Ask many people about their favorite meal, and they might name a Michelin-starred restaurant. For 29-year-old Australian chef Louis Tikaram, it involves a pit in the ground and plenty of dirt. Tikaram, who will head the kitchen at E.P. & L.P. (for "extended play and long play"), a restaurant and rooftop lounge opening at Melrose Avenue and North La Cienega Boulevard this spring, says his favorite meal is a traditional Fijian lovo. It involves proteins and various vegetables wrapped in banana leaves, cooked buried in the ground over a pile of red hot river rocks. And he's bringing the flavors of his Fijian, Chinese and Indian upbringing to the menu at E.P. & L.P., with wood-grilled short rib served with ginger, yellow bean and coriander root; kokoda, Fijian-style ceviche made with coconut cream and cilantro; and crispy skinned chicken with black vinegar, chile and lemon. He's also planning a "feed me" meal where guests can walk in, tell him what they like and he'll cook it — until he's told to stop.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef? I grew up half the time at my grandmother's house in Fiji [and also lived in Byron Bay, Australia]. Fiji only got TV in 1996, so before that, everything just revolved around family and eating. And my grandmother would make me cook as a chore. I moved to Sydney because a friend told me that if I wanted to cook good Thai food, I had to go to Longrain. So I packed up my car, drove there, walked in and asked for Marty Boetz, the chef, and asked for a job. He said, "I don't think so." So I came in the next day and asked again, then the next day, and he finally said, 'Put on an apron.' I made curry paste every day for a year from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. I worked up and I became executive chef of that place.
What dish would you make for a romantic date? Crab linguine. It's like an Asian pasta with chile, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil with garlic and tons of olive oil. Then I poach spanner crab really gently in oil and cook the linguine, then just toss it through at the end with tons of fresh chiffonade lime leaf. That's the dish that won my wife over.
Favorite late-night snack? In Australia, we'd go to this local Chinese restaurant called Golden Century and drink Tsingtao and order pipis in XO [clams in sauce] and steamed fish. In L.A., I've done Ruen Pair at about 1:30 a.m. I plan on having the rooftop at E.P. & L.P. open until 2 a.m. with all these snacks so chefs can bring their crews.
One thing that you refuse to admit (other than to us) that you eat? I like hot dogs, and I went to Pink's straight away when I got to L.A. I've also had my first danger dog [bacon-wrapped hot dog].
What do you make your staff for a family meal? My grandmother's chicken curry. It's a really big deal to feed your staff really well and to not take short cuts. We switch off who prepares the meals. Here, because I'm going to have some Latino and South American guys, it will be great to see what they make.
603 N. Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, www.eplosangeles.com.