Flip the food channels and you’ll probably catch a glimpse of Nyesha Arrington. Within the last month, she acquired her current position as executive chef at Wilshire restaurant through a victory on Food Network’s Chef Hunter, and debuted as one of L.A.’s contenders in Top Chef: Texas. Before that, Arrington was cooking with Josiah Citrin at Melisse and the now closed Cache, and before that, at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier and The Mansion in Las Vegas. Toypically, the only time the chef can grab anything to eat away from her Santa Monica kitchen is after work. "We finish our service, you go outside and everyone’s out partying, the weekend warrior-type mentality. A bunch of drunkie kids running around," she says. "And I’m just looking for sustenance, to just grab something to eat and go home." Thankfully, there’s always a food truck near her Venice pad, and plenty of bars on the boardwalk for a beer. Find out which haunts Arrington hit this week in today’s L.A. Diet.
Wednesday, Nov. 16
This is a very early day for me, since I always go to the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Typically I’ll get a few pieces of fruit, have coffee, chat with Josiah Citrin, Raphael Lunetta, and Joe Miller. We’ll chat about what we’ve done for the week, what’s in season, what we’re excited about. I had an apple, and then I grabbed Röckenwagner’s jalapeno cheddar roll. Did my shopping and headed over to Wilshire.
I don’t really eat until mid-day, but generally taste and nibble throughout the day. Things like celery root puree, the shrimp,the fish that comes in. We make dishes and make sure the staff tastes everything. We usually all sit down and eat staff meal around 5:00 P.M. That day we had tacos, carnitas with green chile sauce, and queso fresco. Typically our grill station makes it, and bread and pantry will contribute. We also had Mexican rice and a salad.
Tasting from the line throughout the night, me and my chef de cuisine, we taste all of the dishes that come up to the pass. Make sure they’re delicious. That night I had a burger with bacon and an over-easy egg and Kennebec potatoes with hollandaise. I had a glass of wine with that. That night we had the melee, a Grenache blend. I tend to not go out on Wednesdays, it’s a long day. We went over our orders for the next day, and I went home.
Thursday, Nov. 17
This was an abysmal day in terms of food. I don’t really have a lot of groceries at my house, so I think I grabbed a banana at the restaurant when I got there. There was a lot of tasting around the restaurant. I didn’t eat a proper meal until staff meal, and they made shepherd’s pie with a salad that had field greens, beets, cucumbers, and red wine vinaigrette. More tasting throughout the night during service, but then that was about it. I didn’t have another real meal that day.
Friday, Nov. 18
For breakfast, I had coffee. At the restaurant we were trying a new dish, a vegetarian gnocchi dish. And the general manager and I sat down and tasted a few different versions. It’s a butternut squash gnocchi with burrata cheese, Brussels sprouts, chanterelles, pomegranate, and sage. We were just doing different tastings on that dish, and that was basically my lunch.
We had dinner with the staff again, and I had halibut on top of broccolini. I kind of go through different phases. If I’m really hungry, I’ll have a burger. On other nights I’ll just have something simple. Had a Fin due Monde with that.
My friend owns the Circle Bar on Main Street, and they had a relaunch party. They just did a bunch of renovations. I went there, had a glass of wine. And went home.
Saturday, Nov. 19
Saturday’s are always crazy. It’s our busiest night of the week, we do upwards of like 200 guests, so we try to get here early. I try to bring in a staff lunch on those days because we’re so busy and don’t eat until staff meal. I went to Bay Cities and grabbed a bunch of Godmothers with spicy peppers, "the works," for the staff to eat at the restaurant. We took a little half hour re-energize break. It’s a staple. I’ll get that at least once every two weeks.
