Beast Feast at LA Food Bowl
The aromas of a Saturday night barbecue circulate the air. But instead of a grassy backyard or a neighborhood block party, we were in DTLA celebrating all things meat at Beast Feast. Chefs from around the globe prepared meat-centric dishes for dinner. Lamb à la ficelle, classic BBQ brisket, beef tendon, and an array of charcuterie were featured on the table. We interviewed Kevin Bludso, April Bloomfield, and Nancy Silverton to learn more about their mouth-watering contributions to the tasting menu.
We also got to peek behind the scenes and find out what it takes to put on a month long food festival. Food Editor Amy Scattergood shared some details on the LA Time's production of the first annual Food Bowl. As we come to the end of the month of May, we reminisce about one of the most spectacular events from Foodbowl.
By George Ko (CEO) and Natalie Mark
Photos by George Ko
Nancy Silverton: I’m Nancy Silverton, I’m here for Beast Feast with the LA Food Bowl. First year, excited to be here. Beautiful day, nice music, great food! I have three restaurants on the corner of Melrose and Highland: Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and chi SPACCA. Today I’m wearing the face of chi SPACCA.
GR: What was your inspiration for tonight’s dinner?
NS: Firstly, when you think about Beast Feast, you think about a lot of meat. I was happy to be next to and paired with one of my dear Italian friends Dario Cecchini, coming all the way from Panzano. He is making a dish using beef tendon. I’m going to compliment that beef tendon with some contorni (sides). I chose three vegetable sides I have eaten at Dario’s restaurant. I have cannellini beans which are seasoned with his herb seasoning salt, a touch of red wine vinegar, and a lot of extra virgin olive oil. Also, we’re doing potatoes that are baked in the oven and finished with chianti butter, which is actually whipped lardo or pig fat to put it simply. We’re also preparing some cipollini onions that are cooked with sage and vinegar.
GR: Can you discuss your relationship with Italian food further?
NS: I have three restaurants in Los Angeles, and actually two more in Singapore and one in Newport Beach. All of the restaurants bring out the Italian grandmother in me. However, I’m not Italian. I fell in love with the flavors of Italy and the culture of Italian cooking probably over forty years ago on my first adult trip to Italy where I rented a house in Tuscany. It’s interesting, when people ask me why I cook Italian food or why Californians love Italian food or why the climates are so similar, really what they’re talking about is my love for the Umbrian, Tuscan part of Italy. Although not a large country, Italy has many regions. It’s not all about the sunshine-like quality we have in California, but I fell in love with that area because it reminded me so much of California. It was so influential because of the area’s seasonal and simple cooking. But there are a whole lot of Italian chefs that do not necessarily follow this classic Italian path, and rather have their eyes on food that is a little bit more modern or manipulated or less ingredient driven. I’m talking about what draws me to the Italian food that I love to cook and make.
GR: What has your experience at Food Bowl been like so far?
NS: It is a very ambitious project to have a month long food event. Each day there are several opportunities and venues you can go to. For example, my friend Matt Molina is hosting a chef from New Orleans over at his bar and they’re doing something over there, but there are a handful of other events going on as well. So far what I’ve participated in has been a wonderful panel down at the Ace Hotel with Jonathan Gold, Massimo Bottura, Mary Sue Milliken, and Dominique Crenn. They talked about food waste, and I stayed on to watch a fantastic documentary about Massimo. I was also lucky enough to create the dessert course for a menu that was cooked by Wolfgang Puck, Roy Choi, Massimo Bottura and us over at Mozza. I’ve done those two events, we’re doing this right now, tomorrow there’s a butcher class at chi SPACCA and Tuesday there’s a wine dinner at the Osteria.
I also got to be a guest, I didn’t have to do any work at a terrific meal at E.P.&L.P. They have a wonderful Australian owner and we had a more Chinese/Taiwanese menu, courtesy of a young chef here in town, Eddie Huang. I got to be a guest there and that was terrific.
GR: Will you be able to eat at all during Beast Feast?
NS: Oh yeah!
GR: Roy Choi recently posted on Facebook that La Brea bakery saved his life. Can you comment on this?
NS: I read about this in his book! It’s one of those heart-felt, flattering messages that somebody can offer. When somebody says that, that is what makes my job— which is not a job—it makes what I do so rewarding.
GR: What’s next for you?
NS: Cooking tonight is what’s next!
