Chef’s Fable Opens LA Food Bowl

Los Angeles has long been a food city. Home to an array of diverse cultures we have quite possibly the widest variety of cuisine in the country. In recent years culinary appreciation has exploded and food events from pop-ups to festivals occur regularly. Perhaps the largest yet, LA Food Bowl, officially launches today and I was lucky enough to attend the opening event last night – Chef’s Fable.

Held at the Wiltern it was a celebration of food and film featuring top filmmakers and chefs including Jon Favreau and Niki Nakayama. The Wiltern, a beautiful 1931 Art Deco theatre, has long been one of my favorite music venues and I was curious to see it with a much different focus. The main event of the night was to be a discussion among the chefs and filmmakers but it was preceded by a makeshift food festival featuring such purveyors as Pasta Sisters, Salt & Straws and Kogi BBQ. There were food trucks outside and stations inside and try as they might to keep it organized it couldn’t help but be a bit chaotic. When deciding where to eat my main factor turned out to be line length which led me to Pico House and their unique whole grain bowls. I wasn’t previously familiar with the restaurant and decided to sample one of each of the night’s bowls – Crenshaw Chicken and Union Lamb.

I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite because they were both uniquely special. The Crenshaw Chicken featuring braised chicken and coconut curry was light and refreshing and the Union Lamb with braised lamb, vegetables and goat cheese was rich and hearty. I was very much impressed and definitely plan on visiting the storefront soon.

After a satisfying meal the presentation began. Famed LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold led a panel that included previously mentioned Favreau and Nakayama, Magnus Nilsson, Roy Choi, David Gelb and, surprise guest, Massimo Bottura.

Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision for Los Angeles Times Food Bowl/AP Images

David Gelb is the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi and the Netflix series Chef’s Table. If you haven’t seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi I highly recommend it – it’s a stunningly beautiful tribute to man utterly devoted to his craft. From what I hear Chef’s Table is just as lovely but as I don’t have Netflix I haven’t seen it. Nakayama, Nilsson and Bottura have all been featured on the show and much of the discussion was about their experience on it. It was fascinating to hear what different takes each one had. Nilsson, of Fäviken in Sweden, was stand-offish at first but grew to appreciate the experience. Bottura, of Osteria Francescana in Italy, was excited to share his work and passion and show how he puts a part of his personality into each dish. Nakayama, of LA’s of N/Naka, explained she initially felt undeserving of an episode but found it be a cathartic experience as it allowed her to share much of her personal story. All three chef’s expressed their appreciation for Gelb and his devotion to showcasing their craft.

Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision for Los Angeles Times Food Bowl/AP Images

In 2014 , Jon Favreau released the film Chef about a struggling chef who reinvents himself through a food truck. With a subject like that who else but Roy Choi could be the film’s technical advisor? Favreau explained that he wanted the film to be as authentic as possible and was elated when Choi agreed to work on it. Excepting simple advice he was shocked when he went all in coming to the set and working hands on with the cast and crew. Not satisfied with giving Favreau a few pointers he insisted he go to culinary school to learn the essentials. This was a decision that worked in the film’s favor and allowed it to be so true to life. Favreau emphasized how much impact Choi had on the film and disclosed they’ve remained friends to this day.

It was an enjoyable evening filled with delicious food, entertainment and true insight into the confluence of the culinary arts and film. A fitting kick off to LA Food Bowl there are sure to be many more wonderful moments in the month to come. Next I’ll be at Masters of Taste and I can’t wait to tell you all about it (for 15% off enter LAE17 at checkout).


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