Dear LA: Be Michelin Worthy
my love letter to bring Michelin stars to Los AngelesWhen you’ve eaten in cities like Lyon, Barcelona, Tokyo, and Dublin you can, without hesitation, say that you have tasted love and passion on the plate. Los Angeles is where I’m from and my palate was born to diverse ranges of flavor and cultures and cuisine that extend far beyond the measure of McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s. Even as a kid, my tastebuds had high expectations and while I’d be contented with sloppy joe’s, fish sticks, casseroles, and homemade enchiladas, I had a hunger for beautiful food, expansive flavors, and the brightly colored allure of fresh produce. Now, as a lover of fare, I have been fortunate to have a palate that is not excited easily but is engaged when invited. This leads me to Los Angeles cuisine. Something has happened in this beautiful and culturally rich pool of talent and I’m at a loss.
There are countless restaurants that are here. Many by famed chefs and even more notorious “yelp reviews” but those leaving said reviews are seriously missing one absolutely undeniable component: They aren’t really experts but simply diners with opinions they think matter an awful lot. Once upon a time, a true food critic wasn’t interested in insulting a chef or shutting down a restaurant but rather encouraging a chef to expand their cuisine to a place that was undeniably story worthy. In a city as rich in possibility as Los Angeles, I have found only dishes that excite me but never an entire meal, start to finish. I find that, in every way, a tragic state for a potentially exquisite city.
When you have every ethnicity represented, how is it that the higher star-rated restaurants lack that bite that takes you away? I know most of you reading my reviews see the color and hopeful statements in restaurants I’ve written about but rarely (actually never) have I been able to taste something and find myself speechless. Or be blown away from the opener to the close.
What am I looking for? Food that takes my breath away. Flavor that leaves me orgasmic. Ingredients that invite me into their world and let the story unfold one scent and texture at a time. Food is as personal as it gets. Don’t try to lure me with high price tags and ridiculously compromised dishes!
We may live in a world obsessed with social media and yelp reviews but that does not, in ANY way, equate to quality, integrity, and sophistication of remarkable fare. Fare is not simply food placed on a plate. It is art. It is sustenance. It is passion awakened and every sense beckoned. Fare is the world’s story told through a single bite; It is history, it’s a love story, a cultural tradition, a reason for pause, and above all, fare is an invitation to taste someone’s imagination. Literally … taste it.
Food should be sexy. I don’t mean dressed up but lacking in performance. I mean dressed up to look like it’s being presented as foreplay and then, dances on your tongue like a lover who takes it’s time. We need more food that takes control of your tastebuds and surprises and inspires you and sadly, I haven’t had that yet in LA. I want to be intrigued and I do not want service to get lazy. I “like” many restaurants but I cannot, in good conscious, say I LOVE any single one in Los Angeles entirely as of yet.
Recently I dined at a restaurant on Fairfax. The place has a reputation for being crowded but exquisite. Ordering everything from foes gras to pig brain, I went in with nothing but experimentation and a quest to find that certain, “je ne sais quoi” and I was pleasantly surprised but again, only one dish made me close my eyes to taste every complexity, every ingredient, every bit of that chef’s story. One dish out of 9. With the sticker price being as abundant as it is these days, I do find that food has gotten lazy.
Places are relying on their beautiful artistry rather than the one aspect that counts more than anything else: TASTE.
Macaroni and Cheese can taste like heaven when love and a witty repertoire of flavors are married together to tantalize you. Comfort food, elegant food, sophisticated food? The only thing that separates them is technique, flavor, and love. A street taco could render you speechless just as much as a perfectly prepared fois gras can. The point is, I love LA. It has more kinds of fare than almost anywhere. That opens the door to some of the best food anywhere in the world and while I have eaten at some wonderful restaurants and eateries, I invite any chef to blow me away from start to finish.
We deserve modern day Michelin stars rather than holding on to those given long ago at places whose service and overall cuisine wouldn’t likely even warrant a Michelin visit today. My call to all of you who grace us with your creations, don’t be afraid to try something new or be true to your roots. All of this culinary rhetoric and celebrity chef-ism has dampened the spirit of cooking for the thrill of it. Chefs are chefs because preparing the perfect meal is what drives them. I want to keep meeting those chefs. I just want some of them to have brick and mortars here in Los Angeles so we can begin boasting about how many Michelin Rated restaurants and chefs we have here.
So, Los Angeles Chefs? Shall we? Let’s get Michelin stars.