Amy Scattergood: Hi I’m Amy Scattergood, I’m the food editor of the Los Angeles Times. You’re here in lovely, marvelous Downtown Los Angeles because we’re having Beast Feast, which is kind of the all-star meat celebration. We have all sorts of butchers and chefs and various people who have come together this Sunday night to put on a party to celebrate whole animals and feed us as part of Food Bowl.
GR: How did you select the chefs for Beast Feast?
AS: It was a group effort. There’s a combination of local chefs and butchers, particularly folks who are known for their whole animal cooking. We had a lot of chefs who are from LA like Nancy Silverton, Michael Cimarusti, and Kevin Bludso who have been here and celebrating food in Los Angeles for a long time. Then we had chefs like April Bloomfield, who is opening a restaurant in LA so it was logical to invite her. We have some guests from England here, chef Fergus Henderson, and from Italy, Dario Ceccini, Tuscany’s most famous butcher. They were and available and fun to have. A lot chefs knew Los Angeles chefs and have friends with the rest of the folks here. The food world is a small community. It was a really good excuse to eat well.
GR: What was it like to put together the entire Food Bowl event? What was it like working with local restaurateurs and those from abroad?
AS: We had ideas of who to invite and found out who was coming. As with a lot of events, it’s contingent on people’s schedules. It’s been fun. It’s kind of like a mashup that’s had its own logistical problems, but we’ve forgotten about them because it worked and we’re still here. It’s been fun to celebrate a whole month for Los Angeles food. Food festivals tend to be a weekend or a day which is good, but it limits you. We decided to spread the party out over a month, make it a series of parties, like a progressive dinner party.
GR: Was there a particular message you and the rest of the team at the LA Times wanted to send with Food Bowl?
AS: It’s a month long party but there are a few subtexts. Lots of chefs have historically made their dinner parties serve as charitable events, for which we are endlessly grateful. There are themes of sustainability, preventing food waste on a larger level as well as a personal level. We’re trying to make it just about gluttony because that’s fun up to a point but it’s unsustainable.
GR: Is there one event you’ve really enjoyed or been proud to be a part of?
AS: That’s a tricky question. There’ve been a few of them. I think Night Market was my favorite because there’s a lot of people who don’t have access to super fancy food events at super fancy, expensive restaurants. It was nice to have an outdoor party with a lot of people cooking their food. That event was, hopefully, very accessible to people who didn’t have the time or resources to get into the super fancy places. Also, it’s more fun because you can go from stall to truck and have a vast array of stuff at your disposal.
The LA dining scene is extraordinarily diverse and always has been, frankly. But people who don’t live here and eat here all the time are just starting to realize. It’s been really great to celebrate that.
GR: Which of your writing pieces has inspired you the most?
AS: There have been a couple lately. We did a whole section on Filipino food and the rise of the new Filipino food scene particularly in LA. That was fun because a lot of people don’t know about it and they should. I also wrote a piece about Ron Finley who is kind of amazing. We’ve written about him in the LA Times although not in the food section. I got to go down to his garden and listen to him because mostly he talked to me. He’s a remarkable guy and has been doing astonishing work for a long time. It was the one Food Bowl event my kid wanted to go to because I didn’t have to tell her who he was, and that was a lot of fun.
GR: What changes will you make next year?
AS: It would be nice next year if we expanded this event further. By that I mean if we had more stuff going on in Koreatown, Little Saigon, San Gabriel Valley, and the San Fernando Valley. I think a lot of times events in Los Angeles tend to be localized, but there’s so much in this town that is outside people’s normal comfort zones, it would be great to do more.
Kevin Bludso: My name is Kevin Bludso from Bludso’s Bar & Que on 609 N La Brea and I am happy to be at Beast Feast. It’s the best day to be here, baby.
GR: You have this beautiful piece of meat right here, can you talk to us about it?
KB: That’s our brisket, our staple, that’s where it all comes from. Cooked slow and low, that’s how we do it. Fifteen hours of smoke and love.
GR: What kind of wood do you use to smoke the meat?
KB: We use a mix of pecan and red oak.
GR: What do you like about red oak?
KB: Red oak is more prevalent in California, but we prefer hickory. California can’t get it like Texas, so we went with a red oak and we came up with a good blend so that’s what we roll with.
GR: How long does it take to prep the meats before smoking?
