L.A. Diet

Food & Wine Best New Chef Bryant Ng Eats SPAM Musubi and Trades Food with Kogi

Bryant Ng manning the grill at The Spice Table
Bryant Ng manning the grill at The Spice Table Photo: Lesley Balla

Grazing is a way of life for most working chefs, especially The Spice Table’s Bryant Ng. ” It’s usually a blur until I sit down for that shift drink,” he says about his busy days at the Downtown Los Angeles restaurant. “I wouldn’t say I have the best eating habits. It’s usually at night when I get home at 2:00 A.M., then passing out.” But the humble Food & Wine “Best New Chef”–L.A.’s only chef chosen this year–doesn’t automatically head for fast food joints (except In-N-Out, which he hits “at least every other week”). It’s more often something his wife has waiting for him at home. Throw in a few duck confit tacos, some items bartered from Kogi, and a few local craft brews, and there you’ve got this week’s L.A. Diet, starring Bryant Ng.

Wednesday, April 25
When I get up in the morning, I basically go straight to the restaurant. Pretty much every day I work the grill for lunch, so I have to set up the station. I don’t have that much time to sit down and eat.

I came in and Erik Black, one of the cooks here, who was a sous chef at Osteria Mozza, helped with the Dario Cecchini lunch at Nancy [Silverton’s] house the weekend before. They did barbecue, American-style, and he made these hot links. He brought some in for me to taste. That was breakfast. I also had some potato rolls, a dish we’re testing for a dinner with The Bruery. They’re rolls with coconut and sea salt. Then I tasted a few things during the day and dinner service. I ate a lot of the satays that day, the beef, pork, chicken, and prawns.

After service, I generally have a beer. I had a Craftsman Juniper Ale; it’s a strange beer and it has an interesting bitterness to it. And then I went home and ate around 1:00 or 1:30 A.M. I ate something that my wife made, bun rieu. It’s a pork and crab soup noodle, with pork and crab meatballs inside and there’s some tomatoes in there. You might see that on the menu sometime.

Thursday, April 26
I got up, I went straight to the restaurant. Maybe I had some coffee. I went through service, and didn’t eat until the afternoon. I had some pork rillettes that my friend Joe made andI had a little of staff meal with ajo de pollo, basically just stewed garlic chicken. And then I tasted throughout the day. I think I had some salad.

At night, I had Kogi’s sweet chile chicken quesadilla, because [Roy Choi] is over at the “Transmission LA: A/V Club” at MOCA on weekends. Roy’s been over there, and we’ve been sending food over to each other. I think I only had just one or two bites. For my shift drink, I had a Mission Brewery Dark Sea stout, which we have on tap.

When I got home, Kim had some grilled cornish hens, tortillas, salsa, and grilled corn for me. I actually had a Godiva chocolate truffle after. I got them in New York when I was there for Food & Wine, they were in our room.

Friday, April 27
I can’t remember what I ate during the day. I was really busy, just tasting throughout. At night, I had a Kogi vegetarian burrito, then Kim and a friend went over to Shin Sen Gumi, which is right next door. They brought me some gyoza and SPAM musubi. I’m not a hater, I eat SPAM.

That night for shift drink, I had a Craftsman 1903. And I brought home food from the restaurant, some of our spare ribs and caramel sauce, and a side of chicken rice.

Saturday, April 28
During the day, I was pretty busy. I remember tasting some randang, and I tasted some of our satays again.

Frank Anderson, from Son of a Gun, and his girlfriend came in for dinner. I made something special for them since I had these new prawns in. I ripped off the heads and deep fried them in batter. And grilled the butterflied prawns, then used this sambal on it that I usually use on our skate dish. And I ended up eating the heads before I sent them out. At sushi restaurants, I love getting the sweet shrimp and the heads afterward.

For shift drink I had Eagle Rock Manifesto, which we just tapped that day. When I was driving home, I stopped at In-N-Out. I go probably once every other week, it’s on the way home. I had a single burger animal-style and fries animal-style. I try not to eat too much at night, so I limit myself and get the single not the double.

Sunday, April 29
We’re closed on Sundays; the only day. I need one day of beauty rest, right? Otherwise, I’d be here every single day, and despite how hard you work in this industry, you need some work-life balance. I did have a little bit of breakfast: some watermelon juice.

Then we went to Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock, we go all the time. I had the chicharrón de pato taco, the duck confit that they fry with the skin. Also, a soft shell crab taco, their chipotle sweet potato fries, which I tried for the first time, and camarones enchipotlados. And a cafe con vanilla. After that, we went to walk our dog around the Rose Bowl.

That night we went to visit my parents in the Valley, we were celebrating Mother’s Day early. So we went to Shik Do Rac in Northridge. It’s Korean barbecue. The original location was in Koreatown. They do barbecue, but I think they were the first ones to start serving the rice noodle that you put everything in. I had kalbi, marinated pork, assorted panchan. And I had soju.

Monday, April 30
I got up and went to work. There I had a mini Spice Table cheeseburger. When we’re forming the burgers, there’s always a little left over. I also tested and tasted baked beans that we’re doing for The Bruery dinner here on May 23. It’s barbecue and beer with a Southeast Asian twist, so we’ll have ribs, hot links, corn bread with little dried shrimp. So I made these beans with palm sugar and lamb bacon to taste.

I tasted throughout the night, with the beer for my shift drink. I had a Manifesto again. And then went home and had some spaghetti and meat sauce and olives that Kim cooked.

Food & Wine Best New Chef Bryant Ng Eats SPAM Musubi and Trades Food with