As we continue COOKGIRL’s market tour for THE LOS ANGELES PROJECT, we’re excited to feature another group of super talented women in the Southern California food world who are innovative, authentic, unique and passionate. COOKGIRL is thrilled to reveal GROUP 2……Cook On!
1. GENEVIEVE GERGIS
Pastry Chef Gergis, with her Executive Chef husband Ori Menashe, opened a multi-regional Italian restaurant, Bestia (Italian for “Beast”), in 2010 in a downtown LA neighborhood that now boasts some of the coolest restaurants.
Bestia is critically acclaimed and loved by diners and is one of the most exciting openings in Los Angeles in recent year. Super cool fun fact is that Alice Waters sent the owners a handwritten note about her amazing experience.
Genevieve is a self-taught pastry chef who was given the push to pursue pastry by none-other than Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza. Genevieve told Zagat after Bestia topped the list of Best Newcomer in the Zagat 2014 Los Angeles Restaurant Survey about Nancy Silverton’s influence: “I made all the desserts for Amy Pressman’s [founder of Pasadena's Old Town Bakery] funeral, out of respect for her. Ori was doing the food. And I made them, and she [Nancy] tried my stuff, and flipped out, and told me that I should be doing pastries. She really believes in me. She sent me to Chez Panisse for three weeks. It was right before the restaurant opened, and I didn’t even know what a professional kitchen looked like.” It was this divine intervention that had Gergis move from front of house at Bestia to officially taking on the role of pastry chef.
She is patient and thoughtful with her craft, something that is evident in all of the food coming out of the kitchen at Bestia. Her pistachio ice cream takes three days to make. Somehow this extra time and attention makes the food just that much more simple, with a small, concentrated list of ingredients that are nurtured through process to provide the most amount of flavor.
In 2014, Menashe was named the People’s Best New Chef, California for Food & Wine and in 2015, he was added to the list of Food & Wine’s ten Best New Chefs. When not in the kitchen, Menashe and Gergis can be found spending time with their daughter Saffron.
2. ELIZABETH HONG
Elizabeth Hong mastered the stations - mozzarella bar, chef de cuisine at Pizzeria Mozza - in several of Nancy Silverton’s white hot restaurant empire in partnership with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich before being named Executive Chef of Osteria Mozza.
Hong is part of Los Angeles restaurant royalty; her mother, Jenee Kim, owns the beloved Park’s BBQ in Koreatown. Her mother opened a staple to Angelenos in Parks BBQ and Liz spent a great deal of time in that restaurant learning the ins and outs of her eventual trade. It seemed only natural that she would later enroll herself in culinary school in Pasadena, where she “kinda fell in love with it.” As her mom Jenee Kim remembers it, she didn’t really think Elizabeth would become a chef, but did encourage her to go to culinary school at Cordon Bleu.
When asked what she does in her spare time, Hong laughed: “What spare time are you speaking of?” Though deeply ensconced in the world of gourmet food, Hong freely admits that her favorite food is ice cream topped with Peanut Butter M&M’s.
3. SARAH HYMANSON
Madcapra Falafel is the first of two Los Angeles restaurants from chefs and NYC expats Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson. Opened in May in the fabulous but still unpolished and authentic food hall that is Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, Grand Central Market houses everything from Berlin Currywurst to Bento Ya Japanese to Chiles Secos to Eggslut and G&B Coffee.
The duo has been working at incubator kitchens perfecting their dishes and enjoying the new dynamic that is different that the one at Glasserie in Brooklyn. Now, they work as a team and have found that they have a very similar style. As Sara Kramer said “We have as similar approach to food and management, and feel like we can do a good job and have fun at the same time. That's crucial when you're working so many hours and you care so much about what you're doing.”
Coming from NYC to LA, the most exciting thing can often be the abundance of available produce. And with the mission of Madcapra to be farm-to-table “vegetable-focused” where everything is made from scratch, that’s a great thing. As Bon Appétit commented, “Honing their skills on the East Coast with a sometimes limited roster of available produce has allowed Kramer and Hymanson to utilize California's bounty with a fresh perspective.”
The menu provides grilled-to-order deliciousness that is filled with herbs and pickled items that are a welcome surprise from the classic falafel.
Not surprisingly, the duo was named to Zagat’s 30 Under 30: Rock Stars Redefining the Industry on September 14, 2015.
4. HOLLY JIVIN
Holly grew up in a kitchen rich with Southern-style cooking traditions. Moving from Savannah to Atlanta to West Virginia, Jivin was introduced to Chef Michael Voltaggio who later offered her a position in the kitchen of his next endeavor: the yet-to-open The Bazaar by José Andrés in Los Angeles. In 2010 Holly was named Head Chef of SAAM, the intimate chef’s tasting room and simultaneously named sous chef at The Bazaar. In 2013 Holly was named chef de cuisine of The Bazaar.
COOKGIRL loves that Holly suggests starting every meal off “with bubbles”. Her best advice for other female chefs in the kitchen? “Despite their rough around the edge shell and demeanor, men are just as sensitive as females…don’t let them fool you!”
In 2014, Holly and her husband, chef Adam Cole (ink.) founded Maple Block Meat Company, taking over a spot in Culver City for rocking BBQ that opened August 10, 2015. Excitingly Texas Monthly sent their barbecue editor to California to do a tour of the state and, as reported by Eater, declared Maple Block Meat Company “the state’s best brisket.”
