Michael Teich, chef-owner of the Wallace in Culver City — a California vegetable-focused restaurant with hand-crafted cocktails — is getting ready to celebrate spring. Teich grew up in West Hills and studied culinary arts at the Art Institute in Santa Monica before working at Venice restaurant Axe. The former corporate executive chef for hotel, night life and restaurant group SBE also played minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He and his wife, Carol, who has worked in hospitality at restaurants including the Ritz-Carlton, Napa Valley Grille and Shutters on the Beach, opened the Wallace in the fall. On the menu are dishes such as Indian eggplant with curried yogurt, cilantro, quinoa and pine nuts; jarred duck rillettes with whole-grain mustard and spiced fig; salmon belly with horseradish cream and cucumber; salt-roasted beets with grapefruit, avocado and green goddess dressing; and sprouting broccoli with tahini, marinated feta and dukkah spice mix.
What's coming up next on your menu?
Our menu is about to change quite a bit as we transition into spring. There will be morels, peas, favas, ramps, fiddleheads, along with new halibut, lamb and pork dishes. This is always a very exciting time of year for a chef.
Latest ingredient obsession?
Bonito. It has such an amazing umami and smoke. We are steeping it into vinegars, puréeing it into crème fraîche, grinding it and using it in spice blends and marinades. We also use it in the traditional sense as an ingredient in dashi [stock], which we use as a custard base, stock and poaching liquid.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again, and what do you order?
Nanbankan. My wife and I have been going here for years. It was the first restaurant we took our son to. It's just a really traditional yakitori house that serves really great food in a fun and warm environment. It feels like home.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives?
The [Vitamix] Vita Prep. We use it in so many different ways on a daily basis. It really is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in our kitchen.
The last cookbook you read, and what inspired you to pick it up?
"A Work in Progress." Rene Redzepi is really at the forefront, and that is always inspiring. Although our styles are vastly different, the underlying philosophy of local and seasonal product with a focus on vegetables is something we share.
The Wallace, 3833 Main St., Culver City, (310) 202-6400, www.thewallacela.com.