they want dinner? It’s five, six in the morning and they’ve been partying all night, they think: let’s have both.’ The kitchen’s been going all night and they’ve been partying all night and somebody mixed their chicken with a waffle, and there you have it. That’s the whole thing.”
The hip hop-saturated chicken and waffle restaurants in New York and Los Angeles started by Seymour (the new location is the fifth) is the rapper and entrepreneur’s first foray into the food world. And while it may seem like his love of good fried chicken got the rapper to finally dip his toes into the restaurant world (he does have an entire track dedicated to the stuff), it was just as much about the restaurant’s musical soul.
“The first time I walked into Sweet Chick, they were playing original samples from some of the greatest hip hop songs ever made,” he says. “Samples that were just as hot as the rap record that they were later turned into. The vibe was just … it was for today’s guys.”
If there is one dish that best exemplifies Australia’s native ingredients movement’s most current evolution, it just might be a piping hot bowl of kangaroo pho. “I encourage people to try the different plants before adding them to the broth,” Rebecca Sullivan explains as she places an array of indigenous plants and herbs upon our table. She points to succulent sprigs of coorong seablite, leaves of lemon and anise myrtle, shimmering bunches of iceplant and pods of finger limes spilling out tart green pearls. “I like to squeeze them just straight into the broth,” she says, pointing to the chubby citrus bombs.
This is Warndu, a pop-up restaurant and well-being brand from Adelaide, Australia brought to life by Sullivan and her partner, Damien Coulthard. Named for the word “good” in the Adnyamathanha language—the language of Coulthard’s Aboriginal heritage—Warndu is aiming to bring native Australian ingredients to consumers through dinners that educate and inspire, as well as selling a line of packaged foods (like kangaroo broth and native teas) to cook at home, with the goal of helping to build up sustainable farming and foraging systems within Aboriginal communities for economic growth.
“Indigenous food is food that’s grown in Australia, comes from Australia and that Aboriginal people ate and utilised during their time on the land,” renowned Aboriginal chef Mark Olive told the Daily Telegraph this year. “When people start using these foods with these flavours they’re blown away. Chefs around the world are embracing it and are so curious about it.”
With over 24,000 different documented species of plants, Australia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, but while this flora situation may seem like a chef’s foraging paradise, much of Australian mainstream cooking has yet to embrace some of the delicious, healing, uniquely Australian native ingredients of the land. But thanks to a new generation of chefs, these native Australian ingredients, ranging from the caramel-y akudjura bush tomato to the wonderfully nutty wattleseed, are finally getting the mainstream attention they deserve—and, in the process, completely revolutionizing Australia’s food scene.