While most individuals are getting shopping done and attending parties, the hospitality industry barely rests. In fact, Christian De La Vera worked the entire weekend; and Brunos Trattoria is open for dinner on Christmas and New Years. So we thank Christian for taking a break and sharing a few of his favorite things.
Your earliest food memory:
Probably eating sherbet ice cream at my grandmother's house. I can still remember this vividly. I still am a big fan of sorbets, gelato and ice cream.
Favorite meal growing up:
Mac 'n cheese, for sure.
Tsujita Los Angeles in Little Osaka - Tsukemen-style noodles in a chicken, fish and Kurobuta pork broth with fresh lime juice and chili. You actually have to eat this in three stages-- adding condiments as you go in the final stage, adding water to dilute the rich stock to create a drinkable broth. This ramen soup is constantly changing its flavor profile. For a chef, it doesn't get more fun.
Most undervalued ingredient:
I would definitely have to go with a really good quality red wine vinegar like Banyuls. A few drops can add so much flavor and really complete a recipe. Also, reducing a quality vinegar with some aromatics can really elevate a simple dish into something complex.
Where did you work previously?
Started fresh out of culinary school in the Bay Area and relocated back down to Los Angeles. Opened my own restaurant with my wife, and then there was the opening chef (position) for Cha Chas Latin Kitchen. I also worked in West Los Angeles prior to opening Brunos.
Aqua - San Francisco, Pisces - Burlingame, Traxx - Los Angeles, Bistro Pasqual - City of Industry, Cha Chas Latin Kitchen - Brea, Literati B&G and Cafe - Brentwood, and Brunos Trattoria - Brea.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Hidden gems. Everyone thinks the best restaurants are in L.A. There are lots of hidden gems in Orange County.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Pizza - so many toppings to choose from, and there are a lot of styles to choose from. Also, I can eat it hot or cold. Very versatile.
What is your beverage of choice?
Bourbon with grapefruit juice and honey. I make this one myself, mostly at home.
What other cuisines have you cooked?
Professionally I have stuck with French, American, Latin and now Italian.
What dish do most customers order?
Our Arancini (risotto balls) or Budino (chocolate hazelnut custard).
What makes the budino such a killer dessert?
It has a lot going on for something so simple. Dark chocolate, rich salty custard, light whipped cream, and crunchy hazelnuts.
One food you can't live without:
Cheese. For me, it can be used in any meal of the day! Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert.
Where was your most recent meal?
Sunday night after work at 1 a.m.-- green chile and cheese enchiladas left in the fridge. Thanks Mom!
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't worry about recipes so much. Have fun in the kitchen and experiment. You would never believe how many things are made by accident or just because it feels right.
Do you have a preferred pasta?
I really enjoy bacatini pasta. Perfect for a simple pasta dish, and I love the tunnel in the middle of the noodle.
What do you think of people who take photographs of their food?
I really enjoy that people are taking photos while they dine and creating food blogs. I look at them constantly to keep me aware of new restaurant openings and new ingredients.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Tete de Veau - I ate this in a small restaurant near Reims, France while on vacation with my wife. Basically a very old school dish consisting of rolled and tied calf's head that is slowly poached and served with cornichons and warm vinaigrette. By far the most interesting and challenging thing I have eaten. The calf was very fresh; apparently it was alive that morning.
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Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
I recently had a great meal at Animal in West LA. They really offer some chef-driven food.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
Egg omelette with fontina cheese and chives. Simple, but good.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
We've gotten a request for capellini alla checca without tomatoes; what makes this weird is that the pasta dish consists solely of pasta and tomatoes.