First part of three parts, please click hyperlink at bottom to continue to the next part
In Los Angeles, maybe due to its ethnic enclaves, there’s a tendency to categorize every food concept often by country, region and/or technique. Thus in LA, there’s modern northern Italian, classic Parisian, rustic Southern, modern Peruvian, et cetera. When those classifications don’t work, there’s the more encompassing American, Californian, fusion or inspired. It’s not enough just to have great food. Though some restaurants aren’t so easily pigeonholed and others like rustic Italian ones seem to be popping up all over the place. A few like the littlefork in Hollywood, with Executive Chef Jason Travi are introducing some new regional areas to Los Angeles culinary map with its homage to the “Atlantic Northeast” menu featuring meats smoked in-house plus fish, oysters, clams and mussels flown in from the East Coast.
Before this Jason spent time traveling with his wife as well as spent time with his two young children, regional Italian concepts though weren't so omnipresent. Nearly ten years ago, after Jason left Spago’s kitchen in Beverly Hills, when Jason learned “an intense amount about regional Italian” food at La Terza from “an amazing chef” Gino Angelini was one of only a few prominent chefs doing this type of cuisine.
Spago was the second of two locations Chef Travi worked for Wolfgang Puck. After completing his culinary school’s internship in a hotel in Boston, Jason moved to California fifteen years ago to work for Wolfgang Puck at the since closed Granita in Malibu. Jason’s career in a kitchen though started long before culinary school. He’s a third generation chef who worked in his grandfather and, what became, his father plus uncle’s American Italian restaurant in the South Shore area of Massachusetts. Before attending culinary school, in this restaurant from fifteen to twenties years of age he literally did everything, except bar-tend since he was too young, from wash dishes to bus tables to cook.
Though to get a more worldly perspective beyond his father’s life in their family restaurant, his mother wanted him to go to school and be more professional, so off Jason went to the CIA in Hyde Park where another one of his successful chef uncles had previously attended.
What he learned in school and afterwards was a lot more refined than what he learned in his father’s restaurant, an East Coast red sauce Italian place with some New England mixed in. What was also a huge difference in California compared to the Boston area, especially back then, were the farmer markets. Even though markets are more plentiful now in the Boston region, they still can’t touch what Los Angeles has here year round. In the winter in the Northeast, Jason noted,” it’s a sad state of affairs.”
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