Two times James Beard Award nominee (Best New Restaurant and Rising Star Chef), Chef Bernhard Mairinger answers our questions:
[IC] - Thanks to its amazing variety of local ingredients and fresh produce, LA has become a true culinary city. What are your favourite classic LA dishes?
[BM] - You are absolutely right! LA is the most diverse and delicious food capitol these days, it is really fun to be cooking here. My favourite thing to eat is salad so I love the colourful and diverse creations incorporating sweetness of fruits, tart and savoury flavours of vegetables with the crisp greens and fresh herbs. I love to go dine out in LA, I got my own little map of places where I go for certain dishes and foods! Hamasaku for the perfect omakase, Greenblatts for Pastrami, Ingos Tasty dinner for French dip, Bougie Tots at Dear Johns and some garlic bread with it … I could literally go on all day!!
[IC] - Do you feel the pressure of cooking in a healthy way because you work in LA?
[BM] - Not at all – I grew up in a household with my mom cooking every day. She is a dietary specialist so healthy was something normal for me and to be honest how it should be. I eat mostly vegetarian at home with my girlfriend who is excellent vegan cook. Its not even something I need to be cautious about when cooking, simply comes naturally. It’s embedded in the way I do things, to always use the best ingredients and to balance dishes to be light, clean and healthy. Of course there are dishes that make it hard to be healthy but that’s a challenge I have accepted a long time ago
[IC] - Do you feel caviar could be used more in everyday cooking? If so, can you share with us your top caviar recipe?
[BM] - Most certainly. Even though it is considered something special I don’t think its just there to be consumed for special occasions. I am a purist – I love a nice potato mousse and 63 degree egg with the caviar or even just on top of a nice creamy linguine pasta with a champagne velouté or beurre monte. Sounds very complex but both are super simple dishes and allow the caviar to shine.
[IC] - There is something wonderful in that Caviar has been at the top of all culinary creation for the last four thousand years. Caviar is perhaps the most celebrated maritime treat in history. How can you create a dish that celebrates its unique qualities but also uses other every day ingredients?
[BM] - Its important to understand the ingredient before you can actually create something with it. Caviar is salty, sweet, creamy, slightly bitter at times – there are so many different kinds and tasty varieties. My personal favourite is Sevruga – which has probably the most complex flavor and its all about using ingredients that don’t overpower the delicateness of the caviar. Potato, Cauliflower, Egg are some of the best pairings in my opinion. Best way to eat is the top of the back of your hand – by itself!
[IC] - What drink(s) would you pair with caviar? What’s your favourite way of enjoying it?
[BM] - Champagne or clean fruity sparkling wines are the classics and my favourite drink paired with caviar. It doesn’t have to be proper Champagne – there are some really great Blanc de Blanc produced outside the Champagne!
[IC] - Where a product is from and how it has been treated has never been so important. I am pleased to say our farms are 100% eco-friendly. Is sustainability a key part of the decision making when choosing ingredients?
[BM] - Yes – very much so! I care about where its coming from, how the products (plants, farms/environment, animals, staff) are being treated and what the philosophy of the companies that grow our produce and other products is. It’s part of my job and I owe this to our guests to check every ingredient arriving to the hotel and later at our guests table. I expect the same carefulness, attention to detail and quality control from my vendors.