Hey hey hey! I’m back!! It seems like it’s been forever, and it has been. Sorry I’ve been MIA but I was on the east coast enjoying the holidays with family and friends and then I got super sick so time just escaped me. Can you believe it’s already 2017?! Like what?? I wanted to kick off 2017 with a brand new Brunch Diaries! Ladies and gents I introduce you to my friend Jackson Kalb. I’ve known Jackson since moving out to LA and he’s a bomb chef and is currently the executive chef at Bottlefish. Bottlefish is a new restaurant that just opened over in Brentwood, here in Los Angeles. Created by the same owners as California Pizza Kitchen, Bottlefish is a hip new upscale seafood restaurant. I had the pleasure of going to Bottlefish’s friends and family preview night, and let me tell you…the food was BOMB thanks to my friend Jackson! Get to know Jackson a little more below.
What is your occupation?
I’m the executive chef at Bottlefish.
How did you get involved with Bottlefish?
Total coincidence. My friend Danny was playing a pickup game of soccer with the GM, Arthur, before the restaurant had a chef. Arthur and Danny started talking and Arthur mentioned that he was looking for a chef. It turns out we all went to the same high school, so we had that rapport immediately.
What has been the hardest part about opening a new restaurant?
Pretty much everything. There are so many moving variables. Between staffing, training, HR, operations management, and everything in between, it’s all done by management and we’re all doing our part to get it done. Luckily, our founders are some of the most successful, experienced restaurateurs on the planet, so it goes without saying that we’re in good hands.
What is your favorite dish on the new menu?
My personal favorite is the scallop crudo. It’s so simple, but not easy. When you clutter a plate with garnishes and sauce, it’s easy to hide behind B-grade ingredients or improper execution. With our scallop crudo, everything has to be executed perfectly, because it’s only five ingredients.
We’re really showing off the intensely sweet flavor of the Nantucket bay scallops in this dish. It also shows off the natural product itself, which is the true star of the show. Often chefs take credit for the dish, but if the ingredients aren’t top quality, it doesn’t matter how much manipulation a chef does to it.
What advice would you give to future chefs?
Don’t watch TV and think you want to be a chef. Do it only if you are passionate about it. TV has glorified the occupation. There’s nothing wrong with glorifying it, as long as you know the reality of the job. If you’re spending more time on your hair then you are learning the fundamentals of cooking, you are in it for the wrong reason and will never be satisfied.
I’m all about showcasing chef’s capabilities on TV and hope to do something in front of the camera myself one day soon. Just don’t consider yourself a chef after going into massive amounts of debt to graduate from culinary school. If you want to learn culinary skills, go to a restaurant (or come work for me) and learn the trade. You’ll actually get paid to learn, and if you’re hungry, the shitty pay in the interim will pay off dozens of times over.
Where is your favorite place to brunch?
I don’t really eat out during brunch in LA. We’re working on a brunch menu at Bottlefish which will hopefully be happening in Spring 2017, so let’s just say Bottlefish will be my future favorite spot.
Favorite restaurant to take out of town visitors?
Sotto for a nice sit-down spot. Leo’s taco truck (which is also the best restaurant in LA) for pastor tacos.
I’m classic for cocktails. Negroni or a Hendrick’s martini, sub cucumber for olives.
If you’re throwing a dinner party, what is your go-to meal?
I don’t think I’ve ever made the same dish twice at a dinner party. Most people know that they’re my guinea pigs during dinner parties. **cough cough Jackson, where’s my invite??!**
Who inspires you?
Josiah Citrin. He made me who I am today. As distant as we’ve become over the years, I still owe most of my culinary capabilities, and all the opportunities and personal drive that came from it, to him.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten?
What’s the one thing you cannot live without?
Friends and family. Material objects don’t carry the same value. If you don’t believe me, try being alone (no human interaction, no social media) for a week. You’ll go crazy, I promise.
Where is one place you would love to travel to?
Japan. Such a huge cultural difference, as most parts of the world are. I’m just very interested in visiting there right now.
If this pans out long-term, we plan on growing Bottlefish to multiple locations. When we reach our limit, we have a few other concepts in the works. I’m also helping with a small startup downtown and planning a wedding, so I’m extremely busy and couldn’t be happier about it.
Thanks Jackson for the interview! If you guys are ever in the Los Angeles area, definitely go check out Bottlefish and say hi to Jackson!