Let’s Chat with Santa Monica Chef Josiah Citrin

Last month (July) the cities of Santa Monica, U.S and Brighton & Hove, celebrated a new Friendship Cities agreement between the two pier cities with a month-long series of #SantaMonicaLovesBrighton events and experiences for the public to get a taste of Santa Monica in Brighton.

The pacts aim was to deepen the relationship between the two cities promoting cultural understanding between their citizens and offering an exchange of ideas and activities through school curriculums, events series, and in-market tourism experiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

The pact included live cooking demos, and culinary collaborations between renowned Brighton chefs, Mark Rush at Shelter Hall and Dan Kenny at The Set and acclaimed Santa Monica chefs, two-Michelin starred Josiah Citrin, and Govind Armstrong.

Josiah Citrin is a culinary expert and veteran of Los Angeles’s gourmet dining scene, with more than 25 years of experience. He is a two-star Michelin chef and owner of Santa Monica’s highly-acclaimed Mélisse, Charcoal Venice, and Dave’s Doghouse at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles and Indian Wells Tennis Garden. His culinary philosophy, “In Pursuit of Excellence” sets the standard for all of his concepts, whether fine-dining or casual.

We caught up with Josiah Citrin to talk food, death row and dinner parties.

What makes a great chef?A great chef needs to be hard working, dedicated, and able to lead and mentor people. There’s a big difference between being a chef and a cook. You need to be a good cook before you can become a chef. This requires a good palette, a solid understanding of technique and science, and the ability to be quick, coordinated and eager to learn. Only then, are you able to become a great chef and teach others what you learnt as a cook.

What inspired you to become a chef?
My mother was a catering chef who worked out of the house and I grew up watching her prep. I would often help her to make a little extra cash to go surfing on the weekends. My French grandmother was also a huge influence. I loved watching her cook and I enjoyed sitting round the table with family and friends to experience food together. I’ve always loved food and the experiences that go with food. I wanted to give this lifestyle a shot by pursuing my own culinary career.

What is your favourite dish to make?
My favourite dish to make is whatever is fresh and in season at the moment. In summertime, I love making a mandarin and tomato soup, served with a tomato sorbet and a bernoise of summer squash. In spring, white asparagus are in season and I make a dish where I cook the delicious white asparagus in a sweet rice broth then combine this with a sauce of yellow wine and morel mushrooms.

What do you eat at home?
For a quick meal at home I like to make a ham and cheese sandwich with a good baguette, good

french butter, some nice jambon and gruyere. In general I try to eat very healthily at home with lots of vegetables and salads.

Who is your greatest culinary inspiration and why?
I have been inspired by several people along the way. One chef whom I never worked for, is Joel Robouchen, one of the greatest chefs of the 20th Century. He was at his greatness when I was at the time of my career when I was the biggest sponge, absorbing everything he was doing. Another great inspiration was George Vernottes, who I worked with in France. He taught me what it really meant to be a chef, including the dedication and hard work it was going to take. Another would be JoaquianSplichal. He was the last chef I worked for and I learnt from him what it meant to be a great businessman and chef, as well as how to create really delicious food.

At home, what would we find in your fridge?
In my fridge you would find ham, cheese, seasonal produce, eggs and celery juice, as my girlfriend likes to make fresh celery juice every morning. There are always a lot of condiments, from different hot sauces, Raos tomato sauce, to my homemade BBQ sauce, my J1 sauce and my chimichurri sauce. You’d also find some La Croix sparkling water and of course, Krug champagne.

Apart from yourself, who is your favourite chef?
I don’t really have a favourite chef. There are so many great chefs and different experiences I’ve had in various restaurants that they are all my favourites in various ways.

Four people dead or alive you’d invite to your dinner table and why?
David Bowie and Mick Jagger because I would love to see what they have to say together. I would also invite Pablo Picasso. These are all great artists in different ways, all who stayed on top of their game for such a long time. I would like to have a great conversation about all their different forms of creativity and the ways in which each artist stayed one step ahead in their fields. The fourth person would be Martin Luther King. Ultimately, it’s all about greatness and creativity from different areas.

Your death row meal?
I would like to have a big Fiorentina steak from Italy and a selection of chianina beef alongside a delicious tomato salad, some spaghetti with tomato sauce and a drizzle of fresh olive oil. Accompanying this, I would have an incredible burgundy wine. I would finish it off with a plateau de fromage with french butter, walnut and fruit bread and a glass of Josiah Citrin bourbon from my own private reserve.

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