Sandra Cordero has been presenting food with art in Los Angeles since her days at Royal/T. She moved from New York City to help open the now-closed art gallery café, eventually stepping away from the front as general manager to helm the kitchen as chef. This Thursday, April 25, through Saturday, April 27, her company Cordero Negro and non-profit organization ART from the ashes will collaborate in Comida y Arte, a restaurant and art exhibition pop-up, at The Wine Vault in Glendale.
Cordero chose paella as the main entree for her three-course dinner menu. It reflects best her sensibilities as both a chef and a guest. As she describes, a well-made paella allows each ingredient to stand out.
"The rice gets the flavors from everything, but if done right you're supposed to taste all the ingredients on its own. It's not supposed to be a big mush of flavors," Cordero says. "You know some kids who had everything separate and don't want to mix it? I was one of those."
While Cordero was growing up in Amsterdam, she would spent large parts of her summers in the Galician region of Spain with relatives from her father's side of the family.
"I used to walk the cows in the field, let them graze and bring them back to the stable. A lot of small farms there are totally self-sustained. There was one phone at the bar, so you had to call the bar and they'd run to the person's house. It was like that up to eight years ago. Time kind of stood still. Those were my fondest memories," recalls Cordero.
She credits her uncles and grandmother for sparking her love of food. Away from stewed meat cooked for hours and sauerkraut prominent in Dutch cuisine, she enjoyed pulpo á feira (seasoned boiled octopus), caldo gallego (white bean soup), and tarta de Santiago (almond cake).
"They are known for their seafood. They have shellfish I haven't seen anywhere else in the world -- from a tiny shrimp to big lobsters. There's 30 different things in between in the shellfish family," she says. "Amazing, amazing shellfish. There is nothing like the fresh taste of ocean."
By the time Cordero moved out to L.A., she had already lived in cities like Paris and New York.
"Being a chef out here makes sense to me. I love to going to the farmers market. You get to know the farmers. They're very proud of what they're growing. It's a full circle for me," she says. Cordero makes the rounds at the farmers market in Calabasas every Saturday and stops by markets in Santa Monica, Culver City, and Hollywood whenever possible.
"My inspiration starts from the farmers market," she says. At one point, when Cordero took a break from working in the kitchen, she shopped at farmers markets in town for a Las Vegas restaurant. She got to know some of the farmers well, developing ties that prove handy by the time she was conceptualizing the dinner for Comida y Arte. Many of them are either donating ingredients or offering a discount.
The art exhibition component of Comida y Arte will feature 50 works from L.A.-based artists, which will be free and open to the public. On opening night Thursday, April 25, there is a reception from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 per person, which comes with two beverages.
After 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the exhibition becomes a backdrop to Cordero's three-course Spanish-style dinner at $40 per person. A salad with crispy ham and piquillo pepper dressing will be followed by a choice of paellas, tierra y mar or spring vegetables. Dessert will be a chocolate mouse with citrus-infused cream. A range of bar bites, $6-9 each, in the form of tortilla Espanola, tostadas along with a Spanish charcuterie and cheese plate at $18 will be available for order as well.
A part of the proceeds will go toward ART from the ashes programs in support of the arts as well as communities affected by natural disasters. Reservations for dinner is available from 6 to 10 p.m. They can be made at either Cordero Negro's website or the ART from the ashes website.
The Wine Vault: 929 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; (818) 545-9463.
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