Culinary Icons and SoCal’s Top Restaurants Took Center Stage During LA Times ‘The Taste’
In what has become an annual tradition for food-loving Angelenos, the Los Angeles Times once again raised a glass to Southern California’s diverse dining scene with The Taste, its premier three-day Labor Day weekend food festival held on the iconic Paramount Pictures Studios backlot in Hollywood. Hosted by The Times Food staff, Noelle Carter, Jonathan Gold, Betty Hallock, Jenn Harris and Russ Parsons; and esteemed chefs Michael Cimarusti, Thomas Keller, John Sedlar and Nancy Silverton, along with master bartender Julian Cox, the festivities featured five distinct events, each designed to celebrate a unique aspect of the culinary landscape of the City of Angels.
Thousands joined to sip and savor the various tastes of LA during the weekend, which kicked off on Friday, August 29th as the sun set, and culminated on Sunday, August 31st with stars lighting up the backlot cityscape that was lined with white-tented restaurant and specialty beverage booths.
At Friday’s Opening Night soiree, the Times hosts and their co-hosts gathered with LA’s most beloved chefs and industry personalities for a celebratory evening that blended great food and libations with a touch of Hollywood glamour. While revelers (including actress and comedian Kathy Griffin) feasted on crispy halibut tacos from The Church Key and miso donuts from Hinoki & the Bird among other savories and sweets, Black Crystal Wolf Kids captivated the crowd with their spirited takes on indie rock favorites. The world of food and music continued to intersect with a pop-up podcast of “Food is the New Rock,” that included interviews with singer/songwriter Michelle Branch and Ray Suen from Childish Gambino.
The following day, Times Food Editor Russ Parsons joined forces with James Beard-award winning chef Nancy Silverton (Osteria Mozza/Pizzeria Mozza) for the locavore favorite Field to Fork, a daytime affair spotlighting seasonal ingredients and their expressions on the plate – whether at home or on the restaurant table. Silverton, Bruce Kalman (Union), Tal Ronnen (Crossroads) and C.J. Jacobson (Girasol), each led cooking demos inspired by locally-sourced produce, while Parsons moderated a compelling roundtable discussion about cooking with famers market finds with Roxana Jullapat (Cooks County), Josiah Citrin (Mélisse), Jessica Koslow (Sqirl) and Vincenzo Marianella (Copa d’Oro).
With twilight descending over the bustling outdoor studio on Saturday, the stage was set for Dinner with a Twist, an affair that paid tribute to the intersection of LA’s dynamic culinary and cocktail cultures. Hosted by Times Deputy Food Editor Betty Hallock and Food Staff Writer Jenn Harris, along with John Sedlar (Rivera) and master bartender Julian Cox, attendees were treated to a feast for the senses from octopus with lentils courtesy of chef Steve Samson at Sotto to VeeV cocktails from Soho House’s James Bowers at a specialty pop-up bar. Demos extended the evening’s theme with chef & bartender duos, including Sedlar & Cox, Ricardo Zarate & Deysi Alvarez (Mo-Chica/Picca/Paiché) and Michael Hung & Michael Lay (Faith & Flower) teaming up for a unique look at the restaurant nightlife scene. The collaborative spirit continued with a group demo featuring Alex Day & Devon Tarby (Honeycut/Proprietors LLC), Max Seaman & Mikki Kristola (The Varnish) and Naomi Schimek (The Spare Room).
The final day of The Taste kicked off with the debut of Sunday Brunch, a family-friendly nod to one of Angelenos’ favorite weekend pastimes, that was hosted by Noelle Carter, Times Test Kitchen Director, and the esteemed chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller (The French Laundry/Bouchon). While attendees beat the heat with non-alcoholic sparkling tea mimosas from Art of Tea, and satisfied their sweet teeth with brioche cinnamon rolls from Farmshop, Carter, Karen Hatfield (The Sycamore Kitchen/Hatfield’s) and Casey Lane (The Tasting Kitchen) led cooking demos spotlighting brunch cuisine. Across the lot, Russ Parsons took the stage to lead a captivating discussion of 20 years of The French Laundry with Chef Keller and Laundry alums Jeff Cerciello (Farmshop), David Breeden (The French Laundry) and Timothy Hollingsworth (Broad Museum Restaurant).
Times Restaurant Critic Jonathan Gold closed out the festivities with the ultimate tribute to the city’s diverse dining landscape with Sunday evening’s Flavors of LA event, co-hosted by acclaimed chef Michael Cimarusti (Providence/Connie and Ted’s). From Jitlada’s tongue-numbing Thai to soulful shrimp & grits from chef David LeFevre (Manhatttan Beach Post/Fishing with Dynamite), the crowds savored bites that reflected the breadth of cuisines within the LA dining scene. Iconic industry veterans Evan Kleiman (KCRW’s “Good Food”) and Jimmy Shaw (Lotería Grill) shared their expertise during cooking demos, while Gold led a thought-provoking panel that delved into the art of foraging with chefs Ari Taymor (Alma) and Wes Avila (Guerrilla Tacos), and wild food expert Pascal Baudar. To cap off the evening, Parsons and Cimarusti took center stage to duke it out in a “Fish Fight” featuring their respective takes on the humble sardine. Judges Gold and Kleiman deemed Cimarusti the victor for his version of “pasta con le sarde” (pasta with sardines, pine nuts, raisins and fennel), a dish that has been served at Providence for years.