Eater: Best of LA features a taste of 13 of the West Coast’s best chefs in one central place at Code! Each chef will serve a dish that defines them–from the dish that launched their career to an interpretation of what they love to eat at 3am. Confirmed chefs include Howlin’ Ray’s Johnny Zone, 71above’s Vartan Abgaryan and Top Chef alum Shirley Chung, whose new LA restaurant is set to open 2017.
Vartan Abgaryan, Executive Chef, 71Above
Los Angeles native Vartan Abgaryan has played a part in making his hometown become the culinary destination it is regarded as today. Educated at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, Abgaryan started his career at the famed Vegas outpost of Lutéce; at 25, he ran the kitchens at Red Pearl Kitchen in Los Angeles, A Restaurant in Newport Beach and Public Kitchen and Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel before becoming executive chef at Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake, where he was known for his seasonal approach to ingredients and his presentation of dishes. Abgaryan’s most recent success is 71Above, a restaurant with a panoramic view on the 71st floor of the U.S. Bank Tower, which was until recently the tallest building in California.
Nyesha J. Arrington, Chef
Born in Southern California to an artistic multicultural family, Nyesha Arrington was 5 years old when her Korean grandmother introduced her to bulgogi, octopus and homemade kimchi. After graduating from the Culinary Arts School in Los Angeles in 2001, she met her mentor, Josiah Citrin, the chef and owner of Mélisse restaurant in Santa Monica. Arrington also worked with Joël Robuchon at his Las Vegas restaurants, L’Atelier and The Mansion, and while appeared as a “cheftestant” simultaneously on two reality cooking shows, Bravo’s “Top Chef” and Food Network’s “Chef Hunter,” the latter of which she won. An enthusiastic supporter of the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, she is known for her advocacy of locally and responsibly sourced ingredients. Arrington recently left her buzzy Venice Beach restaurant Leona, where she was named Chef of the Year by Eater LA.
Shirley Chung, Top Chef, Season 14
Born and raised in Beijing, Shirley Chung was exposed to international cuisine by her grandmother, who was the director of the Red Cross in China. Chung immigrated to America at age 17 for college, and worked in Silicon Valley for a few years before training in classic French and Italian cuisine at the California Culinary Academy San Francisco, where she opened restaurants for Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Mario Batali. As executive chef at the noodles-and-tacos fusion China Poblano, she fell in love with Mexican cuisine and learned more about her own heritage. Recently named runner-up on season 14 of “Top Chef,” Chung is working on her next LA restaurant, a fast-casual counter-service seafood-driven restaurant with an oyster bar.
Michael Fiorelli, Executive Chef and Partner, Love & Salt
One of Michael Fiorelli’s best-known creations has its own hashtag: #duckeggpizza. Before becoming executive chef at the Italian-inspired Manhattan Beach restaurant Love & Salt, which has developed a following for his California-centric interpretations of Old World classics, Michael Fiorelli helmed the kitchen at mar’sel, the signature restaurant at Terranea Resort. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Fiorelli was an avid reader who found himself drawn to cookbooks as a kid. His kitchen acumen was honed during stints at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, and the late Kerry Simon’s Simon LA, where chef de cuisine Fiorelli implemented a “100-mile menu,” procuring all ingredients from farmers and purveyors within 100 miles of the restaurant.
Ray Garcia, Chef/Owner, Broken Spanish and BS Taqueria
A native Angeleno, Ray Garcia originally set out to become a lawyer. After graduating from UCLA with degrees in political science and business economics, he pursued his dream and enrolled at the California School of Culinary Arts; his first kitchen job was at the estimable Peninsula Beverly Hills. Drawing inspiration from the LA’s rich culture, Southern California’s produce and his classic training, Garcia hopes to usher in a new understanding and appreciation for Mexican food with the quality sourcing and precision cooking at his flagship restaurant, Broken Spanish, and its little sister, BS Taqueria, both of which opened in downtown LA in 2015.
Holly Jivin, Chef de Cuisine, The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Holly Jivin grew up in a kitchen rich with Southern-style home-cooking traditions, and trained in the culinary arts program at the Art Institute of Atlanta. After moving to Los Angeles in 2008, she and her husband, fellow chef Adam Cole, worked their way through the ranks at The Bazaar by José Andrés, where they were mentored by such chefs as Aithor Zabala and Michael Voltaggio. On her way to becoming chef de cuisine, she was named head chef at Saam, the intimate chef’s tasting room within The Bazaar, where she developed her modernist approach to tapas-style dishes. In 2014, Jivin and Cole founded Maple Block Meat Co., a neighborhood restaurant and bar specializing in wood-smoked meats — Eater says it serves “the state’s best brisket.”
