Chef of the Moment: Tart's Nick Erven is a fish sauce fan

Nick Erven is the executive chef of Tart restaurant at the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel, which was recently refreshed by Bam Design Lab. The menu's new too — kind of Southern, crossed with British pub fare. The bar's new focus is on whiskeys, and hotel guests are invited to a daily complimentary whiskey hour in the lobby. Erven was born in Wyoming, cooked in Portland, Ore., and moved to L.A., where he most recently was chef at Mess Hall in Los Feliz. On his menu at Tart: crab and avocado toasts with lemon and hot sauce; crispy chicken livers; shared plates such as buttermilk fried chicken and waffles with Tabasco-maple butter; beer-braised shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, okra, maque choux and a sunny-side-up egg; and the Tart burger with blue cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, mustard aioli and fries.

What’s coming up next on your menu?

We are about to go into spring, which is one of my favorite times of the year to cook, so I’ll be using vegetables like peas, asparagus and young garlic. I like the produce during this time of the year. The vegetables seem more delicate than other times, so we try not to mess with them too much. Simple cooking lets the vegetable shine.

Latest ingredient obsession?

Fish sauce. I sneak it into anything I can. It gives things a certain umami quality and a depth of flavor. Don’t spill it on your clothes, though, or you’ll never get the smell out.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?

I live in Venice, so I often ride my bike down to Stella Barra Pizza. They make stellar pies, have good beer and are always playing sports on TV. That’s like the trifecta for me.

What’s the last non-food-related book you read?

“The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. This is probably the best piece of fiction I’ve ever read. Just read it.

What chef has most influenced you?

Seth Greenberg [at the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel] without a doubt. I was lucky to have him as my mentor for many years. He’s an amazing chef and a really good guy.

Tart Restaurant at Farmer’s Daughter Hotel, 115 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 556-2608, www.tartrestaurant.com.

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