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Restaurant in town. United States,Los Angeles

Joachim Splichal

Patina Los Angeles 90012

I grew up in the business. My parents had a little hotel and butcher shop in Germany in a place called Spaichingen, which is about fifty miles north of the Swiss border. I helped out early on: setting tables, taking the luggage from customers, all sorts of little tasks. Then I went to hotel school. At the time I thought of being a general manger, but soon I discovered I didn’t like that and I turned to cooking although as yet I had no formal culinary education.

I read a lot about food: different magazines, books from all over the world. Living in San Marino, I also go very often to farmers markets--Pasadena or Alhambra, for example. Eighty percent of the year, I can get the same items--fruits, vegetables.

What was your most moving culinary experience?
For me it’s being at my house in Biarritz in southwestern France. What I love about there are experiences like this: A shepherd coming down from the mountains bringing a baby lamb. I’ll slowly roast it over a five hour period and enjoy it with large white beans and a little bit of garlic. My home there is in a little town with eight small houses: red and white, in Basque country near the Pyrenees. Eating meals in that environment is wonderful: The pure simplicity of it all! It’s especially nice after working in a sophisticated restaurant.

The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
Nearly twenty years ago, we were preparing a VIP dinner at Patina. I scheduled the son of a close friend of mine, who was interested in starting a culinary career, to work with us on this important dinner. He was very green so I assigned him the task of coating creme Brûlèe with sugar and torching it for service. We walked him through the process and thought he would do fine with the task. As we started serving entrees, I tasted one of the creme Brûlèe he had prepared. I examined the dish and thought something was not quite right. Then I nearly choked on the first bite because it was a mix of salt and sugar! I wanted to fire myself, on the spot, for failing to check on him and the desserts sooner. Thankfully, we whipped up a new dessert and served it instead. I am happy to report that some of those guests are still loyal patrons at Patina today.

Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Start Sunday morning. Go to a farmers markets and buy the best products. Prepare very, very simply. Do not get complicated!


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