I try to stay hydrated throughout the day, drink a lot of water. A lot of times I have to remind myself to eat, as ironic as that sounds, because I’m surrounded by food all day. There was no staff meal that day, but I tasted throughout dinner. I left the restaurant around 11:30 P.M., and the events planner, pastry chef, and I went to a fundraising for Thanksgiving, a canned food drive, at Wokcano on Fifth Street. We ate some sushi there, had some edamame, and some kind of roll, maybe a spider roll. And we had a couple of cocktails and went home. We took some food from the restaurant to the drive, some canned corn, green beans, and tomato soup.
On the way the home, I hit the Dogtown Dog Truck on Main Street. It was right down the street from my house. That was my splurge-y, indulgent meal. I had the California dog with arugula, basil aioli, crispy onions, and tomatoes. And I got tater tots with buffalo wing sauce and nacho cheese. The Dogtown Truck does it right every time, they’re consistent. The onions are crispy, the arugula is always fresh.
Sunday, Nov. 20
We’re closed on Sundays, so it’s my day off. It’s super mellow. I don’t do much. It’s a good day to just hang out and decompress. There’s a place Novel Café near my house so I go there, get some jasmine tea. Just sort of reflect on the week.
In the afternoon, phone calls start coming in; friends wanting to hang out. This week, we watched football, hung out on the boardwalk. We were at Sidewalk Café for a little bit. We walked down to Venice Ale House, and that’s when we decided to cook dinner. Andy Dick was there, it was funny. He was being very flirtatious with my girlfriend, it was pretty funny. I think I had an IPA there.
I ordered groceries from Yummy.com, so everything was at my house when we got back. Then we started cooking. Everyone wanted something comforting, and we were originally going to make pasta by hand, but I couldn’t find the clamps to my pasta machine. So we made rigatoni with sausage, braised fennel, and a red-wine tomato sauce. That’s probably my favorite day of the week, just to get in there to do our own family meal. Legitimate family, you know, you with your friends. Everyone helps out in the kitchen. And we cook a proper sauce, mirepoix, herbs, lots of love. My buddies peeled and seeded tomatoes, everyone in the kitchen, drinking wine. My dog waiting around.
My friend made a salad. We had some brocolini in the pasta, but we took the stems and shaved them and put them in the salad. It also had hard-boiled egg, tomato. She made a sherry vinaigrette, which was awesome because she’s never made that. We made croutons. We cooked them in bacon fat and threw in thyme. Served it all with some Parmesan toast points. For dessert, I had this cereal, Crispix, and we toasted it and crushed it, topped with ice cream, a brandy caramel sauce, and soft whipped cream.
What’s awesome is that two out of six are chefs, but we’re taking these ordinary ingredients and plating them. And then we all sat around and watched Top Chef, and they all laughed at me. Which is cool. The night dwindled down and we all parted ways.
Monday, Nov. 21
Went to Groundwork coffee for breakfast, I grabbed an everything bagel, which is my favorite, with chive cream cheese. Came to work, and didn’t really eat. Left around 4 p.m., went home and made a turkey sandwich.
Met my buddy at a different Groundworks in Venice, the one on the boardwalk, and had some jasmine tea. Later, we went to Wurstkuche, the new one in Venice. I had a Louisiana hot link, which I haven’t had in years. I love spicy food. I topped it with hot peppers, caramelized onions, and I put the American yellow mustard on it. He got fries, I tasted them. I didn’t really want them. And I had a Fin du Monde.
Then we went to an industry party at Ray’s at LACMA, the party for the restaurants that were in Esquire. They sent a bunch of food out, but I wasn’t really hungry. I did taste the sweet breads with sunchoke and brown butter. There was a lot of food, and a lot of people, but I didn’t really eat that much. I had some kind of cocktail called a Secret. It was pink. I think it had whiskey and lemon juice. We just stayed for one and left.
Then I met my buddy at The Basement Tavern on Main Street. Stopped by to say hi and tell him how to make cranberry sauce. And that was pretty much it. Then I went to my friend’s house, and his buddy sent him a Lou Malnati’s pizza from Chicago, and I had a slice of that. It was so good! Then I went home.