Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Current Affairs

Lunch with David Gelb, director of 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'

"I'm not an expert at making sushi," says David Gelb, with a pair of chopsticks poised above a plate of tuna sashimi at Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa downtown, "but I'm an expert at eating sushi." 

After filming 150 hours of footage at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the famed Michelin three-star sushi bar in Tokyo's Ginza district, the 28-year-old director of the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" knows a thing or two about nigiri and maki. "I like that the seaweed here is crispy," he says of a toro hand roll, into which he deftly pours a drop or two of soy sauce. 

Gelb's film is set to premiere in Los Angeles on Friday, and he has just returned from its debut in New York. The movie, which showed at last year's Tribeca Film Festival and was bought by Magnolia Pictures, has captured the attention of more than just food lovers, as Gelb has been talking up sushi-porn scenes and the importance of rice preparation on the media circuit. Naturally, the fooderati are drooling.

"I think I was lucky," says Gelb, dressed in a black T-shirt and bright blue Adidas sneakers. "Part of it is that there hasn't been a film about this level of sushi." Although reviews have been mixed, he says the goal was to film something "restrained and elegant" instead of relying on the "reality show kind of camera" usually aimed at food and cooking subjects. "I wanted to show sushi as an art form."

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With Sunset Junction off, Echo Park is rising

AYC A wave of backyard parties, barbecues and street corner shows have cropped up since Sunset Junction was officially canceled earlier this week. Silver Lake, it seems, was not ready to give up the party.

Echo Park, however, was eager to get in on the action. And so business owners in the neighborhood quickly rallied to create an impromptu two-day event called Echo Park Rising. Not only will the Echo and Echoplex host a slew of displaced Junction bands including the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and 400 Blows, but a variety of neighborhood restaurants and bars are offering deals all weekend long.

The epically busy Mohawk Bend is giving away a free "secret" dessert to anyone who mentions Echo Park Rising; City Sip wine bar is offering discounts; Allston Yacht Club will feature happy hour specials all night on Saturday, as well as a $5 cocktail called the AYC cooler, made from ginger, lemonade, watermelon and vodka; Delilah Bakery will comp diners drinks at lunch; and Lot 1 Cafe, Stories Books & Cafe and Two Boots will host live music.

On the non-food side, Stories Book is offering 20% off all used books; Origami Vinyl is holding a 10%-off-everything sale; and iam8bit gallery is giving a 5% donation from all sales of original artwork to 826LA. A website for the event has already gone up, and more deals and parties are being added heading into the weekend.

It will be interesting to see if Echo Park Rising spurs the neighborhood to stage a street festival of its own next year. The area's residents could use something upbeat to distract them from the terrible spectacle of the closed-off lake.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: The bacon-and-egg martini at Allston Yacht Club. Credit: Tara Godvin

Considering community college for culinary school


An article this week about a group of chefs who've skipped culinary school to work their way up through the kitchen ranks points out the perils of borrowing to pay for a $60,000 education that might land one a job as a minimum-wage line cook. 

But readers brought up the fact that community colleges offer culinary programs for a fraction of the cost of for-profit schools and other colleges, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College is one of them. L.A. Trade Tech has among the lowest enrollment fees in the country (California residents pay $20 per unit). Its culinary arts program is four semesters for an associate's degree; its baking program is also four semesters for associate's degree.

Pasadena City College also has a culinary arts program, and I received information from Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education's new culinary program, offered through Baldwin Park Unified School District.

Ludo Lefebvre, the chef behind the LudoBites pop-up series, says he works with students from L.A. Trade Tech. "I've never had a bad student from over there," he says. 

In an e-mail, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito lauded the culinary arts program at L.A. Trade Tech. "One aspect you might consider ... is the opportunity at the community college level. The Culinary Arts program at L.A. Trade Tech ... is well-regarded and available at community college tuition rates."

Ito says that when he retires, he's planning to take cooking courses at L.A. Trade Tech or Pasadena City College. "As an acolyte of Alice Waters since the early '70s I can hardly wait."