Jessica Largey, Chef/Partner, Simone
Jessica Largey can trace her culinary roots back to watching her mom make scrambled eggs — 5-year-old Jessica decided to recreate the dish on her own the following morning. Growing up surrounded by agriculture in Ventura County, Largey developed an appreciation for farming and sustainability, and after attending culinary school in Pasadena, she began her career in 2005 at the seafood-focused Providence. She quickly rose to chef de cuisine at the three-Michelin Manresa in Los Gatos, and was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2015. She is now chef and partner at Simone, a timelessly designed restaurant in the emerging Arts District of downtown LA.
Margarita Kallas-Lee, Owner & Pastry Chef, Scratch Restaurants
Margarita Kallas-Lee grew up in Latvia, where her grandparents indelibly imprinted on her a love of cooking. After moving to the United States as a young teenager, Kallas-Lee worked as a runway, print and commercial model while also cooking for catered events around Los Angeles. In 2011, she joined the historic D’Cache in Toluca Lake as pastry chef. A touch of kismet reunited her with high school friend Phillip Frankland Lee; they married in 2012. Now a team, the Lees launched a high-end delivery service called Wolf Cuisine, and opened their signature restaurant, Scratch|Bar, first in Beverly Hills and then in their shared hometown of Encino. As pastry chef, Kallas-Lee designs and runs the dessert program at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen and the forthcoming Frankland’s Crab & Co. and Woodley Proper, all in the Valley.
Philip Frankland Lee, Owner & Executive Chef, Scratch|Bar & Kitchen
Phillip Frankland Lee got his first taste of the culinary world as a dishwasher. He gradually discovered his own cooking style at top LA kitchens helmed by Quinn Hatfield and Stefan Richter, as well as stints at Chicago’s Alinea and L2O. With his wife and pastry chef, Margarita Kallas-Lee, he opened Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Beverly Hills in 2013, then moved it to his childhood neighborhood of Encino, where he riffs on classic scratch-cooking diner fare at a space built around an open kitchen counter. Lee is bringing more restaurants to the Valley, including Woodley Proper and Frankland’s Crab & Co. A competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” he also holds the Food Network record for most consecutive wins on “Chopped,” “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
David LeFevre, Chef/Owner, Manhattan Beach Post, Fishing with Dynamite and The Arthur J
Globe-trotting Wisconsin native David LeFevre immersed himself in diverse food cultures and techniques during a two-year trek through Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia and the Caribbean, with stints in France at La Côte d’Or and Restaurant Jean Bardet. Educated at the Culinary Institute of America, LeFevre spent his early years in the world’s best kitchens, including 10 years at Charlie Trotter’s restaurants in Chicago and Las Vegas, and seven years at Water Grill in Los Angeles, where he mastered seafood. He is now the chef-owner behind the critically acclaimed Southern California restaurants Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post), Fishing with Dynamite and The Arthur J.
Miles Thompson, Executive Chef, Michael’s Santa Monica
Like many people, Miles Thompson moved to Los Angeles to be an actor; while he was auditioning, he supported himself by working the line at Nobu. A New York native who started cooking professionally at age 13, Thompson made his name at such LA spots as Nobu, Animal and Son of a Gun before creating a well-regarded underground pop-up restaurant series called The Vagrancy Project, which he followed with the innovative Allumette in Echo Park. When that closed in 2014, Thompson got married and moved to Sonoma County for almost two years, during which he was the culinary director of Shed, a community gathering space informed by the rhythm of the proprietors’ farm. He returned to Santa Monica last summer to take over the kitchen at the iconic Michael’s, a pioneer of farmers-market-driven cuisine for 37 years.
Andrew Vaughan, Chef de Cuisine, mar’sel
A Louisiana native, Andrew Vaughan has worked alongside Emeril Lagasse at Nola in New Orleans and Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel in New York City. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Vaughan was recently named chef de cuisine of Terranea Resort’s signature restaurant, mar’sel, where he helped develop the successful Chef’s Table Dinner Series, […]
Johnny Ray Zone, Chef/Owner, Howlin’ Ray’s
A native of Los Angeles, Johnny Ray Zone worked his way through apprenticeship and became part of the opening team at Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood, where he cooked under celebrity chefs Haru Kishi and Andy Cook. He also sharpened skills in fish butchery at the WeHo branch of Nobu, and joined Thomas Keller’s team in 2009 to open Bouchon Beverly Hills, where he learned the intricacies of bistro cooking. During a 2014 visit to Nashville, he fell in love with the local specialty, spicy fried chicken. When he returned to LA the next year, Zone and his wife, Amanda Chapman, opened Howlin’ Ray’s, the first Nashville hot Chicken food truck on the West Coast, and quickly opened brick-and-mortar location in LA’s Chinatown, with three high-top tables and a small counter.