An Interview With a Chef Making Waves in LA

My dear friend Cesar G., started off as a chef in New York City, and as of recently, is making his way in the wilds of LA. I interviewed him about his culinary exploits, and how he's creating his own path to the career in food that he's always wanted.

How did you get into food? Were you born this way or what?

Ceez: I'm really not sure how I became a foodie. I wasn't raised around gourmet food. In Grade School, I always watched old school cooking with Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, the Frugal Gourmet and Yan Can Cook shows on PBS (those were the days when people actually cooked on TV and weren't concerned about
Hollywood or celebrity). I usually experimented with frozen hamburgers and my test subject was a kindergartener whom I babysat. During college I often skipped class and hung out in the apartment of a friend who was a cook and that's when I became interested in the restaurant industry.

What was your first restaurant job? What's the most important thing you learned at it?

Ceez: The same friend needed a restaurant manager for a place that he worked at in Princeton, NJ. Being a college drop out and a freeloader, I thought, " Why not?" Even without any experience. I learned that I had zero patience for the general public, but still loved the restaurant industry. The only solution was to work in the kitchen, so I applied to culinary school. My first NY job as a cook was in Lutece, the world's best classic French restaurant. There I learned to be very humble, but most of all I learned to get off my ass and work.

What would you say your specialty is? Or do you have many? Give 'em all to us!

Ceez: I've worked with many cuisine's in NY and am classically trained in French Techniques. I have a great deal of interest in molecular gastronomy, but unfortunately won't be able to support myself if I was to become a line cook for Wylie Dufresne. I don't have traditional style of cooking - I call it "Cesar" cooking. This is whatever I feel like cooking and cooking with whatever technique I want as long as it tastes good, which it usually does. This is what I'm showing on my cooking videos on Facebook.

Give me your top 3 favorite dishes to eat and top 3 favorite dishes to cook.

Ceez: My three favorite dishes are from my favorite restaurants.
These aren't in any order. I love them all depending on my mood.

1: Bone Marrow with oxtail marmalade and brioche toast (Blue Ribbon)
2: Korean BBQ (Koreatown)
3: Footlong Meatball Sub with Southwestern Sauce and Jalapenos (Subway) Eat Fresh!

My top 3 Favorite dished to cook are

1: Chicken or Pork chops braised in my own mushroom and tomato sauce.
2: Steak marinated in Red wine grilled with BBQ sauce with extra extra Jack Daniels.
3: Buttermilk and Tabasco Fried Chicken. The chicken is poached in buttermilk, then battered, the fried. Mmmmmm!

You recently relocated from cooking in NYC to cooking in LA. Tell me what you're up to out there - how you are paving your own way in the food biz, out on the West Coast?

Ceez: I was offered a job in NYC to open a Japanese Restaurant in Beverly Hills. It took forever to open and finally opened in January 08. I realized that people in LA have shitloads of money and can pay people to cook in their own home (NY'ers don't have enough space for personal chefs and they can take a cab to their favorite restaurant). And they pay shitloads for less work. Of course, I jumped into being a Private/Personal Chef. Now I work part time with 3 large catering companies in LA. I'm pretty badass out here. Not having to be in a restaurant 100 hrs a week allows me to cook at home and come up with different recipes. I enjoy cooking a lot more.

Can you tell me about your new Facebook video series, What's In The Pot? It's pretty cool.

Ceez: Thank you. Again having all this extra time and the fact that I live in Hollywoodland, I can have someone record my skills while Steven (the Director) can also practice filming and editing.

Who wins in a fight - Colonel Sanders or McDonalds' Grimace?

Ceez: Well the Colonel lived to be 100 years old, so he's in good shape and Grimace has short arms and moves very slow. So I have my money on the old man as long as he gets a knockout in the early rounds.

You're Filipino - can you describe a traditional Filipino dinner for us?

Ceez: For hardcore vegetarians and meat haters DO NOT CONTINUE READING! I grew up eating meat and rice. Whenever there was a special occasion my parent would have the party catered and my favorites sound gross to Americans but taste really good. One is called Kare-Kare which is oxtail stewed in a peanut butter sauce with green beans, tripe (stomach lining) and eggplant with a side of fermented shrimp paste (bagoong). If that doesn't get you weird in the stomach my other favorite dish is called Dinuguan (meaning bleeding, I think) which is pork snout and ears stewed in pork blood and vinegar. Mmmmmm, Pork! It's good damnit!

Anything else you'd like to share with the readers of the City Veggie??

Ceez: Did you know that Julia Child was a spy? She had to make shark repellent for sea mines. Yeah, Julia!

1 comment:

Kiki Colore said...

Hey Shannon!
It's Kalen Nicholas's roomate and I love your blog. I have a customer service review blog about restaurants and what not in NYC but it's not nearly as developed as yours.
Keep it up!