How are downtown chefs curating our cultural palate? New culinary projects are stirring up a neighborhood renaissance as the city’s best chefs are blending their ethnic and cultural traditions with the contemporary taste of eclectic Los Angeles. Join us to explore this diverse panel of chefs who are pushing downtown’s flavor forward. Stay for a post-panel tasting reception in the library courtyard, complements of participanting restaurants.
Born to Scottish and Israeli parents of Eastern-European descent, chef/owner Ilan Hall was exposed to international food from an early age. At seventeen, Ilan studied at the Lorenzo de Medici School’s Apicius program and cooked at the Al Lume di Candela restaurant. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and subsequently got his certification in Baking and Pastry Arts. In New York, Ilan cooked for Tom Collicchio at Craft, then for Mario Batali at Casa Mono under chef/co-owner Andy Nusser, originally of Batali’s acclaimed Babbo. At 24, he won Bravo TV’s reality competition, Top Chef. Ilan has been traveling the world all his life; his restless nature and tradition-shattering style have now spawned his indefinable first restaurant – The Gorbals Los Angeles.
Like many great chefs, Judy Han’s earliest memory is helping her parents in the kitchen of their family restaurant in Chicago. She moved to Los Angeles to become classically trained at culinary school; her first job was at Lucques, under Suzanne Goin, a protégé of the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. There she learned the virtues of working with local farmers who produced organically grown sustainable foods. Her culinary education continued in the kitchens of Sona, Grace and Koi, before becoming Sous Chef of Literati II. At Literati II, Chef Judy established herself as one of the largest proponents of the eating local movement, cooking almost entirely local seasonal ingredients at the boutique restaurant. At Mendocino Farms, Chef Judy is dedicated to applying her culinary philosophy to this “Fine Fast” concept by working with the best local farmers. She is also Chef Partner at one of downtown’s newest restaurants, Blue Cow.
A native of New Mexico, John Rivera Sedlar gained a following as a chef in the South Bay region of Southern California—which led him to further his culinary education through an apprenticeship to legendary French chef Jean Bertranou of L'Ermitage in Los Angeles. He opened St. Estephe restaurant in Manhattan Beach, where he won renown as the Father of Modern Southwest Cuisine—also the title of his acclaimed first cookbook. Sedlar's awards and recognitions include selection among the Top Ten Chefs in America and the First Annual Culinary Arts Hall of Fame Awards. Having traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Latin America, and Spain to study Latin food traditions first-hand, he is also the creator and founder of the first Latino food museum in the United States, Museo 26. Sedlar opened downtown’s Rivera and is executive chef at Beverly Hills’ Playa.
Mexican-born Patricia Zarate left her homeland at the age of twenty-three and within little time found herself involved in fighting for justice within marginalized communities of Los Angeles, particularly that of Boyle Heights in the Dolores Mission community. She worked as the Secretary for Father Greg Boyle when he was pastor of Dolores Mission and when Homeboy Industries began to bloom. She began catering events out of her own small kitchen before opening El Zarape in Boyle Heights. In 2005, in collaboration with Father Boyle Patricia employed and worked with a dozen young women teaching them the basics of the food service industry through Homegirl Café. A new state of the art facility was completed in October 2007, and specializes in the serving of light, healthy Mexican food with thirty homegirls undergoing training at a given time.
Evan Kleiman has been the host of Good Food on KCRW for 15 years. The show reflects her wide-ranging interest in food and how humans interact with it. Evan’s food policy interest is expressed through her participation on the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and as a member of the Stewardship Council of the statewide organization Roots of Change. Evan Kleiman was chef-owner of Angeli Caffe on Melrose for 27 years. A cookbook author of six titles, she teaches and gives food tours of her native Los Angeles. Her latest project is Easy As Pie an app for the iphone/ipad.