5 Questions for Randal St. Clair
Randal St. Clair is the executive chef of Mohawk Bend in Echo Park, a restaurant known for its craft beer and vegan dishes. Before heading the kitchen at Mohawk Bend, St. Clair was working on organic farms. (He's a veteran of the Beverly Hills Farmer's Market.) The Mohawk Bend menu is mostly vegetarian -- more than half of it vegan -- with an emphasis on California produce and products.
What's coming up next on your menu? Granola. (OK, that's a cheap plug for brunch coming soon.) For now, pizza with spicy squid, white beans, roast peppers. Beet and pomegranate quinoa salad with walnut dressing.
Latest ingredient obsession? I'm mourning the end of season for the candy-stripe figs from Capay Organic at the farmer's market -- they're like little parcels of raspberry jam when you cut them. We served them with burrata in salads, on pizzas with serrano ham, in crostatas with almonds. (Sigh) Luckily quinces will be around soon.
What’s your favorite breakfast? Without hesitation, congee (jook). I miss the all-night places in Sydney's Chinatown specializing in it.... At any given moment about half the place was filled with chefs after very late nights.... Now I make it at home in my rice cooker, collapse in bed, and it's great to wake up to. So restorative and comforting.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? My mortar and pestle. It weighs a ton. I foolishly bought it at the start of a long trip years ago in Thailand, and carried it around in my carry-on around Italy, London, New York -- you get the picture. So it is probably a bit of a stubborn thing that makes me have to justify such imprudence. But nothing grinds our spices, seeds and pistachios for our dukkah quite as nicely (or so I've convinced myself).
What chef has most influenced you? Having the opportunity to do a couple of brief stages with Charlie Trotter (and he subsequently was the guest chef at my kitchen in Sydney -- quite a coup) was amazing. Susan Feniger remains a huge inspiration for me. Even after working for her for years, she never ceases to amaze me with her positive energy and love for food. And Evelyn Franz of Papa Haydn in Portland is one of the best natural pastry chefs I've ever known, and one of the best palates. I'll be forever thankful to her for introducing me to pairing red wine and chocolate. And of course, Sera, my co-chef, who inspires me with her ideas and her organic urban farm.
Mohawk Bend, 2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 483-2337, www.mohawk.la
-- Leah Rodrigues
Photo credit: Erik Sellers