This year’s seventh annual Los Angeles Food & Wine festival felt a lot more local than years past, with a heavy dose of LA restaurants and chefs showing their best at the iconic Grand Avenue venue. Once again, action also turned to the Westside, with two daytime tasting events taking over the the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. Meanwhile, the highlight lunch took place on Friday at Michael’s, with an honor-roll of alumni cooking together at the nearly forty-year-old restaurant. Here now, a rundown of hangover observations from one of the year’s biggest food festivals.
Thursday, August 24
- While Thursdays are meant to be a kind of a lead up into the weekend, the Grand Avenue venue had a nice crowd, Curtis Stone hosting the night and both of his restaurants Gwen and Maude serving courses. The highlight bite of the night went to Barbara Jean chef Jason Fullilove, who made a curry-inflected fried chicken bite with truffle honey and hushpuppies.
- New Estrella chef Mirko Paderno told Eater he preferred his new gig, which gives him the flexibility to do basically whatever he chooses in the kitchen. He made massive batches of short rib gnocchi finished off in wheels of parmigiano reggiano.
- Someone brought a cat on a leash to the event. Seriously.
- Jamie Lauren of Hank and Frida’s Burgers sported the longest line, for her pretzel burgers topped with chow-chow. And they were worth the 20 minute wait.
- Hatchet Hall partner Jonathan Strader and chef Brian Dunsmore served smoked local yellowtail. When asked about their cameo on HBO show Insecure, they were surprised by how good the restaurant looked on camera, because usually places that show up on TV get the short end of the stick in terms of production value. Not Hatchet Hall.
Friday, August 25
- Friday lunch at Michael’s Santa Monica featured a who’s who of the restaurant’s iconic history, starting with Jonathan Waxman (who won the James Beard award for Best Chef: New York last year), Sang Yoon (who was executive chef in the 90s), Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson (who essentially started her culinary career at Michael’s almost twenty years ago), and Nancy Silverton, who was the pastry chef at Michael’s many years ago. Of course, current executive chef Miles Thompson was on hand helping all the other alumni chefs and serving his own appetizers before the group was seated.
- Sang Yoon ribbed Waxman a bit about how long ago he had cooked inside the restaurant. Yoon also said the kitchen was essentially unchanged since when he was cooking in it. Williamson remarked that Michael’s was her second job ever.
- Like every year, the longest lines were found at Alvin Cailan and the Badmaash brothers’ respective booths. The Eggslut kingpin was carving up a full lechon with pan gravy and Amboy hot sauce, while the Mahendros were doling out fried butter chicken sandwiches, which are apparently available as an off-menu item at the restaurant.
- Phorage’s Perry Cheung was shaving fresh black truffle on delicate dumpling bites that seemed to be a crowd favorite. That’s some serious generosity.
- Amboy founder Alvin Cailan remarked that one of the nice things about cooking at Chef’s Club in New York City was that the equipment was state of the art, something that he hasn’t always had the luxury of in LA kitchens.
Saturday, August 26
- When asked for the opening date of her Arts District restaurant Simone, Jessica Largey sighed with notable frustration. The restaurant is still slated for a late 2017 debut, but it clearly isn’t easy to open a new eatery in Los Angeles.
- Celebrity chef Tyler Florence did an excellent job fulfilling his hosting duties. He walked up and down the giant red carpet taking multiple of selfies with a set of rather aggressive fans.
- Jason Neroni brought in a full wood-burning oven to cook pita to order for The Rose Venice’s tasty lamb shawarma.
- Wyclef Jean closed out the evening, performing Fugees and current hits to a well-lubricated crowd.
- Barbara Jean booth with chef Jason Fullilove Matthew Kang
- Barbara Jean’s fried chicken dish Matthew Kang
- Estrella chef Mirko Paderno serving short rib ghocchi Matthew Kang
- Dishes from Girasol Matthew Kang
- Thomas Ortega of Playa Amor Matthew Kang
- Cat on a leash Matthew Kang
- Wine booths at LA Food & Wine Matthew Kang