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The Los Angeles area has seen a number of remarkable restaurants open in the last several years, including spaceship fantasies with no recognizable foodstuffs, sushi bars plucked whole from the better precincts of Tokyo and dining rooms so devoted to local produce that it occasionally seems as if they have massive gardens of their own backing up to the kitchen.

Yet no restaurant in years may have had quite the impact that Taco María and its chef Carlos Salgado have had on the Southern California scene. The restaurant, which serves tasting menus of Salgado’s Mexican-influenced cooking, is at the center of a culinary movement that seems to grow in importance each year. By regarding tortillas with a seriousness familiar to any fanatical French baker, by using perfect seasonal produce and by treating regional Mexican dishes with both imagination and respect, Salgado has propelled California-Mexican cooking into the jet stream of abstracted modernist cuisine.

And that he has done all this in an almost anti-luxurious dining room in a Costa Mesa hipster mall, an hour’s drive from many of his fans and colleagues, is almost a miracle. Taco María has given not only Los Angeles but his native Orange County a sense of place — a place where roasted guinea hens with mole, tortillas stuffed with sturgeon and asparagus velouté with spring garlic stand beside crocks of mushroom chorizo and marinated Baja blood clams.

  • Chefs
Mary Sue Milliken, left, and Susan Feniger of Border Grill accept The Times Gold Award at the 2018 Food Bowl party at Rossoblu restaurant.
Mary Sue Milliken, left, and Susan Feniger of Border Grill accept The Times Gold Award at the 2018 Food Bowl party at Rossoblu restaurant. (Scott Varley /

The launch party for the second annual Los Angeles Times Food Bowl was held last night at the Italian restaurant Rossoblu in downtown Los Angeles. A crowd gathered to celebrate this year’s restaurant of the year, Taco Maria, and Gold Award winners chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Japanese chef Yoshihiro Narisawa was on hand, as well as Japanese drummers, and food from Night Market, Shibumi, Rossoblu, DTLA Cheese, Scopa Italian Roots, Honey’s Kettle, Chengdu Taste and Locol, last year’s restaurant of the year.

Diana Kennedy's home in Zitácuaro is in the process of being turned into an ecological center.
Diana Kennedy's home in Zitácuaro is in the process of being turned into an ecological center. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

To get to Diana Kennedy’s house, outside Zitácuaro, Mexico, about 100 miles west of Mexico City, you go up a dirt road jutted with rocks, through two gates, past rock walls overhung with bougainvillea and blue plumbago, pink lilies and darting butterflies, and up a flight of stone steps to an outdoor patio that features two adobe beehive ovens and two solar stoves, one lately arrived from Spanish chef José Andrés, who also sends them to disaster zones.

“This is trabajo,” Kennedy says forcefully, her expressive face mapped by laugh lines, her short, white hair tucked into a pastel scarf and a broad straw hat. “Life is not easy here; there’s no Walmart around the corner.”

  • Calendar
"In Praise of the Tortilla" with chefs Carlos Salgado and Gabriela Cámara is set for May 3 at Taco Maria.
"In Praise of the Tortilla" with chefs Carlos Salgado and Gabriela Cámara is set for May 3 at Taco Maria. (Christina House / For The Times)

6:30-10 p.m.
Food Bowl launch party - An all-star lineup of select chefs serving Things in a Bowl at Rossoblu & City Market South. Cost: $95 includes food and beverages. Tickets

12:30 p.m.
An intimate lunch with chef Yoshihiro Narisawa - Orsa & Winston, 122 W 4th St., Los Angeles. $95 Tickets

2 p.m.
Family-style Mediterranean feast - Hummus Bar & Grill, 18743 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. Cost $40 Tickets

7 p.m.
José Andrés "Changing the world through the power of food" - The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Cost: $15 - $50. Tickets

7:30 p.m.
Weekly wine dinner - Cliff's Edge, 3626 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Cost: $75 Tickets


11 a.m.
Santa Monica Farmers Market chef demonstration: Chef Miles Thompson of Michael’s Santa Monica, Third Street Promenade and Arizona Avenue, Santa Monica. Free

Mayura Indian Restaurant signature dishes - 10406 Venice Blvd., Culver City. Cost: $18 – $24 Tickets

6:30-9:30 p.m.
Next Generation Bowl Bash - The Spare Room Hollywood, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. Cost: $75 Tickets


5 p.m.
The Immigrant Dinners - Momed, 3245 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village. $10-$16 Tickets

5:30 p.m.
In Praise of the Tortilla: Carlos Salgado and Gabriela Cámara - Taco Maria, 3313 Hyland Ave. Suite C21, Costa Mesa. Cost: $120 Tickets

7 p.m.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu demonstrates recipes from her book “Japan: The Cookbook” - the Gourmandise School, 395 Santa Monica Place, No. 329, Los Angeles. Free

(Illustration by Lehel Kovacs / For The Times)

Rumors of a labor crisis in the Los Angeles restaurant industry began about four years ago as a grumble — whispering at the farmers market, the occasional kvetching on social media — but as more and more ads for line cooks go unanswered and scheduled interviews bail without so much as a call or an apology, L.A. chefs and restaurateurs are practically shouting from the rooftops: "Where are all the cooks?"

Chef Fuchsia Dunlop, left, and Chef Yu Bo.
Chef Fuchsia Dunlop, left, and Chef Yu Bo. (Handout)

Based in England and the author of five cookbooks, writer Fuchsia Dunlop and Yu Bo, who currently runs a restaurant called Yu Jia Chu Fang (Yu's Family Kitchen) out of his home with a prix-fixe, seasonal menu, will appear at Food Bowl on May 4. He'll be showing some of his signature dishes, including a set of 16 cold vegetable appetizers, Dunlop says . "It's a demonstration of the famous Sichuanese culinary maxim that each dish has its own style, and a hundred dishes have a hundred different flavors."

We recently caught up with Dunlop to discuss Sichuan cooking and what chef Yu Bo is cooking.

As part of Food Bowl, May’s monthlong festival of food, dining and sustainability, the Los Angeles Times is presenting the second annual Gold Award to chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. The Gold Award is to be given to a California chef annually, with the idea of honoring culinary excellence and expanding the notion of Southern California cooking. The award, which last year was given to Wolfgang Puck, celebrates intelligence, innovation and brilliance as well as sensitivity to aesthetics, culture and the environment.

If you want to understand why Narisawa is often considered to be among the best restaurants in the world, you might have a look at Satoyama Scenery, a kind of seven square inches of edible forest floor that is constructed from sprigs of mountain herbs, a scattering of cherry blossoms, rough cylinders of fish skin and roots transformed into what look like fallen twigs, and a powdery tumble of earth and mosses fashioned from pulverized grains, fermented soybeans and a bit of matcha tea.


The best waffles commercially available, I am prepared to state, come from Brown Sugar Kitchen, a small, fragrant breakfast diner on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland.

On a recent, rainy Thursday at the new Esports Arena at the Luxor casino in Las Vegas, celebrated Spanish chef José Andrés sits in a private room, sunken into a computer chair with stitching and padding fit for a race car driver. Every few seconds red and blue lights ping-pong off the walls and the ceiling.