Mark Strausman is the chef at Freds at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills, which recently opened in the former fifth-floor Barney Greengrass space. Before signing on as the chef at all Freds locations, including sister restaurants in New York and Chicago, Strausman graduated from New York City Technical College with a degree in hotel and restaurant management. He then moved to Frankfurt, Germany, for an externship at the Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, and also worked in the kitchen at Le Montreaux Palace in Switzerland and at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam. He returned to New York in 1986 and became executive chef at Sapore di Mare in the Hamptons.
In 1994, he opened Campagna in the Flatiron District and had a successful 10-year run before signing on with Barneys New York. He's also the author of "The Campagna Table" and co-author of the James Beard Award-nominated "Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen." At the Beverly Hills outlet of Freds, Strausman is serving some New York City favorites, including the Madison Avenue salad topped with Italian tuna, as well as some L.A.-inspired dishes such as the Beverly Hills Club sandwich with shrimp, crab, avocado and bacon; the raw, vegan cashew "cheese dip" served with sliced fennel, celery and carrots; and the farmers market flatbread with mushrooms, zucchini, leeks, spring onions, green garlic and local goat cheese. And if you're mourning the loss of your bagel-brunch-fueled shopping sprees that came courtesy of Barney Greengrass, don't worry, Strausman gets it. He's serving house-made bagels and smoked fish for weekend brunch.
Latest ingredient obsession? Fennel pollen. Season a variety of proteins, fish or even a stew, and immediately you've added a great depth of flavor that's both parts aromatic and aphrodisiac to your dish.
What's your favorite breakfast? I love to start the day with a healthy vegan meal so my go-to is usually a warm bowl of steel-cut oats, occasionally garnished with brown sugar and blueberries. As a New Yorker, a warm meal is essential in the frigid winter morning.
Your favorite day off away from the kitchen is: Riding my bike along the beach from Venice to Santa Monica. When you live by the coast, the more time you spend near it, the more you'll feel its ability to truly cleanse the mind, body and soul.
What's the last non-food book you read? "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire" by Will Hermes. It's a biography of music in New York from 1973 to 1977 and a fascinating recollection of the development of punk, rap, and the downtown jazz scene. What I find most interesting is to learn about music's influence on the city's neighborhoods — what they bring, what they take and what they're left with.
What chef has most influenced you? Frédy Girardet, the inventor of La Cuisine Spontanée. Chef Girardet very much led the nouvelle cuisine movement in the 1970s and I'm greatly influenced by his penchant for light preparation and classic techniques.
9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 777-5877, www.barneys.com