The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2014

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2014 CHEFS: ONE-ON-ONE WITH MERRILL SHINDLER T here are not many chefs with a depth of culinary back- ground that equals that of Danny Elmaleh, Executive Chef in charge of the sbe restaurant portfolio—which means everything from the two locations of Cleo to the seven locations of Katsuya, as well as the many upscale (and casual) restaurants at the SLS Hotels in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas (which offers nearly a dozen culinary destinations). Consider: He was born in Haifa, Israel. His father is Moroccan. His mother is Japanese. His culinary IQ is, literally, all over the map. But that doesn't keep him from enjoying a good fast-food hamburger—animal style. Merrill Shindler: What are your earliest food memories? Danny Elmaleh: My mom would cook Japanese dishes. My father would cook Moroccan and Lebanese food. In Israel, we'd go to the markets to eat, so many flavors, so many dishes done quickly and easily. I went back earlier this year—and the food is just as good, maybe even better. What was the first food you cooked? We moved to Japan when I was nine years old. My dad had the first Moroccan restaurant in Japan. I always helped my dad in the kitchen at his restaurant. It was a great education. But it wasn't what I wanted to be. You didn't want to be a chef? For the longest time I didn't want to become a chef, because Dad is a chef. But then, at age 16, I had a realization—I liked being a chef. I liked being able to work with food, to feed people, to make them happy. It made me happy too. You became involved with Katsuya, a high-end Japanese restaurant, and Cleo, an upscale Mediterranean. Funny how that reflects your family . . . I grew up with both cultures. So moving from one to another is natural to me. And I've had fun bringing the two together. I use a lot of soy and mirin and a fermented rice product called koji at Cleo. And there are subtle hints of the Mediterranean at Katsuya. Very subtle. I understand you've added one more ethnic influence to your family . . . My wife is from Taipei. She cooks a lot of Chinese food. She does it really well, lots of classic dishes. We visit her family there every year. And we eat. And what do you eat in Las Vegas, when you have a moment? Same as in L.A. I love fast food—especially In-N-Out. I like my burgers animal-style, totally American. Danny Elmaleh Chef Danny Elmaleh's culinary influences range from Japan to Morocco. PHOTO COURTESY OF SBE EXECUTIVE CHEF, SBE RESTAURANT PORTFOLIO

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