Michael Fiorelli, executive chef at the new Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach, never went to culinary school. Instead, the New York native learned his way around the kitchen working at restaurants all over the country, including at Susanna Foo in Philadelphia; the Tavern Room at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.; the Little Nell resort in Aspen, Colo.; the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va.; and the now-closed Mark's at the Park in Boca Raton, Fla.
Fiorelli moved to Los Angeles to take a job as the chef de cuisine at the now-closed Simon LA at the Sofitel in West Los Angeles and most recently worked as chef de cuisine at Mar'sel at the Terranea Resort and Spa in Rancho Palos Verdes. He's devoted his time in California to building relationships with farmers and highlighting their seasonal ingredients on his various menus.
Fiorelli has continued that work at Love & Salt, an Italian restaurant named for Fiorelli and his partners' belief that great food mostly needs love and salt. In addition to a section of the menu devoted to market finds, Fiorelli is making his own pastas, English muffins, rabbit porchetta and even duck fat crackers.
What's coming up next on your menu? We're really looking forward to the weather cooling down so we can begin experimenting with preparing slow braises and all those soulful winter dishes in our wood oven. Think long-cooked meats, slow-roasted vegetables and baked pasta using our house-made pastas. We're really having fun with the wood fire right now.
Latest ingredient obsession? Fennel pollen. I've actually been using it for years, but I just can't get over it. It brings dishes to a whole other level like nothing else can.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives? My Vitamix blender, without a doubt. We do all of our purées in it, which makes them silky smooth but also kills the motor. Most days I wind up throwing it in the freezer for 30 minutes, praying it will come back to life because I've overheated it.
Favorite kitchen soundtrack? Hands down the Love & Salt soundtrack! We had a local DJ friend of ours, Jonathan Nguyen, put the mixes together based on all our suggestions, so it runs the gamut from Beastie Boys to Tribe Called Quest to Black Keys to some really funky off-the-wall stuff. We turn it up really loud while we're prepping in the morning. Sometimes I think it's what keeps us from falling asleep.
The last cookbook you read, and what inspired you to pick it up? The "Huckleberry" cookbook. Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb do such a great job with all of their restaurants, and as a Santa Monica resident, I visit all of them as often as I can. I knew if the cookbook was even half as good as experiencing the real thing at Huckleberry, I wouldn't be able to put it down. I can't recommend it enough.