There’s never been a better time to eat well in Los Angeles. LA faces the Pacific Rim and straddles the gateway to Latin America; and it has long been a destination due to its weather, topography and opportunity.
Those diverse groups from distant lands have all helped to weave a collective culinary fabric that makes LA one of the most exciting places to dine on Earth. Northern California had the Gold Rush in the mid 1800s. Now the rush is on to be a part of LA’s culinary scene, with chefs, artisans, brewers, coffee roasters and more descending on our metro area and driving our flavorful cause forward.
A big reason for LA’s rise has been the concentration of international cuisines. Los Angeles boasts the largest populations of Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Thai and Persian people outside of their respective motherlands, leading to vibrant gastronomic pockets, complete with foreign signage, that could easily lead to people think they were overseas. Other cities might preach “melting pot,” but we have unique enclaves like Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and the Sino-centric San Gabriel Valley that deliver regional specialties, some of which don’t exist anywhere else in the U.S.
Even though LA is at its heart a desert, it’s also an area with rich agricultural history, and that goes well beyond the once vibrant orange groves. Surrounding Southern California counties like Ventura and Santa Barbara provide LA chefs with a seasonal stream of produce and livestock that puts the rest of the country to shame. And they’re not just settling for staid plating. They’re adding imagination and creativity to complement that creamy avocado, crisp lettuce, or heritage breed pork. Local, seasonal and sustainable are no longer aspirational keywords for LA chefs. They’re the baseline for a more exciting, fresher way of eating. They’re also the basis for close-knit relationships between chefs and farmers that yield invaluable collaboration and frequent farm-to-table dinners. Yes, farmers are celebrities in LA in the era of Big Agro. Imagine that.
Of course, food doesn’t speak for itself, and Los Angeles has cultivated its share of advocates, perhaps none more influential than Wolfgang Puck. The charismatic chef set the Sunset Strip on culinary fire in the early ‘80s by opening Spago and has since built an empire that now impacts cities like Dallas and Minneapolis. He recently retooled the iconic dining room at The Hotel Bel-Air. And this May, he accepts the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in New York City. Clearly, Puck isn’t slowing down, and those on the East Coast are finally realizing what we already knew about his outsized talents.
Puck isn’t the only local chef earning national attention. For the fourth straight year, Food & Wine magazine selected an LA toque as one of their 10 Best New Chefs in America. The Spice Table chef-owner Bryant Ng, who cooks the kind of pan-Asian food that captures the imagination of so many Angelenos, is their latest pick.
LA is on a hot streak, and we’re building all of this buzz without relying on old-school methods for measuring success like the Michelin Guide. Out here in Southern California, we’re innovating and setting trends and never looking back.