Echo Park chef gets spot on reality show


We heard the rumors and now Eater L.A. has it that Alex Eusebio, the young, down-to-earth Dominican chef from 15 in Echo Park is a contestant on “Top Chef New York.”

There are two other L.A.-area chefs on the show -- former Enoteca Drago chef Stefan Richter and Fabio Viviani of Moorpark’s Cafe Firenze -- but I’m the most excited about Eusebio, whom I interviewed for a story about 15 back in April.

At the time he was 33 and getting ready to marry his longtime sweetheart. He talked a lot about keeping his food accessible and giving back to the neighborhood, and he slaved behind the stove six days a week without complaint. I have a hunch that his winning smile, easy manner and dreamy dimples will win over the television audience, and I’m willing to predict here and now that he makes it into the top three.

No matter what happens, now I get why 15 put a valet out front not too long ago.

-- Jessica Gelt

From Daily Dish: The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles.

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When purity was called virginity

The mini-uproar that host Russell Brand generated at the MTV Video Music Awards by ribbing the Jonas Brothers about their “purity rings” has passed. The Jo Bros. and their defender Jordin Sparks can go back to “Burnin’ Up” while taking love “One Step at a Time” (as their respective singles describe), and Brand can sit back and enjoy the new season of “Californication.” I tried to clear my mind the other morning by cracking open a good new book -- only to be reminded that sexual conservatism and pop have been strange bedfellows before, and not so long ago.

Juliana Hatfield, the author of the new memoir “When I Grow Up,” was an indie rock star back when that music defined a slacker generation. She palled around with scene hottie Evan Dando (remember the Lemonheads?); wrote great songs about loving Nirvana and going to see the Violent Femmes; and, with the band the Blake Babies and her ongoing solo career, helped misfit, thinking girls carve out their own corner of guitar heaven.

Hatfield is gifted with “Top Model” looks as well as a stunning sense of melody and the chops to play a mean guitar solo when required. She also let loose one of her most controversial statements while promoting her first solo album, “Hey Babe,” in 1991. Frustrated by a prying journalist’s insinuations about whom she might be dating, she announced that, at 23, she was still a virgin.

The statement hit Hatfield’s career like shrapnel. “Almost every subsequent article written about me referenced the quote,” Hatfield writes in “When I Grow Up.” “I couldn’t shake it; my recorded words were like an incurable disease.”

The young, painfully shy Hatfield was trying to embody a feminine stance few public figures have successfully filled. She describes it in her book:

“I thought that by admitting my virginity I was being subversive, declaring my right to chose how to live. I thought feminists and anarchists and freethinkers and outsiders and late bloomers everywhere would cheer when they read the interview. Maybe people misunderstood me and were unable to decipher my motives simply because there is no archetype of a female loner-by-choice, especially in the pop-rock music world. The strong, silent, individualistic, solitary outsider -- the lone wolf -- is historically always male. But that is how I saw myself: standing alone, off to the side, with a tight grip on my own original, quixotic ideas, and not as a pathetic waif, desperate for some record executive to make me a star; not as a delicate shrinking violet waiting eagerly to be swept up in the arms of my future husband who would ravish me in a dramatic, yearned-for defloration.”

When I read that, I didn’t think of Sparks or Sandra Dee; I thought of Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane in “Deadwood,” tough, alone and unabsorbable. Also sad. Our culture remains even more hostile to the idea of the female loner than it is toward the free sexual woman, because that kind of woman can’t be packaged to sell.

So, Juliana Hatfield, I’m offering you a 17-years-overdue apology. Purity has come a long way since 1991, but your honest book and music still stand up for it, in the best sense.

-- Ann Powers

From Soundboard: The L.A. Times music blog.

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OCD can afflict the very young

The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder are familiar to most -- hand-washing, checking, tapping, counting. But many may not be aware that these behaviors can be evident in children as young as 4.

A recent study found that very young children can exhibit full-blown OCD symptoms on a par with older children. “What’s been studied before has been older kids and adolescents, but not younger kids in this 8-and-under range,” says Abbe Garcia, the study’s lead author and a staff psychologist at the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center in Providence, R.I. She adds that many adults and adolescents with OCD report having had symptoms as children.

She quickly makes the distinction between OCD and what she calls “normal development rituals” that young children can display -- asking a parent to read the same bedtime story three times, for instance. OCD behavior must meet specific criteria that includes obsessive and compulsive actions such as repetitive and anxiety-provoking thoughts and ritualized behaviors such as hand-washing, cleaning, and checking something over and over. The rituals offer only temporary relief, however, and not doing them can result in even more anxiety.

In the study, published online in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 58 children between 4 and 8 with OCD were given clinical psychological evaluations. Researchers found that, on average, onset occurred at about age 5. Almost 50% experienced a gradual onset, 29% had a chronic course, and 28% had a waxing and waning course. Many of the children had co-morbidities that included general anxiety disorder and separation anxiety.

The additional disorders were a surprise to Garcia: “We thought we’d just find OCD,” she says, “and that the cascade of correlates might not be found at this age.” Treatment for children with OCD typically consists of psychotherapy and/or medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

-- Jeannine Stein

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and some news from the world of health.

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