I found myself meeting Chef Amanda at The Public House on election night. The vibe was relaxed (probably because it was a Tuesday), but it turns out they don't attract the crowd DTF is stereotyped for. Or maybe I should say they don't tolerate it? It's a solid beer bar with an eclectic menu to boot. And to see the unique kitchen setup Platt works with is to know that her team has some interesting challenges.
I noticed your kitchen is very . . .open. Explain the setup and how that impacts your line.
It is definitely the most open kitchen I've ever seen, let alone worked in. It can be a challenge, as guests are literally sitting in front of the kitchen watching every single thing you do. They see when you burn things and make mistakes, and it can influence their perception of the restaurant and their meal, even before they taste anything, so we always have to be conscious of that. Not to mention, line cooks joke around, and there's often a lot of foul language— myself included! It's a tough job, and sometimes it helps us to get through the shift, but we really have to limit that in front of guests!
How easy (or challenging) is it to pair food with beer?
It's very similar to wine pairings. When I do pairings, I always taste my beers first, and pair based on flavor profiles. If the beer is light and crisp, maybe a tad sweet, I pair with similar light dishes that won't bury the flavor. For darker porters or stouts I'd pair with something a bit heavier (that can stand up to the bitterness). Like wine, each beer has its own distinct, prominent flavor that I try to match with similar food flavors, or flavors that will contrast.
What is your guilty pleasure food?
Donuts and cupcakes! I love sweets, but specifically baked goods! I will often randomly tell my boyfriend, "I want cake.", and he usually responds with, "You ALWAYS want cake!"
Hardest lesson you've learned:
Not to take people's opinions of my food so personally. Everyone has a different palate; not everyone is going to like my food, but that's okay as long as I'm happy with it.
Most important quality you look for in a sous chef.
Loyalty. A sous chef is your right hand. You have to work very closely with them and trust them completely since they are the one running things when you're not around. I've known my current Sous Chef, Stephen Wada, for almost 10 years, and I'm definitely lucky to have him. He's got my back and I've got his.
Your best recent food find:
There's so many to choose from! I recently took my first trip to New York. The pickles at Momofuku Ssam Bar were amazing, and the pork confit at ABC Kitchen was incredible. Here in L.A., I've really loved the house made pastas at Bestia. If I had to pick a specific dish, I'd say the ramen at Kaikokuya in Little Tokyo has been my favorite. I never liked ramen until I had Daikokuya ramen, and I find myself craving it every time the weather gets cool enough.
What was the turning point in your life when you decided you wanted to be in the hospitality industry, and where did you attend?
I went to Le Cordon Bleu and got my Associates Degree. My mother was disabled when I was in my early adolescence, so I used to do a lot of the cooking for the family. I was always excited to try new recipes. I used to research recipes online, and I'd specifically look for ones with ingredients I had never used, or never seen before. I would print them and bring them to my dad, and he'd take me grocery shopping to get everything I need.
Though I never even thought of culinary school until I was close to graduating high school, and I was talking to a guidance counselor about what I should study in college, what college I wanted to go to, etc. I was a bit lost, because while I originally thought I wanted to be a college English professor (I really love classic literature), I really had no desire to go to a four-year university, and I certainly didn't have the money. The guidance counselor suggested culinary school, since, according to her, I was always talking about food.
It was true; my father also loved to cook, and so did my grandma, so a love of food was definitely in my blood. My grandma and my mom had done catering in the past, and my grandma and I loved cooking and eating together. When she said it, I guess it just clicked. I went right out of high school, and was working in the industry before I even finished school.
What kind of clientele do you have?
Fridays have been our busiest nights, and Saturdays a close second. Though we usually don't get that crazy, college DTF weekend crowd. We attract more of the foodies and craft beer lovers, which we love. But we're also hoping to attract a wider audience now that we've just started doing live music.
Tell us about your signature pub burger.
