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Early Bird: At Toluca Lake's Sweetsalt, Alex Eusebio is the top chef

April 5, 2010 |  8:44 am

Contenders on the hit show "Top Chef" aren't known for being humble. That's why some L.A. foodies were surprised to hear that Alex Eusebio -- a Season 5 contestant and a hometown favorite -- had quietly opened an unassuming gourmet sandwich shop in Toluca Lake called Sweetsalt Food Shop.

Before being cast on "Top Chef," Eusebio, who is of Dominican descent and who moved to L.A. from New York, was the chef at an Echo Park restaurant called 15. The place had been transformed from a pupusería into a homey bistro, and Eusebio's sharp flavors and precise cooking style soon made 15 a popular neighborhood destination with a seemingly bright future. Read more here:

Photo: Diners relax in the breezy environs of Sweetsalt Food Shop in Toluca Lake. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times