(Originally published August 28, 2015 on Examiner.com)
Thursday night on a closed off Grand Avenue in front of the Disney Concert Hall, the 5th Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival 2015 presented as its opening night event “Ultimate Bites of L.A.” This event featured bites from many of L.A.’s top chefs as well as bites from several of the other celebrity chefs participating in the activities over the next few days.
One of the chefs participating from Los Angeles was Chef Sydney C Hunter from Superba Snack Bar in Venice with a seasonal dish. He was kind enough to take some time to go over the dish and its inspiration as detailed in the discussion below.
LAC: What is the name of the dish?
SH: Weiser Farm melons with pickled dashi cherry tomatoes and dehydrated nisçoise olive
LAC: When was it put on your menu? Or is this dish on your menu?
SH: We have this on the menu currently. Put on the menu 2 or 3 weeks ago
LAC: What is the inspiration or precedent for the dish
SH: Bring a very summer but very classic daishi kind of taste to the tomatoes. The tomatoes have a little umami flavor as it is. So by adding the kombu and bonito to it, that will give it a little umami taste. The melons are typical of trying to eat something in the summer that’s light and fresh and cold. We wanted to bring something salty, sour and sweet all to the dish so that’s exactly what it does. You also have dehydrated olive so it gives that salty sweet sour combination.
LAC: What’s your preferred sourcing for key components, plus are ingredients seasonal?
SH: The key thing in the dish are the melons from Weiser Family Farms. We ask him to send us the most ripe melons he has, so the varieties of melons change frequently. The tomatoes are from Coastal Organics
LAC: Was any special prep or equipment used for any of the ingredients in this dish?
SH: We make the daishi with kombu, bonito flake and tamari. We use the tamari because some people have gluten issues so we make sure we have a soy sauce that is gluten free so that it is safe for every one.
LAC: What’s the inspiration for the plating?
SH: Plating is in a way so that you look at the dish and want to eat it. Food should be presented in a way you want to eat it because it looks good. When you have to figure out how you have to eat something…I get these questions a lot in the restaurant, that is how should I eat this? I don’t want to make dishes like that. For me it is more like eat the dish. It should be good as is.
LAC: How does this plate reflect the restaurant’s menu and chef’s cooking philosophy?
SH: This dish exactly represents what we’re doing in the restaurant. We want to bring farmers’ ingredients to the table. We want to make seasonal changes to the restaurant’s menu. We don’t want to make this dish a staple dish. Rather this is what we’re doing in the summer. This is what is great right now to eat and then after that we make new dishes according to the seasons. We’re working with some farmers getting them land so they can grow some vegetables, fruits, herbs to grow for the restaurant so it is tailored to what we want. We’re currently working with them right now to put these items on the menu at Superba Food + Bread. And at the back of Food + Bread we have a hydroponic garden growing so we take a lot of vegetable and or herbs from the back there