Michael David, Former Executive Chef of Comme Ça: The Accidental Ground Meat Specialist
Chef Michael David
Chef Michael David has a professional résumé that would make most culinary students blush with envy. He began his career working for Daniel Boulud in New York, first at Cafe Boulud, and then at DB Bistro Moderne. After that, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for David Myers as a sous chef at Sona, and eventually as executive chef at Comme Ça. After a rather public reshuffling, David left Comme Ça in December of last year. The Los Angeles Times published an article about the changes in the David Myers empire in May, in which David told The Times that he was fired when he and Myers couldn't agree on David's role in the new company.
Since then, things haven't entirely quieted down for David, who got married, enjoyed a honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast, and was mistakenly credited with opening the meatball truck Great Balls On Tires. The truth behind the meatball truck is that David was approached by Michael Brombart, one of the three men actually running Great Balls On Tires, who asked him to create the menu's first "guest ball."
"After I finished laughing," said David, "I said okay. That sounds like fun. What the heck?'" A press release was issued to various food writing outlets about the launch of the truck, with one small blurb at the end about Michael David's meatball. The Internet ran with it, claiming that David had launched the truck himself, with the story even being picked up by The Huffington Post. "I got a lot of bewildered congratulations that I'm launching a meatball truck, which doesn't exactly fit in with what I might be doing."
David's "Inaugural Meatball," made primarily of squid, with some shrimp for texture, comes on a bed of tomato-infused black rice, and is served with a black sesame crisp bow tie. "I did it black and white, made it like a tux. The jacket is the black rice, with a black sesame bow tie as a cracker. So it's going formal." The guest meatball is expected to stay on the menu until the end of July.
This was, however, not the first time that David has been in the press due to his work with ground meat. The New York Times called his Comme Ça burger "perfect," a feat accomplished after eleven supposed iterations. But the test work began much earlier, while still under the employ of Daniel Boulud. "Some writer had asked Daniel, 'So, how would you make a burger?' [He was] talking about how the French were embracing American cuisine and getting fascinated by this. And in his amazing booming voice, said something like 'Adding foie gras, short ribs, and truffles.' Then somewhere behind closed doors, we said 'I guess we have to find out how to do it.'"
They made a prototype, which David was not involved in. But soon after Boulud sent him to France so that he could come back as the opening sous chef for DB Bistro Moderne. Once they were in the final stages of opening, Boulud asked him to figure out how to make the burger. "This was an infinite thing," David said, "about the grind, the fat ratio. We weren't just going to take a burger and spike it with these ingredients. We braised the short ribs, shredded them, reduced the liquid, put them back in so it really takes in all that liquid. Diced vegetables, minced foie gras and made, essentially, this jam. Then we made pucks of it with the ground meat packed around it. So it was something of an engineering feat. It was quite a process to get there."
But the hard work paid off, and the $120 burger not only made the menu, but sold. Said David, "It was the burger that made the restaurant."
Currently, it has been seven months since his departure from Comme Ça, but David seems to be washing his hands of the ordeal. "What I've done, people who want to know, they know what I did. It speaks for itself. I had great experiences, I loved what I did, I just don't feel the need to comment on the situation."
So what's next for the chef? "Unfortunately for right now, it's not the right time to answer it. I have some new things on the horizon which are exciting, which is why I put together the Facebook page for people that want the 'pop' of information. I can't talk about it. I wish I could, but I can't."
Will it at least involve a burger? "I didn't even say there was food involved."
Noah Galuten can be followed on Twitter via @ManBitesWorld.
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