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Food secrets in Los Angeles with Nina Clemente

Chef, TV star and restaurateur, Nina Clemente spills the beans on where to eat, drink and play in Los Angeles.

 

Chef Nina Clemente was born in Italy and raised in New York (where she earned a degree in anthropology from Brown University), before choosing to make her home in Los Angeles where she fell madly in love with cooking. She was one of the stars of Foxtel’s Arena series Eat, Drink, Love and is about to open her first restaurant in West Hollywood, which will champion her organic, slow food approach to cooking.

 

What do you love about living in LA?
Hands down the endless farmers market with a locally grown bounty of fruits and veges year round, and the sunshine of course.

How would you describe the food scene?
It’s gotten particularly exciting in the past five years; so many great chefs choose to settle here because of the quality of locally sourced goods.

Where’s the best place to eat breakfast?
I love Salt’s Cure for breakfast (7494 Santa Monica Blvd). They have this incredible salmon toast with their own cured king salmon, and griddle cakes with maple butter to die for.

Where are you going when you want to tick all the boxes for organic, non-GMO food?
The restaurant I’m going to launch soon. As of right now we are one of the few establishments using non-GMO canola oil in our fryer. It’s the one place I can eat fried food with peace of mind.

What’s the ultimate five-star dining experience?
My old workplace, Osteria Mozza (6602 Melrose Ave). The quality of ingredients is spot on and the consistency of exceptional food and service is incomparable.
Do you have a favourite food truck? Anything Roy Choi touches. He is a chef I very much look up to and he pretty much created the food truck scene.

What’s you favourite food neighbourhood?
It depends what I’m in the mood for. I’m particularly fond of Thai Town and Koreatown. Jitlada and Ruen Pair are my fave Thai joints and Park’s BBQ does the best Korean barbecue in town.

What is the latest food fad everyone’s going crazy for in LA right now?
I think we’ve passed the industrial spaces serving intensely heavy meat-based dishes (thankfully). I believe people are leaning toward fresher lighter ingredient-based fare these days.

Who is your favourite chef right now?
Nancy Silverton has always been at the top of my list. She was the first to bring great bread to LA. She once told me everything must look like it fell from the sky or grew from the plate. I have held on to this and applied it to every dish I execute.

What’s your favourite restaurant?
One of my favourites is Gjelina in Venice (1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd), I’ve been eating there since it opened and Travis Lett never fails to please. I can’t choose just one of his dishes as every one he composes pleases every tastebud I have.

What’s your favourite coffee spot?
My man just started a coffee capsule called Mi Hermanos, Stumptown roasted beans and it is absolutely the best coffee in town.

Where are your favourite places to shop for ingredients?
Wednesday morning Santa Monica is hands down the best farmers market in town. I also love Santa Monica Seafood for fresh fish and Lindy and Grundy’s meat (801 N Fairfax Ave) is simply spectacular.

What’s your pick of the best farmers markets?
I have daily favourites. Monday is a tiny market in West Hollywood with great greens and herbs from a gourmet specialty farm. Tuesday, Culver City; Wednesday, Santa Monica; Thursday, Sunset Boulevard; Friday, I take the day off. Saturday, Santa Monica again and Sunday, Hollywood. It’s literally why I live here.

Where do you go to buy kitchen essentials?
I love Surfas on National Boulevard for the basics and Sur La Table (6333 W. Third Street) for my specialty items. My favourite place, though, is the flea market at the Rose Bowl on the second Sunday of every month. There is an ancient little lady that always has an array of old kitchen tools that I’ve somehow managed to start a collection of, half of which I’m still not sure of their use. I am addicted to knives as well; these I collect from all over the world.

Where is your favourite place to take out-of-towners when they visit?
A simple hike up one of our many canyons. LA has some of the best vegetation and views I’ve ever seen.

What is your favourite day trip from LA?
Though it’s not quite a day trip, I love San Francisco and Oakland. The food scene there is leagues ahead of us.

What is your favourite clichéd tourist spot?
I do love sneaking away to Palm Springs. The landscape makes me feel like I’m lingering in a pool on the surface of the moon.

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This article appeared in issue 10

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