Last Friday, Boris Portnoy, who made his bones as the pastry chef at Napa’s Meadowood and New York’s Cru, brought his moped-towed, mobile tandoor, Satellite Republic, to a Chinatown sidewalk in L.A. to prepare a multi-course feast of Georgian cooking that combined recipes from the Caucasus region with Georgian wines and Northern California produce and products. Why does Portnoy have Georgia on the mind? His fixation on the region’s Middle Eastern-influenced cuisine began in his native Moscow, he tells Grub Street, where Georgia was seen as “the promised land…full of watermelon, grapes, pomegranate,” a fantasy for many fruit-deprived Soviets that became his present reality when the chef recently adventured through Georgia and Chechnya.
Portnoy explains that he doesn’t “really like Russian food,” but the tart sauces, fresh produce, kiln-baked breads, natural meats, and shared feasts of the Caucasus really speak to him. Now he seeks to translate this fixation on Georgian food to a U.S. audience, where the cuisine is relatively unknown and most likely unappreciated. Satellite Republic also donates 10% of its proceeds to helping bring back an after-school arts program for Chechen children in the Pankisi region.
Joining his galley-bound dinner party at Jancar Jones Gallery, we came in for a look at what Portnoy prepares from a tiny clay oven hitched to the back of his bike on the street. Take a look at Satellite Republic’s Georgian feast in our slideshow.