5 Questions for Laurent Quenioux
Laurent Quenioux is the chef behind the pop-up series "LQ @ ..." -- most recently LQ @ SK, in collaboration with downtown's Starry Kitchen, a melding of culinary minds that sparked the LQ + SK 420 weed dinners (yes, that kind of weed). He's also the executive chef at Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena. His current pop-up is LQ @ Barneys featuring a seven-course menu of his idiosyncratic dishes (rabbit tartare with yuzu kosho and chocolate muffin, for example). And Quenioux, who is from Sologne, France, doesn't roll without his cheese cart -- a selection of as many as 37 cheeses from around the world.
What's coming up next on your menu? Melon -- right now I love melon. I wish we could get the Cavaillon melon from France, but we can’t, so I am working with watermelon at Vertical. It looks like we will do a salad of Dungeness crab, watermelon, pickled red onions, sweet peas, cucumber and a lime vinaigrette for the new summer menu. For the upcoming pop-up we will do an amuse consisting of compressed watermelon, black garlic, fish sauce and geoduck.
Latest ingredient obsession? This changes almost daily, but epazote is great ... the complexity of the herb makes it an ingredient that isn’t very user-friendly. The fragrance is so strong that it will contaminate fragile herbs like chervil or sorrel or purslane, for example, unless the right balance is achieved. Epazote is king right now on my painter's palette.
Describe your favorite day off away from the kitchen. Do chefs have days off?! I typically work seven days a week most of the time unless the pop-up is in a hiatus mode, so I did get a few days off in June, which consisted of biking, hiking, gardening and the beach. At night large groups of friends come to my house to cook and eat late into the evening.
What’s your favorite breakfast? My favorite breakfast away from home is at Huge Tree Bakery in Monterey Park, which is Taiwanese. I always order the salted soy milk (love those curds), sweet tofu, beef sandwich and you tiao (which is a Chinese donut). At home it is two poached eggs and a slice of Michel Blanchet smoked salmon, a few chives and green onions from the garden and a ghost chile from the garden because I’m trying to lose weight these days.
What chef has most influenced you? Jean Louis Palladin. He was a true chef, a chef that worked in the kitchen with his mind in the kitchen all day long, not a star chef, not a chef that roams the dining room. He was passionate to the extreme and always creating (not copying others and God knows how many people copied from him). I think he represents the epitome of what a true chef should be: cooking, teaching, looking for the best resources for product, motivating young cooks, motivating young farmers, hunters, fishermen, guests, personnel. He was humble and shy, creative and generous, and didn’t parade to food shows or TV shows. Again, he was a true chef.
Reservations for LQ @ Barneys can be made online at bistrolq.com. Vertical Wine Bistro, 70 N. Raymond Ave. (upstairs), Pasadena, (626) 795-3999, www.verticalwinebistro.com.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo: Laurent Quenioux (in white jacket) serving guests at one of his weed dinners. Credit: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times.