We try to refrain from devoting too much time to descriptions that equate food with soft-core porn, but we were curious about the woman behind what some have dubbed "the crack meets hot sex of olives." Curious and a bit wary, so we met our Olive Maker over coffee. In broad daylight.
Her name is Alessandra Innamorato, a private chef turned impromptu olive smoker after last year's Thanksgiving dinner, when a kitchen experiment (tossing some olives a friend gave her into her new backyard smoker) turned out to be pretty good. Really good, actually. For more on how the 41-year-old went from working as a street performer in Barcelona to make ends meet (she was the rhinestone-bejeweled cat, if you happened to be abroad during her Las Ramblas tenure) to smoking California-grown fruit ten hours a day, turn the page.
"Smoking is the worst headache," says Innamorato, who arrived at our rendezvous sporting a handmade shell and feather flower in her hair and a white cotton dress. She opens the conversation with a very direct: "Have you ever smoked?"
As a matter of fact, we have. Innamorato is referring not to cigarettes, but that coveted side firebox number that requires long, slow drags to get the meat, or in this case olives, smoke-filled throughout. Thereby followed a conversation about where to find suitable firewood in L.A. before we could get back to the topic at hand: orgasmic olives.
"So just before Thanksgiving last year, I got a smoker, put it in my backyard," she says (she lives in Venice Beach). "I literally threw everything in it, including some olives a friend's mom had given me."
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She packed the smoked olives in oil and took them to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. "Everyone went crazy, it was sort of strange. These people really like smoked olives?" Innamorato says she thought little of her impromptu Thanksgiving appetizer and went back to her private chef gigs, or at least those she could find. "The economy put an end to so much of that," she says. "I went from six jobs a week to a couple a month if I'm lucky. I didn't know what to do. I've been cooking since I was 15, but back then it was just to buy makeup and pot," she says.
Finding a way to pay rent was the more pressing necessity these days. "I'm really actually the lazy chef type. By that I don't mean I don't work hard, but more it's that I still say, 'Is this is what I want to do, to be a chef?' It's always changing, what I want to do with my life."
Which gets us to Orgasmo de la Boca, the name of the underground supper club Innamorato ran during the four years she lived in Spain (and has continued in L.A.). She gave the smoked olives the same name after friends raved. "The name comes from living in Spain, obviously, but Spaniards don't 'get' the mouth orgasm thing related to food like we do," says Innamorato. "Over there it's offensive."
We'll leave you to contemplate that European vs. American food
dysfunction relationship, and check back later this week for a Nordic-inspired Thanksgiving appetizer recipe from the chef: cornmeal pancakes with lox and coriander crème fraîche.