Best New Chef 1990: Nancy Silverton
Best New Chef 1990: Nancy Silverton

Nancy Silverton

F&W Star Chef » See All F&W Chef Superstars Restaurants: Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles) Experience: Founder of La Brea Bakery, and Campanile restaurant Books: Author of eight books including Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book and The Mozza Cookbook Education: Le Cordon Bleu (London) What are you most known for? La Brea Bakery breads. I hate the word “artisanal,” but we were the first small neighborhood bakery to make that giant leap into something more commercial and more successful. Favorite cookbook of all time?Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child Name a dish that’s inspired you. Lindsey Shere’s pastries at Chez Panisse in 1975 or 1976. That was the first time I saw someone bridge French and American pastry. She had the courage to make desserts that were elegant and homey at the same time. She didn’t inspire me to become a pastry chef immediately; when I went to Le Cordon Bleu in London in 1977, they were so rigid about desserts, I got turned off. But in 1979, when I started at Michael’s in Santa Monica the only opening they had was in pastry. I became obsessed. What’s your secret-weapon ingredient? High-quality extra-virgin olive oil. I tend to prefer the more aggressive flavors of Tuscany and Umbria. Capezzana is a longtime favorite, also Castello di Ama, Laudemio and Fontodi. What’s one technique everyone should know? How to make pesto. It should be made in a mortar and pestle. Rather than throwing all of the ingredients together, start by pounding the nuts with a coarse salt. Then add the herbs; the salt and nut paste will help shred them. Then I like to grate in the garlic with a Microplane. I usually use about two small garlic cloves to about a tablespoon of pine nuts. Sometimes I’ll use hazelnuts, or almonds if I’m making romesco. Basil pesto is my favorite; I find it’s the most aromatic. But we also make mint pesto, celery leaf pesto, even arugula pesto. To add the olive oil, drizzle it in and stir it slowly to make a paste. Best bang-for-the-buck food trip? New Orleans. I had the most fantastic fried chicken, truly the best ever, at a place called Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Another place called R&O’s had a phenomenal ham-and-beef muffuletta, terrific gumbo and fantastic barbecued shrimp. If you were going to take Thomas Keller, Tony Bourdain or Mario Batali out to eat, where would it be? I’d take all three, because I like crowds. And I wouldn’t want to be on a date with any of them! I’d take them somewhere familiar and accessible and fun, that required using your hands. Somewhere where we wouldn’t need to intellectualize about the food, and we could have a lot of laughs. Come to think of it, why not take them to Willie Mae’s for fried chicken? If you could invent an imaginary restaurant project, what would it be? My ideal space would probably resemble Camino in Oakland, California. They have the wood-burning oven and the wood-fired grill, so everything comes off the menu with those fire flavors. If you were facing an emergency, and could only take one backpack of supplies, what would you bring, what would you make? A jar of ventresca (tuna belly packed in olive oil) either Italian or Spanish, some borlotti beans, extra-virgin olive oil, an onion, a knife and some radicchio. I probably wouldn’t need sea salt but let’s put that in, too. What’s your favorite food letter of the alphabet? O for olive, C for chocolate, S is for salt. What’s the best house cocktail, wine or beer? Affordable red wine. I love Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, Sangiovese, Barbaresco and Rhône wines. They’re drinkable, accessible, and I usually have luck going by the region, instead of relying on a particular producer or year. Best new store-bought ingredient or product?Gindo’s Spice of Life hot sauce made by a bartender in Los Angeles named Chris Ginder. It’s perfectly balanced, spicy and vinegary. Favorite app?Chef’s Feed, which features restaurant recommendations from chefs. I’m on it, but I also think it’s great.1990 Best New Chef Bio Won Best New Chef at: Campanile and La Brea Bakery, Los Angeles
This is so much more than a salad; it's a plate of light, crisp, dressed leaves partnered with a leek-topped crostini that gives it enough heft to turn it into a meal. The leeks are perfumed with lemons and thyme, and cooked until they are browned and jammy. The aïoli is rich, garlicky, and bright; along with the briny, marinated anchovies, it cuts through the richness of the leeks and soft-cooked eggs.
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Roasting beets with the skins intact is a trick chef Nancy Silverton picked up from the restaurant North Abraxas in Tel Aviv, and uses to great effect in this salad. Roasting the beets with the skins on means you get both the bright, colorful flesh and the crinkled papery skin. Don't skip eating the beet tails, which emerge from the roasting pan crispy and salty. This salad is especially delicious with late summer and fall beets.
Nancy Silverton says the first sign of spring is when she puts this salad on the menu at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles. She dresses the asparagus, peas, radishes, and sugar snap peas with a lemon vinaigrette, then offers toasts topped with labneh alongside, turning this ode to spring produce into a light lunch or first course for dinner. The herbs are an important part of the mix; if you can't find chervil, substitute equal parts Italian parsley and tarragon.
