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Napa Valley Grille chef Joseph Gillard's home kitchen

October 28, 2011 |  4:30 pm

Joseph Gillard
The pots and pans are what set Joseph Gillard and his fiancée apart in their small, sunny kitchen. “Mine are all beat to heck,” says Gillard, chef at the Napa Valley Grille in Westwood Village.

“The clean ones are mine,” says Ziba Shahriary, a highly organized mechanical engineer. (They've got one of the neatest kitchen junk drawers going.)

The evidence backs them up. In Gillard's case, even a pan that's engraved on the bottom to mark his time as executive chef at Nick & Stef's downtown has been used. A lot. Then there's his 50-year-old, 12-inch Griswold cast-iron frying pan — a family heirloom.

Photos: Joseph Gillard's home kitchen

Last summer, Gillard, 44, moved into his fiancée's pristine home, the second floor of a duplex south of Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. The narrow kitchen reflects two strong personalities on its blank slate of tile counter, floors and walls, all in shades of creamy gray, beige and light brown.

Sunshine streams in through two windows and a back door as the couple, who met on Match.com and plan to marry in 2013, talk about their kitchen. Signs of their love of food and travel — and their love — are everywhere.

In the refrigerator, aside from the wine and beer and other staples, there are four jars of homemade vodkas, flavored with citron, pear, guava or persimmon. And there's a “single-source” hot sauce, made from ingredients grown at Windrose Farm, outside Paso Robles.

Gillard also made 18 pounds of beef jerky using different cuts of meat and different seasonings. He used one to make jerky-flavored salt and one to flavor a butter that goes on cheeseburgers for the restaurant.

Gillard has diabetes, and he recently lost 40 pounds. He and Shahriary try to eat healthfully most of the time, he says. They cook red meat just once a week, often on a barbecue outside. At home and at work, he's dedicated to farm-fresh products; he organized a community-supported agriculture project at the restaurant in which people can buy a share in a farmer's harvest.

Joseph Gillard pigHe loves pigs, and he and Shahriary roasted a 90-pound pig out back for a party in July. He also has a few that won't affect his health: a charcoal grill that's a clay pig with a rack on its back, a hairy hog that sits in the bay window of the kitchen, a pig-shaped mortar and pestle that sits next to the 1950s O'Keefe & Merritt oven, and a carving set with silver pig-shaped handles.

Gillard grew up on a 20-acre farm in Fremont, Mich., the older of two sons of a single mother who also held a full-time job as a social worker off the farm.

“I grew up with a Midwestern work ethic,” Gillard says, meaning he fed chickens and goats before going to school in the mornings. The house had no central heat, “so I had to split a tremendous amount of wood.”

He became interested in cooking as a child. His mother, he says, “was an adventurous but not all that gifted cook. She'd try to make homemade ketchup, but it never tasted all that great.”

Although he has some plants, including finger lime and Meyer lemon trees on the landing off the kitchen, Gillard does more serious growing in Topanga, where his aunt has a small ranch. Two large Mason jars on the kitchen counter show off some of the 20 heirloom varieties of peppers he grew and dried.

But between Gillard and Shahriary, guess which said: “It's just so nice to have someone who will cook for me.”

Gillard says he loves to come home from Napa Valley Grille and have someone else at work in the kitchen. That works just fine for Shahriary, who says she loves to cook.

Among the mementos of her Iranian homeland (she became a U.S. citizen on Sept. 28) is a small copper pot, so frequently used for making a traditional crusted rice dish that the inside is discolored by the shape of the grains.

Next to the four-burner stove are olive oils and vinegars, a canister of yellow rubber scrapers and wooden spoons, jars of garam masala and vadouvan curry, and several kinds of salt: Himalayan pink, Hawaiian black, Bolivian fine sea salt, lemon salt and two smoked salts.

The refrigerator is covered — neatly, like a mosaic — with magnets from Vegas, Egypt, Jamaica and Toronto, where Shahriary has family. There's also a collection of Pillsbury doughboys and a long-ago photo of Gillard and his brother on Santa's lap.

Joseph Gillard good foodIn the bay window, over a deep double sink, sits a red wooden rooster that his fiancée's mother brought back from Dubai and a light-up sign that proclaims “Good food.” Over it is a painting on fabric from South Africa, two elongated men in orange and turquoise, drinking beer from a vat.

On the floor are dishes for Wiggy Watts, a dog rescued in the Watts neighborhood.

As organized as it is, the kitchen is small enough that even two people have to move in concert, and Gillard says they'd like more space, and perhaps an island.

For now, while the pans set them apart, maybe a little togetherness in the kitchen is just the ticket. There's a message on a chalkboard near the stove: “Good morning baby!” The dot of the exclamation point is a heart.

-- Mary MacVean, mary.macvean@latimes.com


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