Perfecto Rocher is the executive chef of Smoke.Oil.Salt., who also happens to be a third-generation paella maker from Spain's Valencia region, where he worked at his grandfather's restaurant. After hitchhiking to London (where he taught himself English) and working in restaurants including the Manor House Hotel, he made his way to the U.S. and into kitchens such as Gary Danko in San Francisco and Picasso in Las Vegas. He returned to Spain to apprentice at Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian and El Bulli before landing in Los Angeles and working at restaurants such as BLVD and Lazy Ox. He recently opened Smoke.Oil.Salt. with Adam Fleischman and producer Stephen Gelber, focusing on the Valencian cuisine he grew up with and turning out paella (on Sunday nights only) that has gained a cult following. Also on the menu: traditional smoked spring onions with salbitxada sauce; wood-roasted eggplant with red pepper, marcona almonds and salt-cured Valencian tuna; honeycomb tripe stew with Spanish chorizo and chickpeas; butcher's filet Iberico pork with xato sauce; and crema Catalana for dessert.
What's coming up next on your menu?
We have a tomato plate we are working on that consists of all different types of tomatoes marinated in tomato water and served with pine (yes, like the tree) ice cream.
Latest ingredient obsession?
I love cooking with orange wood. It gives a good, smoky flavor to food and burns faster than other woods.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives?
Spoons, because all the food we make at Smoke.Oil.Salt. is meant to be eaten with a spoon. We use a lot of stock in our dishes. I wish I could throw out all the forks!
Favorite kitchen soundtrack?
The Ramones, the Clash, any kind of old-school punk rock.
The last cookbook you read — and what inspired you to pick it up?
"Sent Sori: Valencian Catalan Cuisine" from the year 1025. It focuses on medieval cuisine from Spain.
Smoke.Oil.Salt., 7274 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 930-7900, www.smokeoilsalt.com