The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2013

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Page 37 of 149

CHEFS: ONE-ON-ONE with Merrill Shindler Govind Armstrong THE LOS ANGELES–BASED CHEF DISHES UP HIS INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS PHOTO: VANESSA STUMP W ith his exotic dreadlocks, and his faraway-places name, it comes as a surprise to find that Chef Govind Armstrong grew up in the Middle American suburb of Encino, in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. He grew up in a house that had been owned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And as a small boy, he was making hors d'oeuvres for parties at his house—a pre-teen with a fine hand at mini pizzas and mini soufflés. These days, Armstrong runs a trio of eclectic Los Angeles restaurants—his hyper-casual ROFL [Republic of Laughter] Café, on Melrose Avenue, and two downhome Americans: Post & Beam down in the 'hood, and Willie Jane on artsy Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. And it all began at Wolfgang Puck's Spago . . . when Govind was just 13. Merrill Shindler: How did you land a job at Spago at age 13? Govind Armstrong: A family friend came to a party at our house where I was cooking. She wondered who the caterer was. She told Wolfgang Puck she had met this kid. I learned knife skills my first summer there. Then stocking the walk-in. And finally prepping vegetables. Is Wolfgang your biggest culinary influence? Most definitely. He was so busy with Spago, but he always had time for me. He was more than patient. And he had a strong team of amazing people pursuing their passion. Did you grow up in a food family? My family always had gardens. I still have gardens; I tend them with my daughter Willow. She loves food like I do. It must be hereditary. What kitchen tool is essential? Definitely an old-school cast-iron pan. You've got to take care of it. Everyone knows not to touch my cast iron pans. What do you cook at home? I love the farmers' markets, to buy whatever's in season. Vegetables grilled with coarse salt, cracked pepper, herbs from my garden. Do you have a favorite food destination? So many! In Hong Kong, I ate like a champ. But you can't narrow it down. And I have family in Costa Rica—I always have jars of Salsa Lizano in my refrigerator. I've even figured out how to make my own. And do you have a guilty pleasure? I'm a sucker for good gelato. All that sweetness —I can't resist a good gelato. 36  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2013 TP0713_034-65.indd 36 6/24/13 5:40 PM

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