Meet the makers - Los Angeles

4 Jul 2016
by Jordana Rothman • In partnership with FOOD & WINE
 

From the best citrus grower in Southern California to a cheesemaker using milk from his own herd of goats, Los Angeles chefs and restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo call out a few of their favorite local food producers.

 

Baked goods from Gjusta

Self-taught chef Travis Lett grew up in New Jersey, the son of macrobiotic vegans who instilled an appreciation for the power of food. His vegetable-forward restaurant, Gjelina, has been a Venice Beach community hub since it opened in 2008 on a corner of Abbott Kinney. But it’s Gjusta, Lett’s bakery and deli spin off, that Jon and Vinny see as the best expression of what he can do. Gorgeous sourdough loaves, seeded ryes and baklava croissants; salads built with farmers market finds; sandwiches that pull from Jewish appetizing or Italian hero traditions; grain bowls for SoCal ascetics; rich rotisserie meats for everyone else. “Travis looks at LA the same way we do—he looks at where the gaps are and what is needed, culturally and physically, in the neighborhoods,” says Vinny. “When Gjusta opened, Venice, and LA in general needed a high-quality bakery, and he nailed it.” Jon and Vinny were Lett’s first wholesale account at Gjusta, and the bakery continues to provide bread for all of their restaurants today.

Gjusta: 320 Sunset Ave, Los Angeles; 310-314-0320; gjusta.com

 

Orange juice from Schaner Family Farms

Peter Schaner has been working land in San Diego County, since the eighties. A regular on the farmers market circuit, Schaner has built lasting relationships with LA chefs who count on him for avocados, eggs and, in particular, a wide range of gorgeous citrus—from exotic oroblancos, satsumas and kaffir limes to every variety of orange ripened in the California sunshine. “Farming is a hard business to be in, but Peter always wants to do things the right way, for the betterment of people,” says Jon. “You can taste that in his product. He is proud of it and we are proud to serve it.” The guys work with a lot of Schaner produce in their cooking, but they serve the farm’s orange juice without manipulating it at all. “He juices it at his farm and brings it us, and we don’t do anything to it,” says Vinny. “It’s done perfectly; we could only mess it up.”

Visit projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets for a comprehensive list of LA farmers markets

 

Arbequina olive oil from Shear Rock Farms

Sabrina Bohn left a career in the film business to pursue horticulture, but her 19-acre operation about an hour north of Los Angeles in Santa Paula is no gentlewoman’s farm. She grows a wide range of heirloom fruits and vegetables—plump tomatoes, okra and carrots, stalks of rhubarb and bushels of leafy greens—and sells them at the Hollywood and Echo Park greenmarkets. Jon and Vinny are particularly in love with her oils, pressed from Arbequina olives grown on a friend’s orchard and sold in filtered and unfiltered varieties. “Shear Rock is one of my favorite olive oils,” says Vinny. “A lot of the locally produced oils seem bland, but this one is flavorful and rich, not too grassy, not too spicy. I use it at home.”

Visit projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets for a comprehensive list of LA farmers markets

 

Idyllwild cheese from Drake Family Farms

“All the goats have names,” writes Dan Drake in a bio for Drake Farms. It’s a folksy testament to the small-batch scruples at his historic family dairy, which operated in Utah for more than a century before expanding to Southern California. Drake sells tangy chèvre, feta and goat’s milk mozzarella at area farmers markets, but Vinny and Jon zero in on the specialty Idyllwild—a firm, cave-aged cheese inspired by Portuguese queijo São Jorge. “It’s rich, it’s creamy, it’s sharp and it’s local, which is a huge plus for us,” says Vinny. “We use it on a salad at Animal and it is always well received.”

Drake Family Farms: Visit drakefamilyfarms.com for a comprehensive list of retailers

 

Burrata from Di Stefano Cheese

Italy has been producing cheese for millennia—Pliny the Elder even documented pecorino production in his first-century texts. In that context, burrata is a bit of a whippersnapper, with a history that dates only to 1920s Puglia. How the luscious cream-filled mozzarella grew from hyper-regional Italian specialty to ubiquitous presence on American restaurant menus is a point of contention, but Mimmo Bruno would like some credit. The Puglia-born cheesemaker claims to be the first to recreate burrata in the United States in the 1990s, and it is still the stock-in-trade at his LA operation, Di Stefano Cheese. “It is amazing that this is a local product. Its taste and texture really shine. Sometimes burrata can be too wet or too dry, but Di Stefano walks that middle line really well,” says Jon, who estimates that Jon & Vinny’s goes through about 50 cases of the stuff a week—even more during the summer, when they serve it with fresh peaches.

Di Stefano Cheese: Visit distefanocheese.com for a comprehensive list of retailers

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