Top U.S. Chefs Name Favorite California Eating Cities

Chef Portland

Jenn Louis loads up on dates when she’s in the Southern California desert.


Naomi Pomeroy (Beast)

I love Los Angeles, and my friends Jon [Shook] and Vinny [Dotolo] live here, and I love all three of their places, and I like them.

Michael Schwartz (The Cypress Room, Harry’s Pizzeria + Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink)

L.A., of course. I just love the scene, I love the product, I love the vibe, which all translates to the dining scene. I’m not just saying that because I’m in L.A.

Sheldon Simeon (Mala Wailea)

My favorite eating city has to be San Francisco. Just up and down that coast, if you call Napa part of San Francisco too. I love going down to the Ferry Building, the swap meet is amazing there. You can get good food at pretty much every single level, at whatever price point. I have a lot of chef friends there too.

Art Smith (Table Fifty-two)

It’s funny. I had this discussion the other night with Nancy Silverton. I’ve eaten all over. I can’t go to Los Angeles without eating Nancy’s pizza. It just takes me to that place of deliciousness. That crust, oh my gosh. And that butterscotch dessert she makes is really phenomenal. So it would be Los Angeles.

I love that it has this wonderful culture, and not just with street food. When we shot the first Top Chef: Masters, that’s when I first had Korean tacos. Oh my god. My favorite is that wonderful deli that does incredible pastrami sandwiches. [Langer’s]. When they brought this to us, incredible! I’m not a fancy chef, and that’s what I want to be known for or remembered for, but I just appreciate wonderful simple – I have to say, Nancy of course is the queen of bread and makes incredible stuff, and pizza’s not simple – but she truly has taken it to an art form. That pastrami sandwich is taken to an art form. It is the best. No doubt about it. Have you ever heard of a place called Got Kosher? Unbelievable, but they quit making the kale salad. It was great. I also like to go and see our friend at Joan’s, and visit her and her deliciousness. I just like little places…I adore Akasha [Richmond]. I visit her. One of my favorite places to go get coffee…Bless her heart.

Food to me, has many purposes. Food creates peace. It brings people together, but it’s not only the food, it’s the creator of it. To me, these great women, you can taste the love in their food.

John Sundstrom (Lark)

I actually really love eating in L.A. I come down once or twice a year and it feels like there’s always something new to explore here. Yesterday we went to Plan Check, and it was delicious. A friend of ours, who comes here more often than we do, and he always gives us his list. We feel like we’re pretty on point as to finding new places, but there’s always something cool to discover.

Ming Tsai (Blue Dragon + Blue Ginger)

San Francisco. It has everything any chef would ever want produce wise, fish wise, vineyard and wine wise. It also has two incredibly down home restaurants that are my favorites. I love all the fancy ones, all the upscale ones, but Ton Kiang, up in the Avenues – I used to live on 21st & Geary with my wife – has the best dim sum. A block up from that is Tommy’s. Tommy’s has the best margaritas in the country and fantastic Yucatan food.

Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto)

That is the hardest question on the planet. I’m from Berkeley, so I would have to say I’m prejudicial to Berkeley/Oakland. I really am. It’s not because I grew up there, there’s something about the restaurants that are there, from O Chame to Chez Panisse, it’s just amazing place and I just love going back.

I do really love L.A. I love the whole change of scene that’s happened. I love what’s happening down on Rose with Superba [Snack Bar] and the little taquerias. I love what’s going on downtown, from Church & State to all those new restaurants that are opening up, and I love Koreatown. There’s nothing better than going to Mozza for dinner.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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