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Contemporary California Cuisine in Venice with Chef Nyesha Arrington of Leona

Contemporary California Cuisine in Venice with Chef Nyesha Arrington of Leona

Heritage - Sn 1/Ep 2Heritage - Sn 1/Ep 2

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In this episode, we meet Chef Nyesha Arrington, who has worked in some of the best kitchens across the country and is now building a restaurant of her own - Leona, a cozy neighborhood gem nestled by the Pacific Ocean in Venice, CA.

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Transcript

- [Voiceover] Cooking for me is one of the arts that hits you on so many facets. As a human being, it's an offering of creativity, it is an offering of love. It's the most purest form of affection I think you can show someone. To nourish their body, to show who you are on a plate, using that as your canvas, using food as your medium, understanding the entire realm of where the products come from. It's a beautiful thing. - Nyesha's just an amazing human being. Her personality's just incredible. Everything that she does, you can taste it in her food, but everything she does in life is out of love. - Everything that is in a chef's mind, I really started to develop at a really young age. Going to Grandma's house was like a step into Korea for me. She very much instilled what it is for me to understand a culture through food. I was always just constantly wanting to evoke in my friends what my grandmother did to me. When you come to my house, although it's nine-years-old, and baking pies and making soups, like I wanted people to understand what it was to eat delicious food. This is our crispy farm egg. What we do is pour the smokey bacon broth over the top. There's going to be chunks of three-hour braised bacon on the bottom. It's crusted in a Kennebec potato. I genuinely feel when you taste the dish, you can taste the soul, you can taste the passion. You can taste everything through food. The most challenging thing I have ever done in my life is open a restaurant. Order in black cod, fire farm egg, fire fish and chips. - [Voiceover] It was an incredible process. What do we do in terms of food. what do we do in terms of concept. What do we do in terms of decor. It's about creating an experience for guests when they come into the dining room. - I'm fortunate I won't ever feel like I've worked a day in my life at Leona. Leona is an extension of my heart. To understand what I want to evoke in people and hug people from the inside, that's only my goal ever is to offer love through food. Thank you, Abe. Looks absolutely stunning. - [Voiceover] A lot of what we're doing here is trying to build a farm for the future. Grow things in the most healthy way possible for our clients and also for the farm. I couldn't imagine growing things that I didn't want to eat myself. My parents started in the slow food movement way back when. I just grew up in it. This is always how we've done business. What we're doing here is nothing new. It's been done in Italy and the homeland for ages and ages. Let me give you a taste of something you may not have tried before. This is olive leaf sylvetta, the oldest heirloom of arugula I've found. It's probably how the stuff grew in Italy 1,000 years ago. It's really, really good. - It's killer texture. It's almost creamier, in a sense, you know, like more viscous on your pallet. Wow. - Yeah, I think it has a succulent form into it - Yes, exactly. It's amazing to be able to come out here and hang out with a friend like Nate. To see the actual lettuce right out of the ground. It's such a respect for food. - I feel like I'm a steward of the land. Kind of like I'm just using it now, and when I'm long gone, it'll still be producing for people that aren't even born yet. - It's a beautiful thing, you know, slow food. Other way, blacksmith. Being a chef, the artistry, is literally a dream come true. It's something I never want to wake up from. As soon as I step foot into the farmer's market, it's light and love. Farmer's market days legitimately my favorite day of the week. This is what's amazing about Los Angeles. Being able to come to farmer's market midday on a Wednesday really shop for the most fresh, amazing ingredients that these farmers are proud to put on. When I conceptualize a dish, my sous chef and I will talk about it. We dissect it. I was thinking we'll use these squash for lunch. Globe carrots we're going to use for the Crudite plate. Lavender for our chocolate lavender bar. And being able to bring every piece of produce to its full potential. Grown by the people who, you know, that's what they're passionate about. These are relationships that have been foraged over the past 12 years. What's up, Arturo. How are you dear? Great to see you. To shop for the best, most amazing produce that Mother Nature offers is, like, literally epic. Yellow carrots, globe carrots, red carrots ... That's a bouquet. If someone gave me that instead of flowers, that's love right there. I talk to my staff a lot about what is the love of the dish. What is the inspiration behind this dish? - My love. - There's a reason why every dish is on the menu. So, the Bulgogi is a traditional Korean dish. We're taking the idea and the flavors, turning that into a braised dish. A ton of love that goes into it, which is the liquid, the soul of the dish. I wanted this menu to have nuances of my Korean heritage. My menu is designed to invoke nostalgia in your childhood, really. This is our Leona take on what we call progressive California cuisine. Progressive California cuisine is food that is globally inspired. It's drawing inspiration from different cultures and understanding what that means to feed the soul. I know people are going to love it. I like to cook. It's what I'm good at, and I understand food. I understand how to layer flavor. That's it. The beauty is being able to show other people how to do that. Pretty much the entire week before opening, I don't think I slept, maybe a total of four hours. It's this beautiful, natural high that you're on when you open the restaurant. Stakes are high in Los Angeles, being in the public light, and your heart racing. All the cooks been-- we've geared up. Gone through the tasting and everyone's understanding what the pickups are. I'm super proud of what the product is that we're creating. Right now, everyone's super focused. We're really trying to make sure we put out the best, most delicious food that we can do. And to see everything just come together naturally and fall into place. That dish is ridiculous. You're going to get sweet, you get salty. you get unctuous chicken brick. You get a little bit of a fire off the sushito peppers. It's super killer. There's a thousand things going on at once. When you set up a line, or you're getting ready for service, it's like getting ready for battle. 5:41 let's go. Firing. Chicken Brick, six minutes please. And the excitement and the energy that goes into an opening is so visceral. It's a beautiful symphony. Tomatoes coming. Three minutes, one Broccolini. Something that really courses through your veins. Black cod. It's like no other feeling. Like, a pulse. It's this huge, throbbing, amazing heartbeat. From five-years-old, the day I stood on my first step stool next to my grandmother cooking, I've been preparing for this my entire life. I'm on planet Earth, and was born as Nyesha Arrington to be a chef. I just will not ever stop smiling because I genuinely love my job. It's true. I'm a lucky girl.

Coming right up

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