5 Questions for Sonny Sweetman
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Sonny Sweetman is executive chef of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Sweetman started his culinary career with an after-school job in his hometown of Reisterstown, Md., then worked with certified master chefs in the U.S. and Austria before joining Wolfgang Puck Catering. Now he’s overseeing Puck’s latest, focusing on modern California cuisine with European and Mediterranean influences, such as osetra caviar with corn puree and crispy beef tendon, or lamb saddle with persillade and smoked eggplant.
What’s coming up next on your menu? Heirloom tomatoes, squash blossoms, sweet summer corn and Copper River salmon.... These items are all summer ingredients that are available at our local farmers market.
Latest ingredient obsession? Kalamansi –- it’s a citrus fruit that I use in just about everything. It is versatile, fragrant and has great flavor!
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? I cannot live without a spoon! There is a lady in San Francisco who I order a variety of unique antique spoons from. These are my favorite spoons, and I use them for everything.... The most important part of cooking is tasting.
Favorite kitchen soundtrack? One of my favorites is Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.
What chef has most influenced you? Chef Matt Bencivenga and chef Lee Hefter. I have known chef Bencivenga since college, he is not only a mentor in the kitchen but a mentor in my life. Bencivenga has beaten every odd in life and is a remarkable figure. He is a hard worker, very driven, but most importantly, the kindest person I know. Hefter is also an extremely hard-working, talented and driven human being. He is an incredible technician with food and has taught me a lot in the kitchen and I would not be where I am at today without his guidance.
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel Air, (310) 472-1211, www.hotelbelair.com/wolfgang-puck-bel-air.
-- Betty Hallock