The Clever Root

Winter / Spring 2016

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MS: You've been speaking to my wife? Though she'd trade me in for a pair of Manolo Blahniks. How about cookware? AR: In the restaurant, and at home, I use 360 Cookware, a brand of waterless cookware. It's very green; the factory is green using energy- efficient systems. They don't use chemicals to polish the cookware; they use something called vapor technology—very green. It's a very high- grade stainless steel. It lasts a lifetime, so you don't have to keep re-buying things. Because it's waterless, you can cook without using much wa- ter or much fat, so it's healthy. You can cook veg- etables by just rinsing them, and it steams them in the pot. It's especially great for home use. I've got to tell you, it's just great. I love doing one- pot cooking; just five minutes and it's done. MS: When you opened Sambar, you took over Ben Ford's gastropub. Did you have to get all new equipment to go Indian? AR: We picked up a smaller Alto-Shaam that fits in our smaller kitchen. And there's a big DoughPro pizza oven right in front of the kitchen, a visual element, with a fire that can be seen all over the restaurant. There was no room for a classic tandoori oven, so we do our Indian breads in a pizza oven. It works very well. MS: A little big for my kitchen. Is there a small item that works for everyone, that you can't live without? AR: I love palette knives. I used to paint. They're so good for so many things. They're totally green—no energy but me. You can do anything with a pair of tongs; you can do anything with a palette knife. I need some new ones. I like shop- ping for my kitchen equipment at an art store. Conscience story by Merrill Shindler / illustrations by Diane Henschel ■cr TOOLS OF THE OF THE TRADE The Problem: Keeping the eco-vibe in a high- volume kitchen The Solution: Alto-Shaam CombiTherm Oven The Problem Solver: Akasha Richmond, Chef-Owner, Akasha and Sambar Restaurants, Los Angeles 1 6 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t Kitchens with a AKASHA RICHMOND DID NOT SET OUT TO BECOME A CHEF. She moved to Los Angeles to study yoga, and landed a job as a chef and baker at the yogi-owned Golden Temple vegetarian restaurant, where her followers included Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand. She became one of Hollywood's favorite health-conscious private chefs. And in 2008, opened her first restaurant—Akasha, in a steel, wood, concrete and brick space in one of Culver City's oldest build- ings—just a few doors down from her newly opened Modern Indian restaurant, Sambar. The spaces may be old, but the cuisine is New Age, built around notions of organic, sustainable, locavore. And those post- modernist notions can all be found in the equipment in Akasha's open-to-view kitchens. Merrill Shindler: The restaurant design is retro. But retro doesn't work so well in a high-volume kitchen. What did you choose to stay with the eco-vibe? Akasha Richmond: When we were building the restaurant, I bought as much energy-efficient equipment as I could. Maybe the biggest item we bought was the Alto-Shaam CombiTherm Oven. It's eco-smart– it uses less energy; it's supposed to be engineered to save both power and water. Which is what we're about– so much of the restaurant is sustainable, recycled, environmental. It's us. MS: It sounds worthy of Star Trek. What makes it so wonderful? AR: You can bake in it; you can steam in it, which is great for items like brisket. It constantly puts steam and wet into the oven, which keeps everything moist. You can do something called "re-therming"—you can steam food without drying it out. It's so good for crème brûlée and cheesecake. Nothing dries out. It has a probe you can program. It's a very versatile piece of machinery. All the little things it does, I feel it saves us a lot of money. It's like the best spouse ever. And it doesn't snore at night. PHOTO: ISAAC WHITE Palette Knives. The Alto-Shaam CombiTherm Oven. Akasha Richmond, Chef-Owner of Akasha and Sambar Restaurants, Los Angeles.

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