16 Chefs To Watch In Los Angeles

16 chefs to watch in LA
16 chefs to watch in LA
Photo of Jarone Ashkenazi
27 July 2016

Los Angeles is home to an exciting, beautiful and inventive culinary scene. Chefs in L.A are creating multicultural dishes, unique fusions, and modern takes on classics to create one of the best dining scenes in the country. Using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, chefs are creating one-of-a-kind menus all across the city. You may have tried some of their dishes, but here is a little background on the chefs behind those dishes.

Brandon Kida, Executive Chef at Hinoki & The Bird

Chef Brandon Kida was exposed to a diverse range of culinary influences at a young age growing up in the cultural melting pot of Koreatown in Los Angeles. Raised by Japanese parents who loved to cook and take annual trips to Japan, he quickly developed a passion for working in the kitchen. Kida received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and set to sharpen his skills in French culinary technique by working in premier French fine dining restaurants, including L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and Lutèce in New York City. From 2003-2011 he joined the team at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City, rising to his first executive chef position and developing his signature style. His next venture led him to upstate New York with the Scandinavian Smörgås Chef Restaurant Group’s Blenheim Hill Farm, where he gained the knowledge and appreciation for true farm-to-table, seasonal-ingredient-driven cuisine which eventually led to his next role as opening executive chef at Clement at The Peninsula Hotel in New York City. At his current position at Hinoki & the Bird, Kida brings a distinct vision that melds together inspirations from his Japanese heritage with refined French culinary techniques. Specials at Hinoki & the Bird include: buckwheat soba with American caviar and uni cream, SB spot prawns and prawn chicharron with coconut broth, and butter lobster ramen with toasted sesame and chili oil.

Chef Brandon Kida and the Butter lobster ramen (credit: Hinoki & The Bir

Brian Dunsmoor, Executive Chef/Partner at Hatchet Hall

Chef Brian Dunsmoor was raised in Georgia and spent lots of time in Colorado with his large family of farmers and ranchers. He started cooking in Charleston South Carolina at Johnson and Wales and then moved to Athens, Georgia and began his career at 5&10 under Hugh Acheson. He then moved to L.A. and worked at Providence, Joe’s and AXE and also did some very successful pop-ups including Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, The Hart and the Hunter and The Ladie’s Gunboat Society. On July 6, 2015, Dunsmoor opened Hatchet Hall and brought ‘Old American’ cuisine or what he likes to call ‘California comfort food’ to Culver City. Hatchet Hall uses all-American meat, fish and produce and prepares them using old-American inspiration and colonial techniques using a wood burning fireplace as the focal point of the kitchen. Fun fact: with the exception of baking, Dunsmoor uses no recipes, as he believes that cooking by taste and experience creates an ideal dish. And although the menu changes on a daily basis, some mainstays include: seared chicken livers with onion jam, grilled bread and apple vinegar; grilled octopus with treviso, runner beans, lemon aioli and salsa verde; and benne seed yeast rolls with honey butter and sea salt.

Chef Brian Dunsmoor and the Grilled Octopus (credit: Derek Taylor and Hatchet Hall)

Bryant Ng, Executive Chef/Partner at Cassia

Chef Bryant Ng got his first taste of the restaurant business from his parents who opened a Chinese-American restaurant in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley as a 12-year-old boy who peeled shrimp and washed dishes. After graduating from UCLA in 2000 with a degree in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, he was drawn to his passion for cooking by his tangible memories of the restaurant business. Ng graduated from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2002 and later supplemented his classical European technique with training in Singapore and Bangkok. Following graduation he worked at La Folie in San Francisco, followed by jobs at Campanile in Los Angeles and at the Daniel Restaurant in New York City. In 2006 he then worked on the opening of Pizzeria Mozza as Chef de Cuisine, and in 2011 Ng and his new wife, Kim, opened The Spice Table in Little Tokyo. In 2015, along with his wife, Bryant partnered with friends and restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan to open Cassia in downtown Santa Monica, which combines the energy of a French brasserie with the fresh, vibrant flavors of Southeast Asia. At the French-Asian fare and seafood restaurant, popular items include: Vietnamese ‘Sunbathing’ prawns, Vietnamese Pot au Feu and the Cassia Burger.

