What does a chef have on hand for emergencies? We asked L.A.’s food people

Illustration of a chef hat
(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

It’s an hour after a big earthquake and you’re stuck without power, on the side of the road or somewhere far from home. Help won’t arrive for at least a couple of days, but you’ve got your earthquake kit. You’re set with water. You have enough emergency food bars to keep you going. But what’s the one thing that would make your current surviving-a-disaster situation just a little more bearable?

For me, it would be jars of Rao’s vodka sauce and plenty of bags of Tao Kae Noi crispy seaweed snacks. I sometimes treat the Rao’s sauce like soup and eat it with a spoon. Heating the sauce is ideal, but cold will always do. The seaweed snacks are fried, crispy, paper-thin strips of seaweed. If I’m stranded, I have no doubt that the tom yum goong and chicken larb flavors will lift my spirits.

I asked some local chefs and restaurateurs, as well as the Los Angeles Times Food staff, what they would want in their earthquake kits, if they already had some basic shelf-stable food and water. Here’s what they came up with:


Jennifer Feltham, co-owner of Sonoratown

If salt, Tapatio and a clay pot can be considered basics, then please remember to pack me a 50-pound bag of pinto beans. I don’t care if you call me basic. It was the first thing we bought when the pandemic began and everyone was stressing about sheltering in place. I would be perfectly happy eating pinto beans cooked over a fire until [Mayor] Garcetti puts the city back together. If any of you thought to pack cheese, tortillas or beer, then come over to my place — and let’s have a party.

Lucas Kwan Peterson, Los Angeles Times Food columnist

I like fruit snacks (Welch’s and Mott’s are best) and beef jerky from Costco (Pacific Gold).

Della Gossett, pastry chef at Spago


Couverture dark chocolate coins (70%). Not only is dark chocolate said to be an antioxidant, [promoting] heart health and brain function, it more importantly makes you feel good and is a mood booster. Good quality chocolate is the kind of simple luxury that I think I would crave, especially after an earthquake. I’d also pack a hot chocolate “kit.” I’d pack a few brown sugar packets and nonfat dry milk in my kit so I could make hot chocolate for chilly nights. That’s where my second choice, the mini portable butane stove, would come in handy.

Cheyenne Brown, chef/co-owner of Fun-Diggity Funnel Cakes

The top three things I would need would be a propane tank, frying oil and my outdoor fryer. I chose these items because if the power is out I will still be able to serve my community, offer others to cook in my fryer and to keep warm as well.

Armen Martirosyan, chef/co-owner of Mini Kabob

I’m definitely taking a case of Armenian sparkling water (Tatni), a cooler with kebab meat, skewers, a portable Armenian grill, charcoal, Pinot from Santa Ynez Valley (Melville), grandma’s pickled vegetables, lavash (Anush brand) and barbari from Colorado Bakery, cucumbers, basil, tomatoes and basturma.

Ben Mims, Los Angeles Times cooking columnist

Cajun snack mix: Ya know, like the kind that comes in clear plastic containers in your grocery store’s deli section? Try as I might, I can’t quit it. The peanuts, sesame sticks, crunchy corn kernels and little orange “corn stick” boomerangs all coated in a spicy dust — this stuff is one of my favorite snack foods and would keep me going with spice and crunch when eating bare-bones and bland canned food for days on end.

Epic Provisions bars: I know a lot of people are grossed out by these jerky meat-meets-granola bar sticks, but I love them. When I’ve been stuck in some derelict airports or out in the woods, they always save me, and I love their weird texture. My favorite flavors are the chicken with raisins and sesame, and venison flavored with just salt and pepper.

Meiji’s Hello Panda chocolate cookies: Even if I find myself stranded out of my home due to an earthquake, I’ll still want something sweet to snack on and to calm me down. These little chocolate-filled cookie pandas stay fresh for what seems like years and [are] the perfect level of sweetness so you don’t feel like you need a nap afterward if you accidentally down a whole box at once (hey, it happens to the best of us!).

Jo Ann and Akira Hirose, co-owners of Azay

We would pick almonds because some people have peanut allergies and this is safer. Also brown rice, a can of sardines, whole wheat pasta, sundried tomatoes, soba noodles, nori, dashi powder for the soba noodles, soy sauce, salt. Also dried peas for pea soup. You have to get creative with dried food. Raisins, dried lentils. Any type of paper to start a fire in your barbecue if you are at home, and a small pan to boil water.

Alice Short, Los Angeles Times Food editor

Tinned seafood: A little more than a year ago, Times critic Bill Addison extolled the virtues of tinned seafood, including mussels in pickled sauce from a Spanish company called Ramon Pena. “When I need something in an instant, eaten on its own, I prefer mollusks — spiced octopus in olive oil, squid in tomato sauce or in squid ink, the vinegary mussels,” Addison wrote. “If I’m eating fish unadorned from the tin, I find it most compelling when it’s smoked.” Who are we to argue?

Dried papaya and mango: We could argue for hours about the preservatives used in the preparation of dried fruit, but if you’re in the middle of an emergency, they will probably not be at the top of your priority list. Eating dried papaya or mango is almost like eating candy, and during an emergency, that can only be a good thing.

Dina and Steve Samson, co-owners of Rossoblu

Plenty of emergency water. And pasta, of course, to cook in the emergency water. Canned tuna and beans, olive oil, salt and vinegar. Keep all wine bottles secure so they don’t break.

You can buy a plethora of earthquake kits online, but which ones are the best for the price? Here’s a look at four off-the-shelf options.

June 12, 2021