The secrets of rolling pie dough

Checking out Restaurant 1833 in Monterey

5 Questions for Helene An

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: The kitchen at Hatfield's.Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Drinking in the Rapture: Or what would Harold Camping quaff?

I-drink-angels It's impossible to ignore the chatter. For believers in the Doomsday prophecy of Harold Camping (a civil engineer who became a Biblical scholar), Saturday will be their last day on earth. They expect to ascend to heaven as part of the Rapture after a world-wide earthquake leaves nonbelievers on earth for five months more to battle earthquakes, floods, famine and war until the world finally implodes in October.

It's dark stuff to be sure -- and if we live through it we'll have to endure another round of hand-wringing when the Mayan calendar "ends" in December 2012. So, with the world ending so much, isn't it time we figured out how to give it a proper send-off?

And what better way to do that than to whip up a cocktail? So here's what I'll be doing tomorrow: Because I don't believe in the end of the world, but I am superstitious and paranoid, I will call my parents around noon. Just to say hi. Then I'll start drinking. If the world is going to end, I don't have to worry about a hangover. Finally!

Below is the recipe for what I'm going to drink, likely while sitting on my patio crying to a Tammy Wynette album and thinking about the time I made my mom let me get baptized when I was 10 and then never, ever went back to church again.

I call this drink "Going Camping."

4 hot tears

1 ounce holy water

3 ounces Ancient Age Bourbon

Float of Bacardi 151

Ice cracked out of frustration


Garnish with thorns from a rosebush

Directions: Think of the time that one cute guy you met at the Short Stop asked you for your number and how you forgot that you gave it to him so that when he finally wrote to you asking you out, you responded, "What's your name again?" And so he never wrote you back. Cry. Gather tears. Cry some more. Crack ice out of frustration. Put ice in highball glass. Add bourbon, holy water and tears. Top with a float of Bacardi 151. Light the float on fire. Garnish with thorns from a rosebush. Blow out flame. Drink quickly. Repeat.

Take two aspirin in the morning?


Dinner House M is closing in June. The hipster apocalypse is nigh.

El Pollo Loco is feeling the heat

Creepy man was videotaping women in the bathroom at Starbucks

-- Jessica Gelt 

Photo: The author drank a teapot of angels the last time the world ended. Credit: Terry Case



Made cafe and boutique at the Downtown Women's Center opens today


Made by DWC, the cafe, coffeehouse and boutique at the Downtown Women's Center, officially opened today. Proceeds benefit the downtown shelter (where Lindsay Lohan may teach acting classes as part of her community-service sentence), a $26-million newly renovated complex at the W. Douglas Building on San Pedro Street, which in the '20s housed a shoe company. 

The 67,000-square-foot center, which combined with the original Los Angeles Street location serves 3,500 women a year and has 71 additional housing units for a growing population of homeless women, was designed by Pica+Sullivan, with the cafe and boutique on the ground floor. 

The airy, light-filled cafe serves sandwiches and salads from Tiara Cafe. Sandwiches include tuna, lettuce, tomato and harissa on whole wheat; salami, chorizo, sun-dried tomato spread, tomatoes, lettuce and Italian vinaigrette on panini; dill chicken salad, lettuce, tomato and roasted red pepper on sourdough. The coffee is from Groundwork.   

438 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles, www.madebydwc.org. Tuesday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

-- Betty Hallock



Photos: Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times

Patina announces apprentice program for high school students


Teenagers with a passion for cooking will get a chance to work in the four-star kitchen at Patina under a new apprentice program. The restaurant will work with Santee Education Complex, a high school near downtown Los Angeles, and a Place Called Home, a social-service center in South Los Angeles for young people, to select apprentices for the program, scheduled to begin next month.

Chef Joachim Splichal, who opened Patina restaurant in Walt Disney Hall in downtown L.A., said he was honored to work with Santee and a Place Called Home. Participants -- one or two at a time -- will shadow Patina’s executive chef, Tony Esnault, to learn the workings of the kitchen and basic skills in the contemporary French restaurant, which received four stars from Los Angeles Times reviewer S. Irene Virbila last year.