Chef Bryant Ng (credit: Kim Luu-Ng) and Vietnamese Sunbathing Prawns (credit: Rick Poon)

C.J. Jacobson, Executive Chef at Girasol Restaurant

Chef C.J. Jacobson’s career path wasn’t at first in a kitchen. The Orange County-born Jacobson went to Pepperdine University on a volleyball scholarship and played professionally all across the world. It was during this time where he discovered food could be exciting and inspiring. When he returned to Los Angeles, Jacobson did a three-day immersion at Mélisse and then quickly enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu-affiliated College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, graduating in 2004. Following culinary school he started cooking at AXE Restaurant in Venice and eventually went on to work throughout Los Angeles and as a private chef for VIPs such as Arianna Huffington and the Marciano family. He then went on to Campanile, Mercantile and staged at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma before opening Girasol Restaurant in Studio City, CA. His ‘rustic-refined’ style revolves around a profound respect for the hyper-seasonal, local ingredients he brings into his kitchen, and he even leads foraging expeditions around L.A. for ingredients for his dishes. His specialty dishes are: fried red snapper on crispy greens, fermented fresno chili, and kumquat sauce; and the hamachi topped with sea beans, white fir and wild sorrel broth.

Chef C.J. Jacobson and the Hamachi (credit: Girasol Restaurant)

Curtis Stone, Chef at Maude

Chef Curtis Stone was born in Melbourne, Australia and began cooking with his grandmother, Maude, at the age of four after trying, and falling in love, with her Yorkshire fudge. When he decided to pursue his career as a chef, he began at the Savoy Hotel in Australia. Upon completing his qualifications as a chef, Stone began cooking in London at the Café Royal and Mirabelle, and then at White’s Quo Vadis. Stone made the trip across the pond and on February 1, 2014, he opened his first restaurant, Maude. The high-end New American eatery creates a seasonally inspired nine-course tasting menu that changes every month but centers around one key ingredient. For the month June, Stone will be featuring a tasting menu focused on cherries while in July the key ingredient is zucchini. Curtis has also enjoyed a successful television career in the UK, Australia, and the United States, most notably on TLC’s Take Home Chef, Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, and he will also be the host of Fox’s first season of My Kitchen Rules.

Chef Curtis Stone(credit: Ray Kachatorian) and the Veal Tenderloin (credit: Clay Larsen)

Jeremy Fox, Executive Chef/Partner at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen

Chef Jeremy Fox has been a cook since the age of 19 with roots in the South. He first worked back-of-house positions at Anson Restaurant in Charleston, SC and Mumbo Jumbo in Atlanta (his hometown). From 2003-2007 under mentor David Kinch, he honed his craft and food philosophy as chef de cuisine at the lauded Manresa in Los Gatos, CA before moving to Ubuntu in Napa, CA. At Ubuntu from 2007-2010, Fox re-imagined vegetarian cuisine as both healthful and full-flavored, showcasing contrasting textures and flavor combinations by utilizing produce grown on-site in the restaurant’s biodynamic garden. After coming to L.A. and working a few consulting jobs, co-owners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan Fox courted Fox to Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in 2013, an upscale California small plates vegetable-centric restaurant. His commitment to local and seasonal ingredients has led Fox to become a master of farmers’ market-driven cuisine inspired by local purveyors and the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Although the menu changes daily, celebrated signature dishes include: Local Rice Congee; the Hope Ranch Mussels Pozole Verde; and the Beets and Berries.