KB: We rub our brisket down with garlic, salt and pepper, and we have a homemade rub for our pork. We rub them down and let them sit in the fridge for twenty-four hours.
GR: Can you tell us what’s in that rub by any chance?
KB: Yeah, a little this and a little bit of that, and a whole lot of love.
GR: What’s your experience serving food here in LA?
KB: I’m born and raised in Compton but I spent all my summers in Texas learning recipes from my granny. I wanted to bring Texas barbecue to LA, and that’s what we did.
GR: The brisket is the classic barbecue meat but is there another type that you enjoy cooking?
KB: I enjoy cooking it all. As long as it’s going low and slow, get yourself a cocktail and chill out with some B.B. King or something. Long as it’s slow, I love it all. All our meats are good.
GR: Did you smoke the meats here at Beast Feast or off site?
KB: No, we smoked them all last night.
GR: How many people are working on the pit at one time?
KB: There’s only two of us, you got your pitmaster and your co-pitmaster. We don’t trust no suckers on the pit. Sucker free.
GR: Do you have people training under you?
KB: They gotta go through my boy Big Game James. If he feels you’re worthy to come cook with me then you can come cook with me.
GR: Have you ever smoked any unconventional meats before?
KB: Duck, geese, we smoked kangaroo in Australia, my mother-in-law—no, not my mother-in-law. We’ve smoked a few weird things.
GR: What did the smoked kangaroo taste like?
KB: It was good! I can make anything taste good. I had that thing tasting like brisket.
GR: What are your go-to sides next to brisket?
KB: Collard greens, macaroni and cheese, potato salad and baked beans, baby.
April Bloomfield: Hi, I’m April Bloomfield, I’m at Beast Feast in LA. I’m here representing my restaurant in New York, the Spotted Pig. You can hear Dario over there blowing on his horn. It’s awesome!
GR: What was your inspiration for the food prepared tonight at Beast Feast?
AB: I was inspired by cooking outside, to be able to cook over wood and live fire. Debbie, who is my lovely sous-chef over here, and I made lamb à la ficelle which is basically a lamb cooked on a string. You twist the string a little bit and it turns the lamb really slowly. We cooked that for three hours and we’ve got tons of greens with a fermented chili sauce that is spot on.
GR: What was the process for setting up a temporary pit?
AB: It took a long time to set up this little thing over here. We piled up a ton of wood, set light to it, have it burned down to embers, and just let the lamb cook really slow. It took a lot of logistics, for sure.
GR: What kind of wood are you using? What qualities of wood do you like with your meats?
AB: This is oak. It’s not as delicate as apple so it has a more intense smoke to it. It’s sweet and it needs to be dry or else you can’t use it.
GR: We heard you’re opening a restaurant in LA, can you talk about it?
AB: It’s a little cat and fiddle space on Sunset. We have a thirteen foot hearth being built with a wood oven. It’s all wood grilled, market driven, vibrant, clean, and a little bit of smoke which is something I’m really passionate about right now.
GR: Will there a signature dish featured at the restaurant?
AB: No, no discussions of dishes right now. That’s kind of cheeky. But today is kind of a glimpse of what we’re going to be doing.
GR: What is the difference between cooking in LA and New York?
AB: It’s completely different. LA has amazing markets with an abundance of vegetables. The sense of community is really core to the city. In New York, you get a lot of micro-climates because of the seasons so in that respect it’s a little different. It’s equally as exciting. I’m happy to be coming to LA.
GR: Are there plans to open a joint like Salvation Burger in LA?
AB: No plans yet, but don’t give me any ideas. You might see one on the West Coast, soon.
GR: Is there anywhere you particularly like going to for Asian food?
AB: New York does really great Asian food. Chinatown is my big go-to. San Francisco is also a great place. I haven’t quite experienced Asian food in LA yet, but I have been to Koreatown and I love Korean food. I’m definitely going to be hitting up K-Town while I’m here.
GR: What’s the best way to eat the dish you have prepared tonight?
AB: The best way to eat lamb à la ficelle is thinly sliced with greens and we’ve prepared ours with fermented chili.
GR: How have you enjoyed being at LA Food Bowl?
AB: I only arrived this morning at 9 a.m., so I haven’t had that much of an experience apart from what I’m doing, and I’m having a great time. I’m looking forward to walking around and tasting other people’s food.
Checkout our post on LA Foodbowl's Night Market here.