Fig & Olive Melrose Place executive chef Pascal Lorange has had the recent pleasure of cooking a meal for President Obama. He describes the experience as "an honor and a privilege.... It was wonderful having the opportunity to share my love of food with such inspirational world leaders." Lorange is no stranger to cooking for high-profile clients. He was the private chef to singer Julio Iglesias and has made meals for Oscar de la Renta, Princess Stephanie of Monaco and the Clinton family.
What’s coming up next on your menu? We have a lot of fun, seasonal ingredients we're playing with. Think mushrooms, truffle, sage, pumpkin, saffron, and figs, of course! A few dishes I'm particularly excited to share with Angelenos are my warm goat cheese in fig leaf with house-made lavender honey served with fig chutney and black olive crackers; pumpkin sage ravioli made in-house with free-range chicken, pumpkin-olive oil emulsion, roasted pumpkin seeds, Parmesan cheese, and aged balsamic and frantoio olive oil; and Cote D’Azur bouillabaisse with grilled scallops, lemon sole, striped bass, shaved fennel and a saffron-garlic aioli and olive oil cracker, served with saffron-infused olive oil. We’re not going to disappoint on the dessert front either. ... Pastry chef Andrew LeStourgeon has some exciting new creations including a refreshing green apple sorbet with citrus segments, fresh mint and Picholine olive oil syrup, and a creme brulee cheesecake.
Latest ingredient obsession? Using fig leaves in lieu of parchment paper or other tools such as our classic sole papillote. I've also featured special fish dishes with olive oil infused with fig leaves. Since I came to L.A., I've been obsessed with all things fig, given California's abundant bounty! Since the opening of our Melrose Place location, I've been prowling the town and farmers markets for just the right type and size of Black Mission fig leaf. Just this week, I placed an order for 350 pounds of these fig leaves to be shipped to our other four Fig & Olive outposts on the East Coast. I'm also using Black Mission fig leaves to infuse one of our new fall 2011 collection Fig & Olive Mission Olive Oils for a poached striped bass dish. This infused olive oil adds a delicious full-bodied fruity flavor.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives? A 60-quart Hobart Mixer -– I use it on a daily basis to make all my olive-oil-driven sauces, marinades and tapenades at the restaurant. I couldn't begin a day without my trusty mixer, which we use to make our house-made rosemary fougasse bread.
The last cookbook you read -– and what inspired you to pick it up? "Under Pressure" by Thomas Keller. I am deeply passionate about slow cooking, and this is something I've really embraced for our Melrose Place location. I plan to eventually adopt this culinary philosophy to all our East Coast locations as well.
What chef has most influenced you? George Blanc of Vonnas, for whom I worked and from whom I learned the fundamentals of gastronomy which I still hold true to, to this day. My dream was to one day work for a three-star Michelin chef in France, and I lived my dream at 18 years old (in 1991). This came true when a one-star Michelin star chef I was working with in Belgium sent me to France to train for four months under Chef Blanc. This is an experience I will never forget. I returned in 2001 for another six-month stint to observe the evolution of his cooking and kitchen.Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, (310) 360-9100, www.figandolive.com
-- Leah Rodrigues
Photo: Pascal Lorange. Credit: Fig & Olive