Perfect Plates

Five people, with fine food at their fingertips, on their favorite summer dishes


Chef: Paul Shoemaker, Firefly Banana cream pie, Republic of Pie

I wouldn’t consider myself a sweets person, per se. However, when I have a craving I like to go all out. This pie has the silky consistency one would hope for in a cream- based pie that melts seamlessly into the bananas. The caramel on top adds an unexpected yet simple twist to something that is so classic. I’ll have this dessert on a day when I’m feeling indulgent, so I typically eat the entire piece on my own. No shame.






Chef: Timothy Hollingsworth, Barrel & Ashes Roasted mushrooms with burnt sweet potato, The Gadarene Swine

Cooking is all about balance. Roasted mushrooms with burnt sweet potato treats each ingredient individually and, with great attention to detail, combines the vegetables into a composed dish that is earthy and hearty while still bright and interesting. It has a depth of flavor that is somewhat unexpected, given you’re eating at a vegan restaurant. The roasted mushrooms and the fresh greens are really complementary, and together they heighten the mellowness of the sweet potatoes. Perfect with a Chablis, or even a Supplication Sour beer aged in pinot barrels from Russian River Brewing Company.






Chef: Antonia Lofaso, Black Market Mom’s eggplant Parmesan

My mom serves this dish as part of a classic Italian dinner. She breads the eggplant—but not just with Progresso breadcrumbs. She adds more parsley, fresh garlic, cheese. She fries the eggplant and then layers it with mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce. It is topped with Locatelli cheese. It is stinker and saltier than Parmesan. The eggplant is already crunchy from being fried. And the baking gives it even more texture. If you don’t get enough cheese from the topping, you get it from the breading on the eggplant. It just keeps on giving.






Chef: Phillip Frankland Lee,  The Gadarene Swine Cheeseburger, Bill’s Hamburgers

I grew up in Van Nuys. So I’ve been driving by Bill’s practically my whole life. Bill’s burger reminds me of growing up and having my dad grill burgers in the backyard. However, Bill’s seasons their burgers better than my dad used to. (Sorry, Dad!) Reinvention is relative. Bill’s concept was to serve damn good honest burgers, and that’s exactly what he does. When it comes to things like burgers and hot dogs, I don’t think they need reinvention. They just need to be good. And familiar.






Host: Neil Saavedra, “The Fork Report,” KFI AM 640 Crispy octopus with tomato, potato, coriander crust, tarragon and jerez vinegar, Cliff’s Edge

I’ve had Chef Vartan’s crispy octopus many times, and each time—regardless of the seasonal preparation—I’m always delighted by the combination of bright, fresh flavors with perfectly cooked octopus. I tell people all the time that I call properly prepared octopus “bacon of the sea,” and Chef Vartan nails that description in spades! It is a wonderfully crispy yet tender eating experience that begins with one of his delicate and artistic platings and ends with an empty plate and a satiated tummy filled with sweet, savory, salty and acidy deliciousness.