5. JESSICA KOSLOW
She’s a foodie at her core - and despite trying several careers - she couldn’t shake her passion for ingredients and cooking. From pastry at Anne Quatrano’s James Beard award-winning restaurant Bacchanalia in Atlanta to New York for a brief stint as a television producer to Australia and then back to Los Angeles where she started Sqirl in 2011, Jessica Koslow is proof that some people are simply meant to be in the food world.
Sqirl, which launched in 2011, is a preserve company that people are obsessed with - witness the craziness surrounding her at this year’s Los Angeles Food & Wine in August. Sqirl celebrates the seasonal local California produce from family-owned farms that practice sustainable, certified organic methods that are uber local.
Sqirl is also a breakfast and lunch restaurant, for which Jessica was one of 100 chefs in the US to be nominated for F&W’s People’s Choice Chef of the Year.
Jessica was a competitive ice skater growing up in Long Beach, CA. She studied economics at Brandeis University and went on to get a Master’s Degree from Georgetown University. And when she emailed Anne Quartrano at Bacchanalia after an incredible meal, she was given the opportunity to come in and work, proving herself over the course of a year. Who could ask for a better mentor than Anne Quatrano?
Jessica is all about the authenticity of what she is making and creating and even makes her own pectin. The best news? Not using commercial pectin reduces the amount of sugar that she has to use, which is great for so many health reasons, but is really great because you can actually taste the fruit.
At first selling preserves and then expanding into a small restaurant that is open for breakfast and lunch - two meals sometimes ignored by chefs - Sqirl will soon also have an open-later-than-4pm AWAY (cleverly “squirrel away”, right?) for people who want to bring the amazing menu home. Her following of regulars has been chomping at the bit for AWAY to open, which currently says “Soon” on the website.
Can’t make it to LA? The website also boasts a cool store where you can order to your heart’s content.
6. SARA KRAMER
Madcapra Falafel is the first of two Los Angeles restaurants from chefs and NYC expats Sara Kramer and her former sous chef Sarah Hymanson.
The falafel shop opened in May in the bustling Grand Central Market after much anticipation that included a pop-up at Animal. The duo, who had worked together at Glasserie in Brooklyn, promised "a fresh take on the falafel shop," with everything homemade in a modern “all-things-vegetable” falafel shop.
Sara left New York for many of the reasons that many of us do (including COOKGIRL) - for one, New York is expensive, which can limit new business ventures. With two ideas in hand, Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson launched the first - a middle eastern falafel shop in the bustling Grand Central Market, which is all about the authentic, unpolished food hall concept with lots of diversity in vendors and clientele. The second idea, a restaurant, we hope will come later (read: soon!).
As Sara told GrubStreet in May about moving from NYC to LA, “It's such a burgeoning scene here. The media and the public are so interested in the ethnic food here, and have really pushed the boundaries of finding the best in the city….I’m very excited to grow here and be welcomed here. People have been really genuine and very welcoming. It feels, like, totally contradictory about what people say about L.A.”
On September 14, 2015, Kramer and Hymanson were named to Zagat’s 30 Under 30: Rock Stars Defining the Industry.
7. ANTONIA LOFASO
As a fan favorite on both TOP CHEF and TOP CHEF ALL STARS, Chef Lofaso is living her dream while balancing her role as Executive Chef and Partner of Black Market Liquor Bar and Scopa in Los Angeles and being a single mom.
Of her experience on Bravo’s Top Chef, Antonia says, “Top Chef completely impacted my career in ways I never could have imagined. The opportunities given to me because of the show were immeasurable, going from not being known, to everyone recognizing me. How many times in your career do you get the chance to cook for amazing chefs like Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain and Tom Colicchio?”
In addition to her appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef, she’s currently a regular judge on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” was a co-host of GSN’s “Beat the Chefs,” and will be one of the chef contestants on an upcoming network food competition series. Her first cookbook, The Busy Mom’s Cookbook, was published by a division of Penguin last year.
Lofaso attended the prestigious French Culinary Institute in New York City and, upon graduating, accepted a position at Beverly Hills’ best known restaurant, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. She next ran the kitchen at a new Los Angeles hot spot, Foxtail, and was a private chef to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
8 - DAHLIA NARVAEZ
From her role as Executive pasty chef at the James Beard Award winning Campanile to creating desserts for the Mozza empire, Dahlia Narvaez worked with Nancy Silverton on the Mozza cookbook and was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2012. Amazingly talented and absolutely someone whose desserts are a mandatory part of the experience.
“Osteria Mozza is a casual restaurant where people dress to impress…” Presided over by always-dressed-to-impress Nancy Silverton, Osteria Mozza goes from strength to strength. From exquisite handmade pastas to grilled beef tagliata to Pastry Chef Dahlia Narvaez’s rosemary olive oil cakes. Osteria Mozza’s is a menu Angelenos can recite by heart: the greatest hits.
Native Angelena Dahlia Narvaez developed a love for food when cooking for her family after school in Highland Park. At the age of 22, when she was “tired of carrying a backpack” in college, Dahlia took a job at the Conga Room before the fatefully meeting Nancy Silverton. Thinking that she wanted a counter job, she quickly moved through the restaurant and was named Executive Pastry Chef in 2003 at the James Beard Award winning Campanile. She worked for Suzanne Tracht at JAR before Nancy Silverton announced her partnership with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich and the MOZZA Empire was born.
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