Meet the Chef | Food, Recipes & Entertaining

Meet the Chef |  Food, Recipes & Entertaining

Learn more about Chef Travis Passerotti. from The Tasting Kitchen

Located on Abbot Kinney in Venice, The Tasting Kitchen is a contemporary Italian restaurant designed around a central olive tree at the entrance with a New American farm-to-table heritage. Their menu changes regularly based on fresh seasonal produce and offers an optional tasting as a guided dining experience. Dishes include handcrafted pasta, in-house charcuterie and produce from Westside farmers’ markets, and the neoclassical cuisine is enhanced by a purposefully curated wine portfolio and celebrated cocktail program.

Chef Travis Passerotti leads The Tasting Kitchen’s award-winning food program with his passion for sustainably sourced ingredients and expert knowledge of local food communities. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, he grew up exploring farmers markets with his father, who was also a chef and restaurateur. He was also influenced by his mother’s love for culinary heritage and hospitality.

Passerotti honed his culinary skills by studying with classically trained European chefs, including Chef Bollag (Bruno’s Chef Kitchen) and Chef Landsberg (Inn at The Seventh Ray, King Estate Winery). He teamed up with Chef Landsberg at King Estate Winery, where he ran the charcuterie program before moving to Los Angeles in 2013. Passerotti takes inspiration from Nouvelle French and Contemporary American cuisines, the American local food movement and farm ideology, and every dish he creates reflects the provenance of its ingredients, while still emphasizing light, crisp Mediterranean European flavor profiles that enhance the flavors of Completing Southern California.

We spoke to Passerotti, who talked about what sparked his initial interest in the culinary arts, the signature dish he is most famous for, the kitchen tools he can’t live without and more.

What got you interested in cooking?

It all started when I was a freshman in high school and over the summer I decided that I would also get lunch money during the out-of-school months, to which my father replied, “Why don’t you get a job?” At the time, he ran a well-known restaurant in Eugene, Oregon, that had just opened a new concept, and by the end of the week, he helped me get my food handler certification and wash a job. By this time I had been wandering around restaurants for a while and was insanely excited to be a part of the kitchen.

How did you become a chef?

Lots of hard work, missed family and social events and a strong eagerness to learn. When I got really determined to cook in my early twenties, I knew that being a chef was my end game. Becoming a chef is a difficult moment to capture; there is so much that goes into it. For me, one of the defining characteristics is how much you can teach the people who cook for you. Before I became an executive chef, there were days when I spent my time showing recipes or answering questions about products, and those were the first times I felt I deserved the title of chef.

The most important thing you learned in culinary school?

When I looked at culinary schools I was already working as a line chef, and I knew it was a credit to attend a culinary program, but at that time I was more interested in real cooking. I worked for several chefs trained in Europe and practiced the learner/traveler approach to learning the culinary arts. I have always learned more effectively by watching and doing than in a classroom.

What’s the first dish you learned to make really well?

I shall have to make for these great blows; not necessarily a dish but a single food item: the egg. I worked with an old-fashioned cook, as you can read in the old Bourdain books. His name was Rivers and he could sob meanly at times, but that man taught me how to cook eggs.

Signature dish you are known for?

That is always a difficult one; I love to cook with wild mushrooms. I can personally guarantee that when we cook with wild mushrooms here, they are well respected. I do a Basque inspired Funghi Misti with Pedro Ximenez sherry every winter which I love very much; it tends to hit the menu when chanterelles are booming.

Favorite ingredient to cook with and why?

Whatever fruit or vegetable is absolutely the freshest at the moment. We live in such an amazing place for fresh food, it has irreversibly changed the way I cook. That said, I can’t wait to get my hands on some corn!

Kitchen tools you can’t live without?

Besides a nice knife? A nice spoon goes a long way. I love building relationships with my tools and I can say that the bond between a cook and his spoons is hard to break. I’ll take the kitchen apart to find one of my spoons if it gets lost.

Who do you look up to in the culinary world?

Who am I not looking up to is the real question. I love the grandmas and grandpas around the world who keep forgotten kitchens alive; the fishermen, ranchers, ranchers and all the people who do the hard work of growing and cultivating the fine ingredients we are allowed to cook with; any young chef who pushes boundaries and changes the rules out there; and most importantly, all of our husbands who put up with our horrible schedules and support us in any way we can.

What do you love about being a chef?

The ability to connect with strangers, friends, and family through a common experience or memory of food and dining. And the opportunity to teach and learn from fellow culinarys.

The Tasting Kitchen

1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice