Behind The Scenes at LA Food & Wine 2014!

Last week’s Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival was a whirlwind of tastings, dinners, chef demonstrations, and parties. Held mostly in and around LA’s newly trendy downtown, the 4th annual event brought together a bevy of awesome restaurants and uber-chefs.

Among them was Iron Chef Morimoto, Top Chef All Stars winner Richard Blaise, up-and-comer Nakul Mahendro, and popular Latin faves Lorena Garcia, Ricardo Zarate, and Michelle Bernstein. The metaphoric icing on the cake was a closing night performance by hip-hop trailblazer Common. In addition to serving up celebs, superstars and some seriously good eats, festival organizers donated a portion of profits to No Kid Hungry and Berkley Foundation.

We were there to soak in all the sun, fun, food and behind-the-scenes silliness that make these events so great. Here are a few highlights. Nos vemos en 2015 LAF&W!

1. Chef Ricardo Zarate's Yellowtail Ceviche

Peruvian Chef Ricardo Zarate is a longtime friend of ours – he cooked up paella, mazamorra and quinoa salad for our April 2013 issue – and a favorite among Los Angelenos thanks to his popular restaurants Paiche, Picca, and Mo-Chica. At the Ultimate Bites of L.A. presented by Chase Sapphire opening night event, Zarate served a fresh, flavorful, and perfectly balanced yellowtail ceviche, and graciously posed for photos and answered guest questions…a great chef and a great guy! 

2. Indian-Latin-Gastropub Fusion by BadMaash LA

There was a lot of awesome eatin’ going down at LA Food & Wine, but one of the week’s best dishes was a Punjabi pork slider by Nakul Mahendro of LA's Badmaash. Spicy, sweet, and tender, and served on a buttery brioche bun, the Badmaash slider generated so much buzz that getting one required a more than 100 foot journey (aka waiting in a very long line). It was worth it, of course, as was the accompanying charm and humility of its creator. After introducing ourselves at the closing party, Chef Mahendro exclaimed: “It was you guys who tweeted me? I love you guys!” Again, awesome chef and awesome guy!

3. An Un-Common Performance

Food and drinks weren’t the only thing on the LA Food & Wine menu. Guests at the event’s closing night Lexus Live on Grand Party were treated to an up close and personal performance by Common, the revolutionary rap icon whose new album, Nobody’s Smiling, was released July 22. Not only did the star put on a stellar show, he won the hearts of every chef in attendance when he plucked a uniformed Le Cordon Bleu student from the audience and freestyle serenaded her to beats by Twilite Tone, his tour DJ and music director. 

4. Selfie-bombing Chef Lorena Garcia

Everybody loves Lorena Garcia, which is why the line to try her delish dish at Live on Grand was fathoms deep. But seeing that we’re such good pals with the chef, entrepreneur, and cookbook author, we skipped the wait and went straight to the source, surprise selfie-bombing Srta. Garcia! On the left is The Latin Kitchen's Editor-at-Large Marie Elena Martinez. At right is, of course, Chef Lorena. (I’m in the center!) Say “cheese!”

5. Honorable Mentions

Though not on the official LAF&W roster, there were a handful of happenings that made our time out west even más increíble:

  • East LA foodcrawling with Street Gourmet LA’s Bill Esparza, who shared his fave spots for enjoying authentic chicharrones, tlacoyas, churros, and alfalfa refrescos, and confided that the best food in Mexico comes from the as yet “un-trending” states of Hidalgo, Guerrero, and Michoacan.
  • Meeting Jimmy Shaw, the much-lauded chef behind Loteria Grill and the newly opened Torta Company in my pajamas! Upon hearing that I was sick, Shaw brought chicken soup and crackers to my door. I was back in business the next day.
  • Watching El Salvadoran cookbook author Alicia Maher prepare pupusas from scratch in her kitchen…then eating them piping hot on her gorgeous patio as the sun set over LA’s foothills.
  • Cruising Grand Central Market with Stephen Chavez and Art Rodriguez, the fab-tastic bloggers behind LatinoFoodie. Good energy, great food, and lost of laughs!