Lior Hillel is the co-owner and chef at Bacaro L.A., Nature's Brew and the new Bacari PDR in Playa del Rey. He finished his mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces before graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and moving to New York to work at Jean-Georges. In addition to the three restaurants, he is also the co-founder of Kronfli Brothers, a natural sauce products line.
Hillel also likes to visit farmers markets three times a week to buy ingredients for his menus. At Bacari PDR, Hillel is cooking the Mediterranean fusion cicchetti he's known for: baccala cakes with a dill emulsion and lime; lamb-stuffed eggplant with lemon chip and lemon, garlic emulsion; roasted bone marrow with caper panko and a selection of grilled pizzas.
What's coming up next on your menu? My next dish is a fall favorite: smoky, earthy butternut squash soup with grilled hen-of-the-woods mushroom, sauteed shallots with raw, diced butternut squash.
Latest ingredient obsession? My current ingredient obsession is eggplants, any way you can have them, including roasted, grilled, fried, in a sandwich or as a side. It's featured in a few dishes I serve, including a vegan sandwich at Nature's Brew, as well as on our pan-seared goat cheese polenta with a puree of roasted market eggplants and sliced scallions. They are versatile and delicious. I love them!
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives? Tongs, they are literally an extension of my arm. I pick up things (hot plates, saute pans, you name it...), stir, even plate sauces when my serving spoons are absent.
What's your favorite breakfast? The best breakfast is shakshuka -- it's an egg dish, poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chile peppers and onions spiced with cumin, garlic and served with fresh-baked challah bread. It's my ultimate and favorite [Israeli] breakfast!
What chef has most influenced you? Chef Gregory Brainin, [Jean-Georges' director of culinary development], -- the guy is a genius. I got to know him when I worked at Jean-Georges in NYC, and would love to work with him again.
6805 Vista del Mar Lane, Playa Del Rey, (310) 439-2100, www.bacaripdr.com/.