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California Questionnaire: Michael Cimarusti

The acclaimed chef behind Providence and Connie and Ted’s shares his insights on the Golden State

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Seafood and sustainability are the common denominators at Michael Cimarusti’s four Los Angeles County restaurants. “Seafood has inspired me in a personal way from the very start,” the 2019 James Beard Award winner says. “It is my duty to staunchly support its conservation and best practices, and it’s my privilege to have the opportunity to showcase it on a nightly basis.”

Nightly basis indeed: Cimarusti’s culinary influence can be experienced all over the greater Los Angeles area. The New Jersey native scored big with his first launch, Providence, a fine dining establishment on Melrose Avenue that holds two Michelin stars. He followed that up with Connie and Ted’s, a playful, low-key homage to New England seafood joints that somehow works perfectly in West Hollywood. Cimarusti is also the driving culinary force at Il Pesce Cucina at Eataly L.A. on Santa Monica Blvd. and Best Girl at Ace Hotel Downtown.

We asked Cimarusti to share some of his favorite tidbits about life in California, and this is what he told us.

Where do you live? South Pasadena.

Why there? Because it reminds me of where I grew up—Pennington, New Jersey—a small town, 10 minutes from Princeton. South Pasadena is a beautiful town that feels light years from L.A. in spite of its proximity to downtown. The schools are great and the tree-lined streets are wide and quiet as long as the wild parrots that live in the area are in someone else’s backyard.

Who or what is your greatest California love? The food scene in L.A. is the best in the country—bar none, full stop. There is great fishing just off our beautiful coast and the lakes and streams are full of bass and trout. The weather is amazing: We eat Thanksgiving in our backyard—good luck trying that in New York or Chicago or Boston, or...

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we are all vapid, celebrity-obsessed, gluten-free, crystal-clutching surfers.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? Nothing comes to mind. California is the most diverse place that I have ever lived, and that is what makes it so special.

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Roscoe Zuckerman’s colossal asparagus from the Sacramento River Delta!

Time for a road trip—where are you going? Anywhere along the coast of California. A leisurely drive along Highway 1 is one of the most beautiful drives to be had anywhere in the world. The area around Big Sur and Morro Bay are particularly scenic. If you are driving around San Simeon or Cambria at the right time of year, be sure to pull off the road and observe the elephant seals.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? A visit to the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco.

How do you define California style? California style is casual and loose with a touch of bohemian chic. Sunglasses, floppy hats, and sandals are a must.

Best California song? “Estimated Prophet “ by the Grateful Dead. Growing up in New Jersey, this song conjured up beautiful, luminous visions of the California coast. Living here now I realize that those visions didn’t quite capture the true beauty of our coast.

“California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas. This might just be the most beautiful love letter ever written to California—specifically Los Angeles. It was one of the first bona fide hits to come out of the counter culture.

How would your California dream day unfold? Wake up early Sunday morning. Head to the Hollywood Farmers Market with my wife and kids. Buy whatever is in season. Next we head to Cookbook in Highland Park to buy a chicken for the rotisserie. Stop for lunch at El Huarache Azteca, order the Super Huarache with both sauces and an egg on top and a large Jamaica to wash it all down. Head home, crack a beer, make my son prepare a charcoal fire on our Santa Maria–style grill. My wife and I start to cook around 5 p.m., hopefully she makes something for dessert. We eat around 7:30, in the backyard, preferably with a few friends, cap off the night with a glass of bourbon and in bed by 11:30 p.m.

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