Two days before it's opening, I found myself in Downtown LA standing in front of Faith & Flower. The finishing touches were still waiting to be complete, but the pulse was there. My intuition bet me this would end up being one of the best new restaurants to open in LA this year. She was right. Chef Michael Hung and his team have established something special.
I sipped water from the emerald green glassware and settled in for my first experience at Faith & Flower during LA's Restaurant Week. The standouts for me were the Steak Tartare, Oxtail Agnolotti and a seasonal special of Oregon Shrimp and Grits on Toast. Chef, what have you done? I can tell you that he has created sensational dishes that I predict will be LA classics. This past month, at The Taste, I sat in on Chef Hung's cooking demonstration where he prepared a Jerk Chicken recipe. The marinade included, shallots, garlic, chiles, soy, rice vinegar, honey, all spice, thyme and salt. As he worked, his approach was calm and his results were simply dazzling.
Join in on the Q & A session I had with one of my new favorite Chef's.
FP: What is your favorite step during the cooking process?
MH: There is no one answer for this question, as with every dish, there are different parts of the process which excite me. For example, we did a Peking Duck, which I documented on my Instagram account (@chefmikeh), and each of the steps in that process were fun and satisfying. Blowing the duck up with CO2 gas was hilarious, basting it in a soy and honey solution is deeply satisfying (I think basting is such a great process in general), seeing the ducks hanging in such neat rows quells my OCD and during the roasting period, when you can literally see the fat rendering out and dripping down the duck, my excitement builds because I know that we are almost there.
FP: Where do you find inspiration for your dishes?
MH: I find inspiration in so many places. My own past is a particularly strong influence. I have great memories of food and eating with my family and friends, and those memories are deeply emotional. One example is a simple chicken and cous cous dish I had in Morocco when I was 16. It was a school sponsored trip I'd taken to Europe and the first major trip I'd taken without my parents. We were on a tour of Morocco, and the guide brought us to a modest villa, up to the second floor where only the natural light coming from the narrow windows. The floors were carpeted, the walls covered in ornate tapestry crafted by local artists, a décor neither unique, nor opulent in that city, but to my eyes new and seductive. We sat for lunch, a simple meal of chicken tagine over cous cous, and while many of my classmates ogled at the belly dancers snaking between the tables, I marveled at the flavors of the food. The chicken tender, still moist, redolent of sweet spice, the heat of the chilies tangible on my lips and tongue. It is to this day one of the most memorable meals I have had, and perhaps one of the reasons why North African and Middle Eastern spice find their way into the food I cook.
FP: How would you define the current culinary scene in Los Angeles?
MH: I think the current culinary scene in Los Angeles is very exciting. Aside from the wealth of ethnic food, there are a lot of great chefs, people who have worked in renowned fine dining kitchens, who are breaking away to do more casual food. The ethos of fine dining still echoes in their kitchens, however, the restaurants they create are approachable and fairly priced. In this type of environment, the level of food savvy for the consumer rises, and the general quality of all restaurants rise.
FP: Do you predict any flavor trends for fall and winter?
MH: There looks to be a strong Asian influence in a lot of food here in LA right now. I expect that to continue. Small batch coffee breweries are going to be big too, which I am definitely thankful for!
FP: Where is your favorite Burger in LA?
MH: Plan Check has an excellent burger.
FP: When you're not in the kitchen, what are you doing?
MH: I am still relatively new to Los Angeles, so I still find myself exploring different parts of the city. Grabbing a snack on Sawtelle, or hitting the beach for a swim and a nap, even whale watching!
After this interview I got the sense that not only is this Chef a skilled culinary professional, he is also a deep appreciator of life and all of it's experiences. It makes sense, we can taste it in the food he creates.
For reservations and all other information regarding Faith & Flower, please visit www.faithandflowerla.com