“Working with Patina restaurant and a Place Called Home elevates the future opportunities of our youth in this community,” said Young Choi, college and career coordinator at Santee. “This is truly an exciting relationship.”

After a three-month apprenticeship, students will prepare a meal at Patina and will have the chance to interview for a job with Patina Restaurant Group, which includes about 60 restaurants and other outlets.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Joachim Splichal. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Students stage 'ramen-in' to protest increased fees at community colleges

Ramen will take over the governor's office here in Los Angeles and in San Francisco Friday. Hundreds of community college students are expected to show up with boxes and boxes of the noodles, rallying to protest the potential increase in student fees. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed an extra fee of $10 per course unit.

With the normal academic year consisting of 30 units, that's $300 and to those on a budget that's a lot of money. "It’s clear that the fee increases will push many of our students out of higher education altogether," said Larissa Dorman, a member of the San Diego City College faculty. And for those who stay, they "will literally be paying more for less.”

“I know a lot of students who are barely surviving as it is,” said L.A. Valley College student Elizabeth Valldejuli. “We’re just trying to put into perspective how much this is going to cost us.”

Hence the ramen: Particularly for students who don't have the time or kitchen supplies to cook real food, ramen is an easy option -- a meal for less than $1 that can be made simply by combining what comes in the packaged cup with boiling water.

As San Diego City College student Jose Rodriguez explained, if this goes through, everyone will be "eating ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Los Angeles protest: 1:30 p.m., Governor’s Office, 300 S. Spring St.

San Francisco protest: 1:30 p.m., Governor’s Office, 350 McAllister St., between Polk and Larkin streets

 -- Emma Wartzman

Photo: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Looking for a financial miracle, Catholic monks return to fruitcake


The Catholic monks of the New Camaldoli Hermitage have lived a world apart in the inspirational majesty of Big Sur for half a century. They know well the power of prayer and contemplation.

Money management is another matter.

Never did they imagine their most vexing problem would be finding a way to close a $300,000-a-year budget deficit. Or reviving a flagging fruitcake business that has helped support them for decades.

The monks are like countless American families struggling through hard times. They're working harder but digging into dwindling savings to make ends meet. Their home is paid for, but repairs are on hold indefinitely. The viability of their Thoreau-like existence is in doubt.

To read the rest of Mike Anton's Column One, click here.

Photo: Father Zacchaeus Naegele, 59, gathers a fruitcake in a walk-in refrigerator that houses a dwindling supply at the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Lucia, Calif. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

South L.A. gets a new supermarket


With the opening today of a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, the area around Central Avenue and Adams Boulevard in South Los Angeles has two new supermarkets. The Fresh & Easy joins a Superior just a couple of blocks away.

Customers lined up for a whole block before the 10 a.m. opening of Fresh & Easy -- accompanied by the Jefferson High marching band. The company now has 145 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada, spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said.


L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry said she was "overjoyed" at the opening of the store along "an emotional historic corridor," the center of blues and jazz in the first half of the last century. Perry's office worked with the grocery company to develop the corner site, which has apartments above the grocery store.

Wonnacott said the company is committed to opening stores in neighborhoods that have come to be called "food deserts" for their lack of fresh, nutritious food. He said the produce and meat and poultry have been bestsellers in their stores, which are about 10,000 square feet big and boast of selling foods containing no chemicals or preservatives. The shelves are stocked with a combination of private label and national brand foods, with some of the products reminiscent of what's sold at Trader Joe's stores.

-- Mary MacVean

(In the top photo, customers line up before the store opens. In bottom photo, from left, store manager Aaron Davis, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and L.A. Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner at the opening ceremony. Photos courtesy of Fresh & Easy.)


Meat in a jar! Make mine an in vitro steak please

Meat-in-a-jar Although growing meat in test tubes sounds terribly unappealing, it's something that researchers are working hard at figuring out. The push has become more concerted now that the meat industry is becoming recognized as one of the leading contributors to global warming.

Brand X takes a closer looks at recent developments in the field of mystery meat and why "the road to cultured chicken nuggets faces obstacles." To read Jason Gelt's story, click here.

Photo: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.