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5 Questions for Danny Elmaleh

December 5, 2011 |  6:30 am

Dan Danny Elmaleh is the executive chef of both Cleo and Mercato di Vetro.  After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1995, Elmaleh worked at many restaurants around the world, including Jean Moulin in Japan and Ristorante Giannino in Milan. In 2001, he moved to Los Angeles, where he cooked at Josiah Citrin's Mélisse and Lemon Moon.  Eight years later, Elmaleh began his partnership with SBE Entertainment Group.  He is now executive chef for all its restaurants.

What’s coming up next on your menu? I am always thinking about new, seasonally influenced items for the menus. Specific to Vetro, I’m focused on an egg dish. I’ve been playing around with a spicy tripe soup with egg, or because mushrooms are in season, possibly a spin on English mushroom toast with egg.

Latest ingredient obsession? Salt is something that’s always fascinated me. Not just from a flavor profile, but also from a moisture extraction perspective. There’s such a delicate balance in the way that salt influences the flavors and textures of other ingredients. Our Hen of Woods dish at Vetro is a great example of how executing the right balance of salt before, during and after it’s cooked is vital in creating the perfect flavor.

What’s your favorite breakfast? There’s a delicious Tunisian breakfast that my father used to make for me. It calls for pat-brik filled with sautéed tuna and mushrooms, and melted cheese and eggs. The pat-brik is like a spring roll paper and you fold it over the ingredients and brown until crispy. If done just right, the cheese is melted and yolks are runny. Hands down my favorite.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? My hands –- that’s the No. 1 tool in being a chef for touch, feel and the art of manipulating ingredients with precision. Next to the hands, I’m always looking for a spoon, which I use for almost everything, including tasting, measuring, plating and mixing.

What chef has most influenced you? My dad. He opened the first Moroccan restaurant in Japan, and I grew up working with him in the kitchen. Having that experience at a young age was a major influence on me and has served me very well throughout my career. Today, he owns Simon’s Café in the Valley.

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--Leah Rodrigues
twitter.com/ LeahRodrigues24

Photo credit: SBE

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