With a mix of international flavors, styles and very few rules, California cuisine is less a defined movement and more the sum of many inspired parts. The heart and soul of California cooking beats in the chefs who make it, not to mention the amazing locally sourced ingredients at their fingertips. Newsweek recently featured eight restaurants that create the “aspirational” appetite we’ve come to enjoy in Golden State dining. Here are a few highlights:
“Chez Panisse is widely considered the birthplace of Californian cuisine and its founder and owner, Alice Waters, is one of the most highly regarded voices in food internationally. She opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in August 1971 serving simple Mediterranean food crafted from prime ingredients, and from low-key beginnings, it went on to galvanize the Californian food revolution. Waters’ passion and commitment to sourcing and serving good ingredients kickstarted the network of Californian farms that have flourished over the last 50 years and now gives chefs a bounty of produce to work with. There would have been no ‘farm-to-table’ without her, and a legion of great Californian chefs trained under her at Chez Panisse. It remains an utterly charming spot today for Cal-Mediterranean cuisine, both in its more casual upstairs café and finer dining restaurant below.”
“The phenomenon of the Kogi BBQ Taco Truck says so much about how progressive and enterprising the LA food scene is. The story begins in 2008 with Roy Choi, a chef who was born in Seoul but raised in LA, and his exceptionally good Korean short rib taco. That cross-pollination of two very unlikely cuisines could perhaps only have happened in LA, where Choi instinctively understood how to merge the comfort food of his family home with the Mexican street food he had grown up eating. Choi’s next genius move was to start selling the tacos from a food truck and to advertise its location on a then little-known social media app called Twitter. Things blew up pretty quickly and the Kogi BBQ Taco Truck was well and truly a food sensation. It not only pioneered a whole wave of Korean-Mexican culinary spin-offs, it also paved the way for the food trucks we started to see popping up worldwide, which have quite dramatically changed the way we eat out over the last 10 years.”
“Ask any Angeleno where the best spot in town to experience Californian cooking is and you’ll most likely be pointed in the direction of Gjelina. The cool and carefree restaurant sits on Abbot Kinney in Venice, one of the Westside’s most boujis streets, though it wasn’t quite as salubrious when Gjelina opened back in 2008. From the beginning chef Travis Lett has demonstrated integrity in sourcing ingredients and somehow his food manages to encapsulate that effortlessly stylish southern Californian lifestyle. The healthy, veg-centric menu is overflowing with carefully considered creations that judiciously balance texture and flavor and take pride in their appearance: think grilled kale with mint yogurt and hazelnut, roasted fennel with blood orange and pollen, and a section dedicated to wood-fired pizzas, perhaps topped with wild nettle, chili, and fontina cheese. Next door to the restaurant is GTA, a takeaway shop serving great coffee and sandwiches, and a few blocks over is Gjusta, a more casual deli-bakery-café where you order at the counter and wait for plates to be delivered in the rustic courtyard garden.”
Get the full list here.
It’s one of many origin stories featured in a new book.