Chef of the Moment: Church Key’s Steven Fretz is the man behind Top Round too
Steven Fretz is the executive chef and a partner at sandwicherie Top Round Roast Beef in Mid-Wilshire and executive chef of the Church Key on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, where snacks such as sliced Benton ham and cocktails including canned Negronis are served from dim-sum-style carts.
Fretz graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and started working at Fifth Floor in San Francisco and later for restaurants in the Mina Group. After a stint in Sydney, he worked at restaurants in San Francisco, New York and Detroit before landing in L.A. as executive chef of Mina’s XIV, then Curtis Stone’s Stones Food Inc.
At Top Round, Fretz’s roster of roast beef sandwiches includes the Black & Blue, with black pepper and blue cheese on a sesame bun, and the Beef & Cheese, with house-made cheese “Wizz” and special sauce on an onion bun.
At the Church Key, the “modern American” menu runs the gamut: chicken liver parfait with blackberry port “Jell-O,” Parker House rolls, crispy pork belly with gochujang glaze and cashew butter, and potato pierogis with peach butter, aged Gouda and creme fraiche (with the option of adding paddlefish caviar).
What’s coming up next on your menu?
We’re coming into the end of summer, so, you know, fava beans and English peas have left us. Ramps have left us. We’re gearing up for late-summer berries and, of course, all the beautiful varieties of heirloom melons. We’re looking forward to this Indian summer that will keep sweet corn and tomatoes around for a little bit longer.
Latest ingredient obsession?
Ewephoria Cheese, which is a 9-month-aged sheep’s milk Gouda. It has a super nutty, almost candy-like flavor. I pair it with heirloom tomatoes and peaches.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives?
My new Dolly pasta extruder from Italy. It’s a chef’s dream pasta weapon.
What’s your favorite breakfast?
My sous chef Jeffrey Thomas’ Louisiana-style biscuits and gravy.
The last cookbook you read, and what inspired you to pick it up?
“Manresa: An Edible Reflection” by David Kinch. I have admired him from my early years working in San Francisco. I remember 15 years ago being at an event where he combined roasted tomatoes with strawberries in a gazpacho, and I was completely blown away.
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