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LA Chef Ori Menashe's back in Los Angeles - Part 2 of 4

Chef Ori Menashe of Bestia
Chef Ori Menashe of Bestia
Image courtesy of SHGfoto

Second part of 4 parts, please start here with Part 1

Chef Ori Menashe of Bestia
Image courtesy of SHGfoto

Much to Los Angeles's benefit, Ori Menashe didn't listen to his father's advice about not becoming a chef. Even though now, especially with a newborn child at home, Ori realizes what his father said was true. Even with the new baby, Ori is still working seventeen hour days at Bestia. But working hard is deeply ingrained in Ori's character. So after completing his three years of required military service in Israel, and deciding he wanted to be a chef Ori moved back to Los Angeles and got his first job in a kitchen at the Blue Cafe, a kosher kitchen on Pico. Ori made the move since there were more opportunities here to pursue a career in the restaurant industry than there were in Israel.

While at his first job, Ori briefly enrolled at culinary school but left after only three months. For others Ori recognizes the value of culinary school, but he got bored and felt restricted. Ori noted, "If someone teaches you a way building a stock or a sauce that's the way you're going to go with that process. If you start figuring out stuff yourself, you might make mistakes but sometimes you make something great out of a mistake. Some of my food is done that way from me learning stuff by myself and figuring it out, and you extract great flavors."

While still at Blue Cafe, Ori started working at night at second job at La Terza. La Terza was owned by Gino Angelini. However the head chef was Jason Travi. Gino gave some input as to what he wanted on the menu, but the flavors were all from Jason. At La Terze Ori worked all the stations learning a lot from Travi. After he got more hours at La Terze, Ori left Blue Cafe. But shortly thereafter, Ori started again on a second job working mornings on pasta for Gino Angelini at Angelini Osteria. Between his two jobs it wasn't uncommon for Ori to work fifteen plus hour days.

When Jason left his position at LA Terza, Ori also considered leaving. At this point Ori was in-between thoughts of what is he going to do with his future. This was when he travelled with his dad and spoke to chefs in the kitchen at L'Atelier Joel Robuchan. However since his relationship with his future wife Genevieve Gergis had just started to get serious, Ori stayed in Los Angeles and accepted the position of sous chef at La Terze that Gino offered Ori after Jason's departure. Once Ori became the sous at La Terza he stopped working mornings at Angellini

As sous at La Terza, Ori got experience leading and managing people. He had some creative control on the specials of the day as well as small apps sent to V.I.P. Ori recalls that everything flowed naturally for him in the kitchen. Being able to draw upon all the experiences he had as a kid helped him be creative. On Tuesday nights at La Terza Nancy Silverton had her own menu at the anti-pasta table. Ori would help her with prep. So after Ori left La Terza, Silverton asked Ori if he wanted to help out at Mozza, the pizzeria, which was opening soon. So he accepted Silverton's offer. While working at Mozza, Ori then was offered a sous chef position at a new restaurant on Melrose called All'Angelo with Chef Mirko Paderno. After a month and a half as sous chef, Ori was promoted to Chef de Cuisine. As the CDC, Ori started building menus. The dishes were obviously inspired by Mirko, since it was Mirko's kitchen, but a lot of Ori's experimenting ended up on the plates.

After nearly two years at All'Angelo, chef Ori now had some other opportunities presented to him. Jason Travi was opening a new restaurant and offered Ori a position. Gino Angelini also offered Ori the position of chef at Angelini's. After meeting with Jason for a beer, Ori accepted the position offered to him by Gino. Jason basically told Ori that he couldn't say no to Gino.

Four and half years earlier at Angelini Ori had been working on the line with many of the same cooks he was now telling what to do. As chef, Ori changed a lot of things in Angelini's kitchen. He made the kitchen a better environment to work in. Schedules were much better. There was no more overtime. Ori also lowered food costs by twelve percent without sacrificing quality. The special menu with forty specials was Ori's menu. There was also Gino's set menu. So there was a big menu and that's why Angelini had a lot of people in the kitchen.

Ori noted, "When you work for people you notice their habits." Ori continued, "Some people will get off the line and sit at the bar because they had a long night...have a few drinks...and leave the staff alone in the kitchen. Gino doesn't leave you alone all day. There is no such thing. The only time he leaves you alone is when he's sick or at his other restaurants. But when he's there he's in your sauté pan. And like, you see that piece of garlic there. It's not cooked. All the rest is cooked, but that piece is going to make your dish bitter. Throw it away." Now in his own kitchen at Bestia, Ori is like Gino "in the pan". So Ori says he is with his staff all the time. Chef Menasche emphasized, "Even if I show them how to do something once, I'll show them how to do it another five times."

Gino also inspired to Ori to work even harder. Ori noted, "he [Gino] can't make you look bad. You come into work and the guy, two or three times your age is working harder than you? That doesn't make any sense. I'd get into work and race all day."

In addition to being hyper attentive and reinforcing Ori’s work ethic through his example, one of the most important things Gino taught Ori when it came to cooking was to take his time, and not rush anything. Gino told Ori, "even it takes eight hours, it is going to taste much better than if it is for six hours." Gino builds sauces so slow sometimes sauces are borderline on being burned.Whatever Gino's mom use to do as a kid to extract flavors, Gino still does today. Thus Gino is never a chef you'd see on a timed competitive television show. Besides Gino wants to be in the kitchen and cook every day. He doesn't want to leave and be somewhere else, and have someone else run his kitchen because his kitchen won't be ran the same way.

End of Part 2, please click here to continue to Part 3.