Q & A With special guest chef Mel Canlas
Tell us a little about yourself? Where do you come from and what made you become a chef?
I was born in Manila, migrated to Los Angeles in 1995. I think a lot of people have this idea that chefs dreamt of becoming chefs growing up, I did not actually have that as my dream. I went to college, got a degree in Communications and I worked as a Communications Director for non profits in L.A. before I decided that what I really wanted to do was cook. Cooking is my second career and I have never looked back.
Where is the last place you had a great meal in LA?I had a great dinner at Mother Wolf. I have a lot of love for handmade pastas.
Do you have any hero’s outside of the culinary world?
Absolutely. Stacey Abrams and Dolly Parton. Stacey fights for Democracy and equality and Dolly has fought for women's rights and has done so much other charitable work.
What's a memorable restaurant or food memory from anywhere you've traveled?I once traveled through the South and did an entire BBQ based road trip. I had stopped at Snow's BBQ in Lexington Texas and I met Tootsie, the most unexpected Pitmaster. She was my grandma's age and she was running those pits! And she did it because she just loved it. No ego, no anything. Just because she loved it. Plain and simple.
How did you get to where you are today/what inspired you to be a chef?Well I decided to leave Communications when I was 25 and I signed up for culinary school. I kept working full time and went to school full time. After graduating I wanted to really dive into restaurants that were very technical and somehow I had made my way to this restaurant called Canelé and that's where I met my mentor Chef Corina Weibel, the opening chef of the now closed Lucques. She really inspired me not only to be a chef but to be the best well rounded chef.
If you could travel anywhere right now, where would it be?I would like to travel to New Orleans. It holds a type of magic that has always held my attention. From its complicated past to its art and architecture and of course the food.
What’s the ultimate comfort food?A bowl of pasta. Always.
Who is your biggest influence & how have they influenced your cooking style?Chef Corina Weibel. She cooked with the likes of Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel back when Campanile was still open. My rustic style definitely evokes that.
If you could invite any three people, dead or alive, for dinner, who would they be and why?Stanley Tucci because he knows how to cook and he seems like the perfect dinner guest because he would come with great stories and make cocktails, Julia Child because she loves food and she would be an excellent sous chef, and Prince. I mean who wouldn't want to have Prince over for dinner?
What are your favorite ingredients to work with?Fire, Seafood, and anything coming out from our Farmers out of the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
How would you describe your culinary style?Simple and Rustic.
What’s your favorite quote?Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. -Mark Twain
What’s your favorite wine?Currently I'd say Orange Sicilian wines. Normally you'd see me drinking a cold Sancerre but I'm definitely hitting the orange sicilian wines this summer.