Chef Jeremy Fox (credit: Emily Hart Roth) and the Beets & Berries (credit: Jeremy Fox)

Jose Acevedo, Executive Chef and Partner at Mercado, Yxta Cocina Mexicana and Maradentro

Chef Jose Acevedo, born in Guanajuato, Mexico, spent his early years learning and perfecting the art of his native culture’s cuisine. Acevedo came to the U.S. at the age of 19, and he spent nearly a decade in Orange County kitchens at Houstons, Cheesecake Factory, and Claim Jumper before taking the helm at Irvine’s Taleo Grill in 2004. In 2010, Chef Acevedo began working with longtime friend, Jesse Gomez, at Yxta Cocina Mexicana, where he oversaw the creation of signature dishes and specials that would become the inspiration for the menu of their first collaboration, Mercado. At Mercado, Acevedo’s Mexican seafood dishes are as much artisan and contemporary as they are a classic homage to his roots. Acevedo is best known for his carnitas and flan as well as breaking the rules on classics with new, adventurous, and playful twists. Other current projects of Acevedo include Yxta Cocina Mexicana which opened in 2009 and serves authentic Mexican food with a contemporary twist, and Maradentro, which opened in 2015 (Studio City location) and 2016 (Brentwood location). Visitors can sample mariscos, which are Mexican seafood dishes.

Chef Jose Acevedo and the carnitas (credit: Mercado)

Larry Monaco, Executive Chef at Cast Restaurant

Chef Larry Monaco is from Orange County and first caught the cooking bug while cooking Italian dishes with his grandma. From there his passion grew into the foundation for a career as he attended the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. Monaco has over two decades of culinary experience cooking for a multitude of high-end, reputable kitchens including: Danny Meyer’s renowned Gramercy Tavern in New York, Nordstrom in Seattle, Hotel MdR in Marina del Rey, and Hotel Erwin in Venice. He was also a chef consultant for Neal Fraser and Cedd Moses as they opened the new Fritzi DTLA and Arts District Brewing Company. Furthermore, an advocate of volunteer work in his field, Monaco designed the curriculum for Farestart, the culinary job training program in Seattle. Now, as executive chef at Cast Restaurant, Monaco seeks to use the freshest ingredients and techniques to deliver elegantly simple pub-driven fare. Monaco’s menu focuses on local, sustainable and in-season proteins and produce to create both shared and large plates that are perfect for enjoying on Cast’s beautiful patio. Monaco incorporates a modern take on bar snacks and spirits-driven pairings with specials like the bone-in ribeye, ‘Forbidden Rice and Herb Garden Salad’, and the black tiger shrimp.

Chef Larry Monaco and the Black Tiger Shrimp (credit: Cast Restaurant)

Louis Tikaram, Executive Chef at E.P. & L.P.

Chef Louis Tikaram was raised on a 110-acre cattle farm in Mullumbimby, Australia, and his multifaceted cultural background (Fijian, Chinese, Indian, Scottish, and Australian) inspires his dishes. Tikaram’s venture into the kitchen started from riding his bike after school to wash dishes at a local restaurant, which eventually led to a move to Sydney to work at Tetsuya’s and Longrain. It was at these respected Asian kitchens where he developed a unique modern Asian menu drawing inspiration from Southeast Asia and his upbringing in Fiji while using traditional and modern techniques to prepare and cook the ingredients all while staying true to the original recipes and flavors. Then came the offer to open E.P. & L.P. in Los Angeles in May 2015, which showcases contemporary Southeast Asian cuisine offering healthy, seasonal ingredients with smoky flavors from a wood-fired grill, high heat wok stir-frys, and basket steaming. One his most special dishes on the menu is Kokoda, a Fijian style ceviche he grew up eating as a kid.

Executive Chef Louis Tikaram (credit: Stan Lee) and Kokoda dish (credit: Dan Collopy

Ludo Lefebvre, Chef at Trois Mec, Petit Trios, Trois Familia

Chef Lefebvre was born in Auxerre, Burgundy, where he developed his passion for cooking by spending many of his days in his grandmother’s kitchen and then at a local restaurant named Maxime. His formal culinary training began at age 14 at the restaurant L’Esperance in Vézelay, then at Saint-Étienne, L’Arpège, and Le Grand Vefour. After training in France for 12 years with the great masters Lefebvre came to Los Angeles where he successfully took the helm of the fine-dining restaurants L’Orangerie and Bastide. Opened in June 2013 in an old pizza parlor in a strip mall, Trois Mec offers a constantly changing five-course tasting menu and operates on a special ticketing system. Trois Mec is a reservations-only fine-dining experience with an open kitchen which serves its signature recipe ‘potato pulp’: potato puree layered with ‘riced’ potato, drizzled with browned butter and onion soubise, and finished with bonito flakes and Salers cheese. In July 2014 Ludo opened his new ‘Bar a la carte’ concept, Petit Trois (a cozy Parisian bistro next door to Trois Mec), and in October 2015 Ludo opened Trois Familia (his brunch-only restaurant in Silverlake, CA). He also opened the fried chicken spot LudoBird on the main course at STAPLES Center, which in March 2016 opened its second location at Universal City Walk, Hollywood. Lefebvre has also been seen on numerous cooking shows such as: Iron Chef America, Top Chef Masters, The Taste and more.

