Whether you are a transplant from another city or a native Californian, there’s one thing that must be obvious to you — Los Angeles has one exciting food scene. It’s no wonder that the Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival has grown into a four-day culinary extravaganza with myriad tastings and cooking demos: It reflects the vibrancy of its diverse inhabitants. We talked to participating chefs about their unabashed love for this exceptional city, and why L.A. is the greatest food city in the world.
Nakul Mahendro, Badmaash
I feel like we are in a beautiful time; L.A.’s food culture is really coming up right now. Being one of the most heavily migrated cities, you have all these immigrants that moved here 30 to 40 years ago and now many of their kids have actually decided they want to become chefs and honor their parents by cooking all of their favorite recipes. It’s very ambitious and makes for some intriguing culinary opportunities. My family came to L.A. from Toronto, and it’s been interesting to work with my dad, Pawan, and create a menu with recipes that [mixes] both tradition and badass dishes in this kind of environment.
Tyler Florence, Food Network host
L.A. is really kinda coming into its own — there is a renaissance of great restaurants happening right now. The rise of talented chefs in America is due to social media, like how fast information changes from coast to coast, city to city. L.A. is becoming a mecca for some of the best chefs of America, hands down — California as a whole state is very important to me. I am in L.A. twice or three times a month; we get a lot of our produce here, our cultural partners, I film here. We have friends here; I love the artistic community. L.A. is my city. I love working here, it’s so great. It’s a fantastic place. There are so many food lovers and people who want to have a good time.
Denis Dello Stritto, Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel
It’s the best city in the world because it’s a melting pot — there are so many different cultures here. You can find the best street and comfort food from literally everywhere. I came here from Naples, almost three years ago, and really like being able to bring my Italian background to L.A. This is why we are opening an Italian wine bar, a new concept in Italian street food. Plus, it’s so big here, I love all the farmers markets around town, and when I have the time I enjoy being able to shop with the many local organic vendors.
Jet Tila, ChefJet
I love that we have an annual food and wine festival here; many other cities in America celebrate their restaurant scene, but I’m a native Angeleno, and I think it’s important that we revel in our landscape here too. This is the only city in America where you can drive through seven countries in 15 miles — Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Filipinotown, etc. There is no other city that has that kind of diversity in such a tight-knit area.
Stephanie Boswell, the Peninsula
It’s the most eclectic city. We have such a diverse population in one metropolis, and they all bring here their mom’s cooking. That’s what makes it special, that’s what makes it a gift.
David Codney, the Peninsula
Ultimately, L.A. is such a transient city. As a cultural melting pot, there is constant innovation here. Because this is a city so fixated on entertainment, we always have a new influx of people around the Hollywood industry moving here. Nothing remains static, things are ever evolving. You just never know what will happen next year.
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Marcel Vigneron, Wolf
L.A. is progressively becoming one of the best food cities in the world. Look at all our raw products — we have some of the best farms, fisheries, ranches, the best produce here. The closer you are to the source, the better your food is going to become. We are super close, which is why our food is more inspired. Also, because of that, we have a lot of chefs coming into this region, as it’s a great place to cook. We are a little like the wild, wild West. It’s uncharted territory. And the clientele is a lot better than it used to be back in like 1980, where the food scene here was primarily dominated by actors and celebrities who would just walk into restaurants and think it was cool to order things off-menu. And the restaurants would make them these foods because of who they were. Then the rise of the celebrity chef happened, and all of a sudden, chefs and restaurateurs were like, I don’t care who you are, well we care for who you are, but you are all our guests. So everyone gets the same level of treatment, which is the best you can do for anybody. Sometimes you have to go really far left, when you are extremely right, to meet in the middle, and that’s basically what happened; you have these chefs doing these amazing things in restaurants with these phenomenal products and all of a sudden, these people who thought they could do whatever they want are now like the everyday common man, they want to go to the restaurants because that’s where all the best food is. So now we have reached this level where we can go back to being hospitable and what the industry is really about. And the clientele is amazing. People want delicious food in a timely fashion. They don’t care about the white tablecloth, they want to feel relaxed and comfortable. L.A. is a different dining scene than anywhere else: We don’t have the pretension, we just have great food. We don’t need to change our silverware throughout courses.
Jasmine Wolf, the Lobos Truck
Los Angeles has such a creative energy and culinary hustle like no other city. It’s great that L.A. has fresh produce year-round and quality seafood, since we are by the ocean. From breakfast to late-night snacks, Angelenos eat out and support local vendors. Also, we have a vibrant food truck/street food scene that is a 24-hour industry, with over 500 square miles of hungry people. It's a necessity in many areas where there is no other food. We have really loyal followers who seek us out and support us, and I am happy we can serve ... to the masses day and night.
Dakota Weiss, Estrella
L.A. has such great diversity when it comes to the food scene. With that diversity comes a ton of passionate, dedicated and talented chefs. You can eat at a traditional ramen house for lunch and for dinner you could be sitting at the counter of Trois Mec, watching Ludo [Lefebvre] working his magic on a dish you're about to be served.