Nancy Silverton’s L.A. restaurant Pizzeria Mozza celebrates unfussy, straightforward, focused food that uses fresh California produce. This upgraded grilled cheese by the 1990 BNC alum is filled with a charred sweet corn-studded blend of nutty English-cheddar, sharp caciocavallo, and just enough mayonnaise to bind it all together. Thick slices of sourdough get a beautifully buttery, golden crust in a cast iron skillet, while Calibrian chile sneaks in with just the right amount of heat. Satisfyingly rich, sharp, and indulgent, cheese filling is a knockout on burgers, or even as a hot dip with crackers and crudités.Related: More Grilled Cheese RecipesThe Best Way to Make Grilled Cheese
Star chef Nancy Silverton has strong opinions about frittatas. She likes them to be creamy like scrambled eggs, with various toppings like prosciutto, cheese and a generous amount of herbs. At her dinner parties, she often serves this 15-minute frittata as a side dish, so guests can cut wedges at the table. Slideshow: More Frittata Recipes 
Stovetop Asparagus Frittata
Rating: Unrated
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For this single-serving frittata, Silverton cooks the eggs gently, then tops them with asparagus, prosciutto and crème fraîche. Since the frittata is not warmed in the oven, it’s best to have the toppings at room temperature. Also, keep them near the pan so you can work quickly once the eggs are cooked. Slideshow:  More Egg RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook 
"In every little restaurant in Umbria, there are sautéed greens on the menu," says star chef Nancy Silverton. Here, she blanches spinach, then sautés it in garlic-spiked oil until all the leaves are thoroughly coated.
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To make this rich pasta, chef Nancy Silverton sautés guanciale (cured pork jowl) and then cooks the radicchio and red onions in the rendered fat. She likes to use a little-known pasta called calamarata—which looks like thick squid rings—to catch the sauce, but any wide, tubular pasta is great. Slideshow:  More Pasta Recipes 
Herbed Chickpea Bruschetta
Rating: Unrated
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The key to these delicious bruschetta from chef Nancy Silverton is lots of olive oil. After she bakes the chickpeas with a variety of flavorings—including onions, pancetta and carrots—she purees them with a good amount of oil, spreads the puree on toasts and drizzles with a little more oil. Slideshow:  More Bruchetta Recipes 
"In every little restaurant in Umbria, there are sautéed greens on the menu," says star chef Nancy Silverton. Here, she blanches spinach, then sautés it in garlic-spiked oil until all the leaves are thoroughly coated.
To make this rich pasta, chef Nancy Silverton sautés guanciale (cured pork jowl) and then cooks the radicchio and red onions in the rendered fat. She likes to use a little-known pasta called calamarata—which looks like thick squid rings—to catch the sauce, but any wide, tubular pasta is great. Slideshow:  More Pasta Recipes 
Herbed Chickpea Bruschetta
Rating: Unrated
New!
The key to these delicious bruschetta from chef Nancy Silverton is lots of olive oil. After she bakes the chickpeas with a variety of flavorings—including onions, pancetta and carrots—she purees them with a good amount of oil, spreads the puree on toasts and drizzles with a little more oil. Slideshow:  More Bruchetta Recipes 
Chef Nancy Silverton adores the grilled, herb-flecked lamb chops scottadito (“burnt fingers”). Here, she adds a kick to the lamb by garnishing it with smoky pimentón de la Vera and little mint leaves. Slideshow:  More Fast Lamb Chop Recipes 
Ristorante Masolino in Panicale, Italy, has served chicken with lemon and capers for years. Chef Nancy Silverton makes the dish even better by roasting lemon slices, so they’re lightly charred, before stirring them into a piquant salsa verde. The sauce is an excellent accompaniment to these crisp-skinned chicken thighs, but it’s also great with roasted fish and vegetables. Slideshow:  More Chicken Thigh Recipes 
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These simple, incredibly flavorful onions from chef Nancy Silverton are baked in the oven until they’re falling-apart tender. Fennel seeds punch up the crispy breadcrumb topping. Slideshow:  More Onion Recipes 
Star chef Nancy Silverton, a huge salad fan, makes this great recipe with tender Bibb lettuce and an array of tasty ingredients: smoky bacon, Gorgonzola cheese, toasted hazelnuts and sweet Concord grapes. Slideshow:  Main Course Salads 
Nancy Silverton's outstanding Neapolitan-style pizza is topped with only tomato sauce and oregano. Slideshow:  More Pizza Recipes 
Nancy Silverton often prepares a tender frittata for her antipasti table at La Terza in Los Angeles. This version includes sautéed cauliflower topped with homemade bread crumbs for a lovely bit of crunch. Silverton's trick for making small amounts of bread crumbs is to toast a slice of sourdough bread, rub it with a garlic clove and grind it in a mortar.Plus: More Appetizer Recipes and Tips
These tender gnudi, adapted from Nancy Silverton's Mozza Cookbook, are delicious with buttery chanterellesMore Ricotta Recipes
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Raspberry Custard Tart
Rating: Unrated
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"Eating this tart warm is a very sensual experience," claims Nancy Silverton, the pastry chef and owner of La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles. Silverton, a 1990 F&W Best New Chef and the author of Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery, found the inspiration for this simple, silky tart in a classic summer combination: "You can't go wrong with raspberries and cream," she says.Plus: More Dessert Recipes and Tips
Nancy Silverton's lovely salad, adapted from her Mozza Cookbook, features Little Gem lettuce, a smaller, sweeter variety of romaine. If you can't find it, use hearts of romaine instead. More Green Salads
Nancy Silverton got this hearty meatball recipe from Matt Molina, the former chef de cuisine at Campanile. When the meatballs are almost cooked through, she pushes them to one side of the skillet and adds the ceci (Italian for chickpeas). That way everything soaks up the flavor of the luscious roasted red-pepper sauce. More Amazing Lamb Recipes
The trick to Nancy Silverton’s kale salad is layering the ingredients, so there’s something delicious in every bite. Slideshow: Kale Recipes