Chef Ludo Lefebvre (credit: Lionel Deluy) and the Potato Pulp (credit: Kristine Lefebvre)

Marcel Vigneron, Owner and Executive of Chef at Wolf

Chef Marcel Vigneron attended the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York where he earned degrees in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management. He has worked all over the globe with world-renowned chefs, including Joël Robuchon and Michael Mina. In Barcelona, he took classes at El Taller with famed Chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli restaurant. Marcel most recently worked under José Andrés as the Executive Sous Chef of The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. He has made himself known for his creativity and expertise in molecular gastronomy along with his multiple appearances on top culinary television shows. Now, Chef Vigneron focuses on seasonal California Cuisine at his new restaurant, WOLF, which opened in March 2016. WOLF features seasonal Los Angeles cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Here, Chef Marcel pays tribute to the food with a farm-fresh approach and a soulful menu that embodies the multicultural food landscape that defines the global fusion of L.A. Special dishes at WOLF include the white miso black cod, the braised beef cheek and the mushroom risotto.

Chef Marcel Vigneron and Beef Cheek (credit: Yasmin Alishav)

Michael Cimarusti, Executive Chef/Owner at Providence and Connie & Ted’s

Chef Michael Cimarusti’s path for a storied culinary career was spurred from experience in his youth, fishing with his grandfather in New Jersey and learning of his Italian heritage from his grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s cooking. Cimarusti graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and started to cook at An American Place with Chef Larry Forgione, giving him first-hand experience with the farm-to-table movement and also where met his future wife and business partner, the talented pastry chef Cristina Echiverri. He has worked at the original Spago, New York City’s Osteria del Circo, Arpège, Le Cirque and then spent six years at downtown L.A.’s famed Water Grill, earning a national reputation for his fish mastery. This mastery led to the opening of Providence in 2005 where he gives diners a very personal touch to seafood, preparing favorite dishes which include: Santa Barbara Spot Prawns and The Ugly Bunch. Cimarusti also serves as the Chef/Owner at Connie & Ted’s, which he opened in June 2013. This restaurant serves simply prepared fish and shellfish, inspired by the classic clam shacks, oyster bars, and fish houses that dot the New England Seaboard and the Western Coast.

Chef Michael Cimarusti and The Ugly Bunch (credit: Noe Montes)

Niki Nakayama, Chef/Owner at n/naka

Chef Niki Nakayama is a native Angeleno who began her career at the popular Takao restaurant in Brentwood, following her graduation from Southern California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. After working at Takao in Brentwood, she embarked on a three-year working tour of Japan, immersing herself in the deeply nuanced methods and flavors of both traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine. Nakayama trained in the art of traditional kaiseki, a dining experience of personal tastes and experiences. Upon her return to Los Angeles, Nakayama opened the acclaimed Azami Sushi Café on Melrose Avenue, where she quickly became known for her omakase menu. After eight years she began hosting elaborate chef‘s table dinners at her sister’s Japanese deli, launching the modernized kaiseki dining experience that has become the signature cuisine of n/naka. At n/naka, Nakayama serves a modern interpretation of Japanese kaiseki using seasonal ingredients and involving a progression of flavors, textures, and cooking methods. The intimate dining experience offers guests a unique and memorable experience combining the traditions of Japanese kaiseki and influences with her upbringing here in Southern California. Although the menu changes seasonally, some of the popular dishes currently served include: halibut ceviche, shishito snowcrab with miso, grilled octopus, gomadofu Lobster shinjo, and tomato dashi.

