On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Glendale, Tim Walker stands outside the Grilled Cheese Truck, describing its signature sandwich to a prospective customer the way a proud parent might describe his firstborn child: the Cheesy Mac and Rib, an insanely indulgent (and popular) combination of barbecued pulled pork, caramelized onions, sharp cheddar and, yes, macaroni and cheese, all stuffed between two slices of grilled French bread.
Walker, the founder and "Chief Instigator" of the Grilled Cheese Invitational and now a consultant for the Grilled Cheese Truck, concludes his rhapsody with a flourish: "And then they throw it at your face, and you catch it like a dog catches a Frisbee!"
The customer orders the Cheesy Mac and Rib.
For the first decade of the 21st century, people who loved sushi in Los Angeles made a pilgrimage to Mori Sushi, a minimalist restaurant on Pico Boulevard. There, owner and sushi chef Morihiro Onodera prepared gorgeous dishes of albacore with yuzu, lozenges of raw baby barracuda and Santa Barbara spot prawns like beautiful, pink Tinkertoys. The sushi was immaculate, sourced that morning from downtown L.A.'s International Marine, where the fish is flown in daily from Japan; the rice was just as perfect, brought in from Onodera's own rice fields in Sacramento.
But then, in 2011, Onodera abruptly sold his restaurant and disappeared, leaving a Mori-shaped hole in the city's restaurant scene. The hole's large dimensions are metaphorical rather than literal, for Onodera is not a big man in real life. He's built like a distance runner. In his trim denim apron, he moves around the Pasadena ceramics studio where he now spends his days like he's still on the line, his movements efficient and lithe.
After being born in Taiwan, then living in Kansas for three years, then–6-year-old Jonny Hwang arrived in Monterey Park, the city that's home to the largest concentration of Chinese-Americans in the United States. He was confused.
"I thought, 'Did we drive two weeks to get back to Taiwan?' " he says. "It was actually very weird for me."
Hwang spent the rest of his childhood in Southern California and pursued filmmaking at USC, but the island of Taiwan came calling. He left to rediscover his ancestry, learn Mandarin and open a lounge in Taipei, where he introduced American food, culture and hip-hop to eager Taiwanese audiences. But then Hwang met Janet Lan, who is now his wife, and four years later, the two trekked back to L.A.
The spirits of ancient Mexican deities may soon reside in Los Angeles, enticed across the border by chef Rocio Camacho.
Camacho's two San Fernando Valley restaurants, both named Rocio's Mole de los Dioses, or Mole of the Gods, bear uncelestial exteriors. But the gods would be charmed by their own images inside on vivid paintings, and they would be tempted by earthy, fruity and spiced aromas. They would be tantalized by the moles — saucelike concoctions of chiles and spices served with foods such as green cactus tortillas and filet mignon, alluring in ebony, cream and mauve.