The pub burger is a ground beef/ground pastrami blend. We wanted something that would stand out on its own without a ton of other ingredients and toppings. I make my own spice mix in house, only used on our burgers, which brings out the smokiness of the meat. The slaw is very light; it's meant to accent the flavor without overpowering it, and the IPA caramelized onions (made with Evans Khropen IPA) add a touch of hoppy sweetness. The pickles are my favorite part— I make those in house as well. They're kind of a cross between a sour dill pickle and a bread and butter pickle, so they're sweet, salty and sour all at the same time. All the toppings complement each other really well.
Last thing you looked up online:
Articles on white ink tattoos. I love tattoos, and I'm always looking for more inspiration.
Where did you grow up, and where do you currently call home?
I grew up in West Covina. I currently live in Angelino Heights, a small community a few miles outside of Downtown Los Angeles.
You're making breakfast for yourself; what are you having?
That's tough because I really love brunch foods. I like experimenting with flavored pancakes; pancakes are comfort food. One of my favorite breakfasts to make is a sweet potato hash with maple bacon and Brussels sprouts leaves, topped with a sunny side up egg, citrus hollandaise and lots of green onions.
We heard your man has a claim to fame. Care to elaborate?
I won't embarrass him too much, as he doesn't like to call attention to it, but he used to be an actor. His name is Kyle Downes. He was in various shows growing up, like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? before becoming a series regular on The Lizzy Mcguire Show. He doesn't act anymore, but he's a great writer, and his heart really lies in writing, directing and producing. He's about to start filming on a new script he recently wrote called Proxy Hill, and he's really excited about it.
You have a whole day to yourself; what would you do?
It depends on how long my week has been! Sometimes, I'm super lazy, and I just like to lie around and read. But Kyle and I really love going hiking with our dogs, too.
Let's talk about the pets!
I love animals and have always wanted a whole pack of dogs. We don't have the space for a pack quite yet, but for now we have two really great dogs/kids. We have a seven year-old lab-beagle mix named Bullit, and a one-and-a-half year-old staffie-corgi mix named Poe. We got Bullit from a shelter and Poe from a rescue as we're big advocates for rescuing shelter animals before going to pet stores. I also have two chinchillas. Kyle just says they're fancy rats; Poe really wants to eat them, and Bullit pays no attention to them whatsoever.
What's your favorite childhood memory?
My family used to spend every Sunday at my grandparent's house, and my grandma and I would play cards a lot. It was kind of our thing, and I loved spending that time with her.
One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true.
There's always been this assumption that women are weaker, and we can't handle the kitchen as well as men because it's hot, fast-paced, dangerous and you have to often lift heavy things. Or we're too emotional to handle a professional kitchen because as a line cook, chefs will often berate and scream at you when you make mistakes. I hate this stereotype. I've never been an emotional person, but regardless of that fact, women are perfectly capable of putting emotions aside in a professional work environment and getting the job done. As for the other assumptions, I can handle just as much work as a man can, and I've always worked more hours than most men I've worked with in every kitchen. Women are strong-willed, driven and determined, especially when it comes to proving their worth.
What would be your last meal on Earth?
Mac and cheese, donuts and cupcakes!
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Favorite places to eat.
Bestia and Baco Mercat are two of my favorites. I also LOVE sushi, and never get tired of it! My favorite sushi restaurant is Sushi Enya in downtown L.A. My favorite place to be be lazy at home and order delivery from is a small Thai placed in Silverlake called Bulan Thai. They have really great curry.
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I really like costuming. My father took me to my first Renaissance Faire when I was about 14, and I loved all the people dressing up in costumes, putting on shows and having fun. I still go to the Renaissance Faire every year, and one of my favorite, can't miss yearly events is a fantasy-themed masquerade ball in Los Angeles called the Labyrinth of Jareth.
Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
I think I have really solid leadership skills, and a really strong work ethic. I had two jobs at 15-1/2, and had two jobs all the way though culinary school. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, and my parents taught me I'd have to work hard for the things I wanted in life. That always stuck with me, and those qualities help me a lot in the kitchen.
What would you like to try if you weren't in this business?
I'd like to combine my love of food and literature. I used to love writing, too, and always hoped to be a food critic someday after I'm done working in the kitchen. I want to travel, see the world and taste the foods of different cultures. If Anthony Bourdain reads this and needs a travel partner, PLEASE call me!