The Food Chain

Laurent Gras Wants To Eat Spago’s Smoked Salmon Pizza Every Morning

Spago's smoked salmon pizza
Spago’s smoked salmon pizza Photo: Spago

Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, chef Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin detailed what he loves about Laurent Gras’ Grilled Kindai Toro at L20 in Chicago. What do you love, Laurent?

Who: Laurent Gras, Chef-Partner at L20, Chicago
What: Smoked Salmon Pizza
Where: Spago, Beverly Hills
When: October 2009

“Every year Chef Puck does a charity event for Meals on Wheels - there’s a Saturday night event at Universal Studios where chefs each do a dish and a few thousand people come in, then the following Sunday night there’s a VIP dinner at Spago Beverly Hills where each chef does one course, and we spend the whole day in the kitchen. That morning, I ate the smoked salmon pizza. I knew of course that Wolfgang has been making this style of California pizza, but I’d never had the chance to try it. For me, being there, the ambiance in the kitchen, the fact that it’s the morning and you have a smoked salmon pizza with a big quenelle of caviar on top of it, that was a great feeling. I know it’s been done for years but it’s the kind of food that makes me say ‘I wish I could have this every morning.’

The smoked salmon was so wonderful. It’s very rare to find a good smoked salmon in this country. I think he’s using Scottish salmon, which I believe is the best to use for smoking, and they use the same smoker at Spago that we use at L2O, an Enviro-Pak. You have humidity control, you can do exactly the salmon you want - dry or moist, smoky or less so. We smoke our salmon with Earl Gray, but his is very natural and very wonderful.”

Spago’s Chef de Cuisine Thomas Boyce responds:

“This has been Wolf’s signature special dish for 25 years at Spago. Any time one of his friends come in, this is what is sent to their table. I myself joined Spago Hollywood in 1995 and at first looked at the smoked salmon pizza just a little funny. I didn’t expect it to completely make sense. It’s really everything that goes well with smoked salmon though. It’s a classic bagel and cream cheese, just made more elegant. We actually smoke the salmon in-house and use Wild Alaskan salmon whenever we can. We salt the salmon with our own salt blend for four days and then smoke it from twelve to sixteen hours, then slice it. We put dill crème fraiche underneath the salmon to make it creamy and chopped shallots on top to give some acidity. The dish works so well because it’s straight-forward. It’s the simplicity of it.”

Laurent Gras Wants To Eat Spago’s Smoked Salmon Pizza Every Morning