The strolling events of All Star Chefs are usually held in an immense hangar-like tent on the upper deck of LA Live. This year the Saturday night “Grill & Chill” was held outdoors at LA Live, making it much more exciting, with the huge, flashing signs and gorgeous LA weather. It was one of those perfect nights–not too warm, not too cold, no dampness or even a touch of wind. The event made you really appreciate Los Angeles, and not only for the weather. By the looks of this night’s event. the food scene here is on fire.
Speaking of fire, the grilled foods were spectacular, because that is what we do in So Cal. Even a few out-of-towners proved themselves to be masters of the art. One standout dish was from one of my favorites, John Cox of The Bear and Star in Los Olivos. The Ember-Roasted Pacific Gold Oysters with wagyu marrow and fermented chile sauce reminded me why I need to drive up to the central coast as soon as possible. A very future-forward dish was Sardine à la Thai, made with the biggest sardines we have ever seen, grilled whole and flavored with Thai chiles and lime from Jamie Bissonnette of Toro in Boston.
It was all about seafood at Grill & Chill even though that wasn’t the theme. Chef Jose Enrique of San Juan Puerto Rico’s Grilled Turmeric Salmon with kale, pine nuts, boiled egg and leek dressing. We have been obsessed with turmeric fish ever since trying a similar dish at Jitlada in Hollywood. Chef Lisa Giffen of Audrey at the Hammer had a different take on salmon, tossing a Grilled Salmon Salad with a smoked paprika vinaigrette and late summer corn.
Some chefs were going for both Grill and Chill, like Chef Adam Sobel of Osteria Cal Mare with a lovely Grilled Octopus along with chickpeas, pancetta, and lemon. Although Mediterranean flavors seemed to be on the decline at the summer food events, they were popular last Saturday as evidenced by all of the chickpeas and Chef Martin Heierling of SBE‘s Grilled Tuna Tabbouleh with charred red pepper, pickles, and Greek yogurt. Out of everything I ate that evening, it was the one thing I wished I had a giant bowl of to tuck into. The popular Santa Barbara Shrimp Tikka Skewer from Chef Gary Singh of Bibi Ji was the first dish to run out.
Chef Michelle Bernstein was working with Lexus and served a lovely trio of Lettuce-wrapped Grilled Spot Prawns stuffed with shrimp mousse and nuoc cham butter, a Tuna Carpaccio en Croûte with celery remoulade, soy, and olive oil, along with an addictive Passion Fruit Tres Leches.
On the Chill side of things, Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville Kentucky served a corn veloute with pickled shrimp, although there wasn’t much veloute in evidence unless it was deconstructed. Check out Chef lee’s food travelogue, “Buttermilk Graffiti.” Little Fatty won my heart by making my guilty pleasure, Crab Rangoon, with real crab and then stuffed it into shrimp chips.
Mexican flavors were everywhere, along with various treatments of raw fish from carpaccio to ceviche to poke. Chef David Lefevre of Manhattan Beach Post’s Scallop, Passionfruit and Jamaica Aguachile with mango, cucumber, basil seed, and cilantro. I asked the South Bay local about the difference between ceviche and aguachile. I volunteered that I believed aguachile is usually not left to marinate as long as ceviche. He added that aguachile is also more acidic and contains cucumber.
Chef Sang Yoon of Lukshon, whose dishes are always interesting, plated Hiramasa Poke with smoked avocado mousse, rau ram and frozen lime cells. I asked him what lime cells were and he said, “It’s pulp. OK? It’s pulp.” But cells sounds more intriguing. Chef Tyson Cole from the modern Japanese restaurant, Uchi, in Austin Texas brought his signature Akami Te. Akami is the red meat along a fish’s spine. In this case it was a Big Eyed Tuna with Compressed Watermelon and fish sauce bigeye tuna, nam pla,
Chef Nyesha Arrington served Rockfish en la Blanc with Leche de Tigre. I am a sucker for Leche de Tigre, which is the Peruvian citrus sauce used to “cook” raw fish. (literally “eaten raw”) Charles Olalia of Ma’am Sir offered us a Squid and Mussel Kinilaw with an avocado and grapefruit salad. What is kinilaw you may ask? It is a Filipino raw seafood dish, using vinegar and acidic fruits. similar to ceviche. Yes, more ceviche. Finally, Chef Akira Back created a complex Baja Shrimp Ceviche with Jalapeno Mae Ploy sauce, avocado puree, currant cherry tomato, white onion, and micro cilantro. I think we were only missing a crudo.
Other than Chef Michelle Bernstein’s Passion Fruit Tres Leches, the only other dessert we came across was from Chef Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections. But if you leave the dessert up to her, you are leaving it in good hands. She served a light and cool Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta.
Most of the cocktails you sample at food events come in little plastic cups, which aren’t even filled all of the way up. Absolut “Juice” and Beefeater Gin blew my mind, serving a tall glass filled to the top with their various cocktails. The same serving size as you would get in a restaurant. I tried a Beefeater Pink Strawberry Lemonade and I was good. I didn’t even finish it. All around, with the ambiance, the food, and the vibe, I would have to say that this event was pretty chill.