F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern, and Hungry Cat, Los Angeles
Experience: Chez Panisse, Berkeley; Olives, Boston; Campanile, Los Angeles
Education: Brown University, Providence
What dish do you think you’re best known for?
Suckling pig; I think it’s the succulent meat topped with the super-crispy skin. It’s consistently one of our best dishes that everyone loves.
Favorite cookbook of all time?
Eric Ripert’s A Return to Cooking. It’s so personal and beautiful. There’s honesty in the stories of the struggle and joy of cooking out of one’s element. The photographs touched me so much that when I wrote my book Sunday Suppers at Lucques, as well as my upcoming The A.O.C. Cookbook, I knew I had to have Shimon and Tammar Rothstein as my photographers.
One technique everyone should know?
The easy way to cook a sunny-side up egg: Get a cast-iron pan very hot, add extra-virgin olive oil, add the egg, and then turn the pan off and let it coast to perfection.
Name one secret-weapon ingredient
Árbol chile. I sneak it into most things; not enough to make the dish spicy (except when I want it spicy) but to give a great back note and develop a complex flavor.
Best bang-for-the-buck food trip—where would you go and why?
Bali! We went there a few months ago. You can have seafood feasts on the beach for $20 per person. They have fabulous suckling pig, and great raw food.
What’s your favorite food letter of the alphabet?
P for pig, pizza, pomegranate, persimmon, pepper, pasta…
What is your current food obsession?
Pomegranate and persimmons during the winter, but my obsessions are always changing according to the season. Ask me again in summer. But I’m rather loyal to my favorite ingredients.
What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up?
Twitter. It’s changed the way I communicate with my chef friends and the general public.
Background Born in Los Angeles. Worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California; Olives in Boston; and Campanile in Los Angeles.
First thing she ever cooked Crêpes. "I'd take my electric crêpe pan outside and make crêpes for my younger sister and her friends. Mom would say, 'Don't you want to play in the pool with the other kids?' and I'd say, 'Oh no, I'm very busy.'"
Dish she could eat every day Sushi. "And I probably do eat a prosciutto-and-butter sandwich daily."
What she eats at 1 A.M. Chinese food, burgers or cheese. "Basically anything with fat in it."
Food vice Pancakes and rare bacon at Du-Par's coffee shop in L.A. "You have to specify rare bacon and they always look at you funny."
Strangest customer request "Rod Stewart ordered pot de crèmewith bananas and vanilla ice cream. I had to run around the neighborhood looking for a banana."
What she'd be if she weren't a chef A hand model. "If you look at a chef's hands, you'll know why it's a dream."
Recipe tip Always cut steak against the grain. A skirt steak's grain can curve, so turn the meat as you slice.
Won Best New Chef at: Lucques
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.