David Myers has a few key factors in his favor as a chef: experience, curiosity and range. The driving culinary force behind the David Myers Group built up his base while working for powerhouse chefs like Charlie Trotter, Gerard Boyer, Daniel Boulud and Joachim Splichal. He first became a restaurateur with a high-end Asian restaurant called Sona in 2002 and built on that success with French brasseries called Comme Ça in West Hollywood and Las Vegas. Pizzeria Ortica debuted across the street from South Coast Plaza in 2009. Myers took his talents overseas in 2010 with a patisserie called SOLA by David Myers and a Japanese-tinged, California-focused David Myers Café. To start 2013, he launched Hinoki & the Bird in Century City, featuring seasonally influenced Asian cuisine and longtime culinary lieutenant Kuniko Yagi in charge of daily culinary operations. On February 28, Myers shared several culinary insights at Hinoki & the Bird.
How do you feel like having restaurants in Japan has influenced you as a chef?
Anytime you’re traveling international or getting into a different culture, I always find it inspiring because the food trends and the way that food influences locals is always really exciting for me. Being in Japan in particular, it’s a place I often go to. I love it. I love the style of cooking. It’s relatively new to me in terms of the techniques, versus going to, say, Europe, where I’ve been studying classic French techniques for years. It’s my bread and butter. To learn the incredible techniques and styles of not only the Japanese but also Southeast Asian cooking techniques is really impressive.
You go by @gypsychef on Instagram.
Yeah, that’s right.
How many days are you actually traveling per year?
I travel like crazy. I’m not only doing events for the restaurants – supporting the restaurants – everything I do is about promoting our brand. But also having businesses in Japan requires a certain amount of on-site time, as well as the restaurants in the U.S.
How do you find balance?
I’m comfortable anywhere, so I feel very balanced. I love what I’m doing and I get invigorated by working like crazy. The downtime is on a plane or, when you’re in a different country, it’s exciting regardless of whether you’re working or not. I always make time in the morning to do a run, no matter where I am in the world or what time it is in my current time zone.
What are some places you haven’t traveled to yet that you’d be excited to explore?
Sri Lanka’s top of list for me. Also, I’m very interested to go to New Zealand, to Africa, and I could certainly spend the rest of my life exploring Asia. I love the food and the culture’s so exciting to me, and interesting.
How many more projects can you take on?
I don’t really look at it as how many more projects I can take on. I look at it as what interesting projects are down the road.
At this restaurant, Hinoki, what would you say a dish has to be? What are the common characteristics for a dish to end up on the menu?
The dishes here have to reflect California. My view of California – everyone has their interpretation of it – but certainly utilizing the incredible ingredients and bounty that we have. In addition to that, weaving in that scent of the Silk Road. A little bit of the flavor and the exotica – whether it’s Japan or Southeast Asia – but very subtly, very gently, into the incredible ingredients that we have here. If we can match or meet those terms, we’ll have a pretty cool dish to put on.
Tell me about the most recent dish you collaborated with Chef Kuniko on. What was that, and what was the approach and inspiration?
Right now we haven’t brought many specials on to the menu yet because we’re going into our fourth month and we’re totally focused on our current dishes, just to get them dialed in and tweak them. I remember talking about our lobster roll. I always wanted to put a lobster roll on here. I’ve been inspired by the Pearl’s lobster rolls in New York and I love lobster rolls in general. I thought, how great would it be to add unique flavors to it, like a Vietnamese green curry that’s vibrant and fresh and really punchy, and then Thai basil blossoms to give it that fun little pop, and then make a really soft, beautiful roll. The collaboration came around the roll, which was really fun. We had a few versions. Do we do it round? Do we do a little bun? How do we do this? Kuni came up with the brilliant idea of adding Japanese charcoal powder to it. I thought that was genius. I was thinking we’d add some textural components to it. She thought of the charcoal. We work really well playing ideas off each other like that. Having worked so long together, it’s a natural.
Do you remember when you hired her?
Yeah, of course. Absolutely.
What was it that jumped out at you about Chef Kuniko?