5 Questions for John-Carlos Kuramoto
John-Carlos Kuramoto is the new executive chef at Michael's in Santa Monica. He's only 23 but has worked in the kitchens of Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger in Massachusetts, Michael Mina at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, and Providence, Animal and Campanile in Los Angeles. Some of his new menu items include ahi tuna poke with apple, jalapeno and toasted pine nuts, and spiced Sonoma duck with chile poblano risotto.
What's coming up next on your menu? I can’t wait for kabocha squash to get really good, that and butternut squash. I particularly like the combination of slightly sweet duck confit with kabocha squash. It plays on savory and sweet which turns into an addicting flavor profile.
Latest ingredient obsession? Papalo. I first discovered it at the farmers market from Coleman Farms. They told me to put it on carne asada tacos and it really was mind blowing. It’s almost like cilantro meets watercress meets epazote. Very floral, not like anything I have tasted before. Right now I am putting it in pasta and the pork slider on the bar bites menu.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? For sure Lazy Ox in downtown. I can’t get enough. The pig ear chicharrones are incredible, with all the acid from the pickles to complement the crisp and rich flavors of the pig ear. It’s a perfect dish. Very well balanced and the textures are pure artwork. Also, the rice pudding is pretty much my favorite dessert ever. Ever.
What’s the last non-food-related book you read? "Shadow of the Wind," by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
What chef has most influenced you? Chef Ming Tsai. I interned with him for six months. It was make or break really. He worked me like a dog, but through that I knew I wanted to cook. The flavors at Blue Ginger are very intriguing and unlike any others I have had as of yet. Fusion cuisine is natural to me, my ethnic background being Mexican and Japanese, and chef Tsai showed me how to fuse cuisines without it tasting forced.... I took a lot of his sayings to heart, like: “You must master a dish the way it’s classically made before you can tweak it”; or: “Food must fight back with you" (meaning it must have acid). I really need to go back to Wellesley to eat at Blue Ginger.
Michael's, 1147 3rd St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-0843, www.michaelssantamonica.com.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo credit: Michael's