chef tony esnault
After almost a year of searching, Joachim Splichal finally found a new executive chef for his flagship restaurant, Patina. That chef is a Frenchman named Tony Esnault, who traces his roots to France's famed Loire Valley, but whose experience in the kitchen has taken him to some of the most famous restaurants in France, and the world. He took a few moments to answer our questions about his call to cooking, the unique needs of Los Angeles diners, and what we can expect to taste at Patina this fall. How and why did you decide to become a chef?
TE: I decided to become a chef at 8 years old. I had been around food since I was born and just knew. Both of my parents grew up on farms so I spent a lot of time around fresh vegetables, fruit, and meat. I can remember being a small boy helping on the farm. How did growing up in the Loire Valley influence your view of food and produce?
TE: It influenced my view of food and produce at a very early age. My grandparents' farm was organic, decades before organic became so popular. Their farm was small and they never used any machinery for production. Everything was done by hand and with the help of animals. We used horses not tractors. Their farm was the last like this in the Loire Valley. My grandmother still lives there with a few chickens, vegetables and fruit. You've worked in some very famous kitchens, like Le Montparnasse 25, Carré des Feuillants, L'Auberge de L'Ill, and then most famously, with Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco, and the Essex House and Adour in New York City. How did working at those different places shape your own taste and philosophy of cuisine?
TE: From each place you learn different techniques, and each place has its own philosophy as well as local produce to shape the menu. For example, at Le Montparnasse 25 I worked with a chef from Brittany, on the west coast of France, and so I learned a great deal about fish and shellfish. From Carré des Feuillants, I learned a lot about the products from the southwest of France such as duck and foie gras. At L'Auberge de L'Ill I learned about game and Alsatian cooking, while at Louis XV, I learned about the cooking of the French Riviera, which uses a lot of olive oil and less butter as well as different types of pasta. In New York City I used everything that I had learned in the past to develop menus which were appropriate for New York. My goal at Patina is to give each guest a memorable experience. Are there any challenges to cooking in Los Angeles that are unique to our city?
TE: I do not think it is a challenge but it has been exciting putting together a vegetarian menu for the first time. That is something I think is unique to Los Angeles. Also, on performance nights [at Disney Concert Hall] there is a dinner expectation that guests have; they need to be in and out in less than two hours to make the show. What is different between the food scenes in New York and Los Angeles?
TE: The customer seems more relaxed here in Los Angeles. What are some of the dishes you are planning for your new menu?
TE: The vegetable mosaic will give patrons the opportunity to try several seasonal vegetables in one plate. The selection of vegetables is according to what is at its best during the season. I cook turbot on the bone with a salted crust, which is then presented and carved table side. The venison is also a beautiful fall dish garnished with apples, celeriac and sweet potato, then finished with a poivrade sauce.