Chef Niki Nakayama and the “Owan” course of Lobster Shinjo, Tomato Dashi (credit: Zen Sekizawa)

Olivier Quignon, Executive Chef at Avec Nous

Chef Olivier Quignon was born in the Northern French town of Beauvais. He credits his upbringing in Normandy and his family’s passion for food – his father’s culinary creativity, his mother’s home recipes, and his grandparents’ traditional Italian dishes – as his earliest culinary influences that still flavor his dishes today. After graduating from culinary school, Quignon went on to work at several landmark kitchens in Paris, including La Grande Cascade, Hotel de Crillon, Hotel du Louvre, Restaurant Port Alma and the Parisian caterer Butard d’Enescot. At age 29 he crossed the Atlantic and began at the Daniel Restaurant in New York City, then to Bar Boulud and DBGB Kitchen and Bar. In March 2016, Quignon introduced a fresh culinary experience to Beverly Hills at Avec Nous, blending a hip St. Tropez vibe with the classic French bistro. The Mediterranean coastal-inspired menu features Italian and Spanish flavors and spices, classic French techniques, and ingredients sourced from local Southern California growers and farms. Popular dishes at Avec Nous include the escargot, the ‘Nous Burge’, and the cauliflower.

Chef Oliviers and the Nous Burger (credit: Kevin Marple)

Ori Menashe, Chef/Owner, and Genevieve Gergis, Pastry Chef/Owner, of Bestia

The husband and wife duo are both Los Angeles natives who took separate paths before opening Bestia in 2012. Chef Menashe grew up traveling with his family where he was exposed to fine dining, but it wasn’t until a yearlong trip to South America with friends when he realized his passion for cooking. Chef Gergis, on the other hand, is a self-taught pastry chef who started baking out of necessity of satisfying her dessert cravings. In 2001 Menashe returned to L.A. to pursue a culinary career which started at an Israeli cafe, then to La Terza (where Gergis was a hostess and they met for the first time) to Pizzeria Mozza, All’ Angelo and Angelini Osteria. In 2010 the couple decided to pursue their dreams of opening a restaurant together. But prior to opening, Menashe’s obsession with sugar and love of her desserts took reign, and she became the pastry chef. At Bestia the husband and wife duo work alongside one another focusing on a from-scratch multi-regional rustic Italian cuisine offering house-made charcuterie, in addition to handmade pastas and pizza made in an Acunto oven. And Gergis’ desserts focus on a clean and simple approach to create a daily changing menu that is centered on the freshest, most local ingredients possible. Popular items include the: pan-roasted chicken gizzards; roasted marrow bone; and cavatelli alla norcina.

Genevieve Gergis and Ori Menashe; Roasted Marrow Bone (credit: Sierra Prescott)

Ted Hopson, Executive Chef/Owner at The Bellwether

Chef Ted Hopson grew up in a large Italian family, spending much of his childhood alongside his Nonna learning the love and passion for food while developing a reverence for cooking early in life. While attending the University of California, Riverside, Hopson cooked at Mario’s Place and created upscale versions of the classic Italian dishes that he grew up with. Following his graduation in 2003, with a double major in math and English and a minor in religious studies, Hopson realized that no other subject held his interest like his passion for food, so he attended the California School of Culinary Arts, earning his Le Cordon Bleu diploma. Hopson soon found himself working with his mentor, David LeFevre, at Water Grill before becoming a major contributor in the opening of Eveleigh and then Executive Chef at Father’s Office and Lukshon in Culver City. After four years at the Culver City gastropub and one season of Top Chef Masters, Hopson became the Executive Chef of the national burger chain Umami Burger. He opened The Bellwether in August 2015 where he now combines his passion for the best possible ingredients with his nuanced approach to cooking to create unique, memorable dishes. His seasonal menu is constantly changing, but a few of his top items include: the charred octopus, patty melt, and the French fries and tempura cauliflower. And if you’re looking for brunch options try the smoked salmon toast, crispy pork rillettes, and Nashville hot chicken sando.

Chef Ted Hopson and the Charred Octopus (credit: Mary Buck Photography)

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"