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LA Chef Ori Menashe in the kitchen at Bestia - Part 3 of 4

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

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Chef Ori Menashe has taken what he has learned from his mentor Gino Angelini and continues to apply those lessons learned in the kitchen at Bestia. Ori’s hard work set an example for the rest of his team. His “being in the pan” attentiveness ensures quality while educating his staff. And he never rushes processes that take time to build layers of flavor.

So now at Bestia when Chef Ori Menashe build sauces the base has to be perfect. Because if the base isn't perfect, the product isn't perfect. This is especially true for simple or simply presented food. So when Chef Menashe makes a veal stock, he sautés the vegetables for a nice hour and a half before they go into the stock. Many other chefs just sauté the vegetables fifteen minutes before adding them to the pot. Ori's soffritto of reduced vegetables is used in two dishes on Ori's menu. His soffritto takes nine hours to cook. For his soffritto Chef Menasche stated, "We don't want to throw anything away. Our soffritto are the vegetables we could throw away but don't throw away like the outside layer of an onion that doesn't look good in a salad but is good if it is cooked down."

Time builds flavor. All the stocks are cooked overnight so there is a twenty four hour cycle on stocks. That's how Ori and his team get all the flavor out of the bones and marrow. With the tomato paste they make at Bestia they'll take the water out the tomato and use the meat of the tomato for their sauce. The tomato water is then reduced in the oven on the lowest temperature also overnight. When they get back in the morning, the water is a solid tomato paste which they put in a container and cover with olive oil. The wood burning grill is an elevated grill so there is about two feet between the meat and the flame. So this too is a slower way of grilling since there is a lot of space for the heat and the carmalization to occur. That's why all of Chef Menasche cuts of meat are very thick like his forty ounce steak and twenty two ounce pork chop.

All of this preparation takes a long time. That's why he's not open for lunch. Ori stated, "I don't have stove space. See all those pots there? They're going to be there for hours. They don't come off the stove. That's because everything is on low. It's not on high. We're cooking everything really slow like my grandmother use to cook. She wasn't cooking on high flame. She was cooking on low flame. These are things that Gino always told me." Besides not having enough stove space, Ori would need to have a shift from two to seven in the morning to do the prep, and even Ori needs a few hours of sleep.

All the ragus are also enhanced by the flavor of the bones of the animals since Ori's team receives whole animals and butchers them on site. He gets his pigs currently through Marin Sun Farms. The pigs are a red wattle/Berkshire cross that's feed is GMO free. His pigs eat a lot of acorns and nuts, so they taste better than industrial pigs. If the whole pig doesn't have enough fat, he'll get more fat from the same source. Ori also likes working with off cuts. He said he'd "rather use something that is an off cut to make sure we don't kill an extra animal for no reason."

So nothing is wasted. To further utilize the whole animal, Ori has always been interested in salumi and curing meats. He did some at La Terza with Jason and at Angelini with Gino. He started with smaller cuts and muscles, lardo and duck prosciutto. Then at Angelini, he'd make whipped lardo, andouille sausage, and other stuff that was easy to make and didn't age for very long. Before opening Bestia, while Bestia was under construction, Chef Menashe did a stage at the Fatted Calf in Napa. Here they butcher animals all day and make cured meats. He went there to better understand the system and methods they use for their products in order to learn why up until this time, for example, when he made salami sometimes it was great while other times it didn't come out as well. So he learned how many different factors go into getting a consistent end product for example the season, how you ferment, at what temperature you're fermenting, how much moisture is in the room, and how much moisture is in the animal. So during this stage Ori learned a lot, and experimented a lot like curing a prosciutto and then aging it with the bone in or the bone out. Now he doesn't cure his meat for very long or age it for more than two and a half months. He also doesn't do any big salumi. He doesn't have the time or space to do it. He knows his kitchen’s limitations.

Using whole animals helps keep food costs down, as does buying produce in large quantities. Open at five PM with one hundred fifty seats and doing over three turns Friday and Saturday nights and two and an half turns on slower nights, Ori and his crew at Bestia do a lot of butchering and go through a lot of produce and other products especially since his portions are large enough to share family style. So being from Israel, Ori says he knows how to bargain. He or another team member goes to the Wednesday and Saturday Santa Monica farmers markets as well as the Sunday one in Hollywood. Since he has so many covers, he needs a lot of produce, and buying in larger amounts gets him better per pound pricing. Often he puts in his orders with the different farmers via text or email. No produce gets wasted especially since Ori does a lot of pickling to extend the seasons of products he likes including twenty two quarts of Jerusalem artichokes he currently has in stock to use as a component in his lamb tongue dish.

All of Chef Menashe’s training, experimenting and methods help to define his style of cooking that is definitely Italian, but Ori’s style of Italian. A style greatly affected by Ori’s heritage, upbringing and learnings.

End of Part 3, please click here to continue to Part 4

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