LA TERZA | Los Angeles
Jason Travi grew up in a small town in New England, where
there was never any doubt to the life he would be leading. With
a restaurant passed down from Travi’s grandfather to his father
and uncle, he began his career in the kitchen as a dishwasher. For
five years Travi moved up the ladder from dishwashing to prep to
the salad station and finally the line. This restaurant was where
Travi learned the basics: knife cuts, cleaning calamari, making
minestrone and other Italian American staples.
With the not-so-subtle urging of his mother, Travi decided to enroll
in culinary school. He only applied to a single school- the Culinary
Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Travi began his training
in autumn of 1997. Attending the C.I.A. with people from around
the world was eye-opening for Travi who had come from a part of
Massachusetts whose population was almost exclusively of Irish or
Italian descent. This experience was the catalyst for Jason to move
to Los Angeles and work under Wolfgang Puck at Granita
Granita was a great training ground with amazing local products
that rarely found their way to New England. Between Santa Barbara
spot prawns and vegetables from Chino Farms there was so much Travi
learned and so much he experienced. In early 2000, Travi found himself
working for Puck again, but this time at Spago Beverly Hills.
This was a restaurant where if you don’t live for what you
do, you won’t survive. With four hundred covers a night, intense
cooking and screaming from chef Lee Hefter, this restaurant was
the prototype for all other large-scale fine dining restaurants.
After three years at Spago, Travi met his future wife,
Miho, in the pastry department. Shortly after his departure from
Spago in June he was offered the chef position at Opaline.
The chance to run his own kitchen and work with David Rosoff, sommelier
extraordinaire, was too good to pass up. However, even with a two-star
rating from the Los Angeles Times and “top ten best
new restaurants” from Los Angeles Magazine, the restaurant
just never caught on, and it was bought out by another chef.
For Travi, when one door closes another opens, and the opportunity
to work with Gino Angelini and open La Terza came soon
after in the summer of 2004. The restaurant features a rustic Italian
menu that centers around a wood-fired rotisserie oven. Never one
to stand in one place for too long, Travi recently left La Terza
to pursue new opportunities in Los Angeles. His ultimate goal is
to open his own restaurant with his wife.
AB: Who are your mentors?
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned
JT: Lee Hefter of Spago.
He taught me how to motivate people. Gino Angelini taught me how
AB: What is your philosophy
on food and dining?
JT: I’m all about the
products you can get. If a product isn’t great, then you need
AB: Are there any special ingredients
that you especially like?
JT: Radishes – I love
the depth of flavor.
AB: What is your most indispensable
JT: My fish spatula. It’s
more versatile than its name. I use it for everything.
AB: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
JT: Are you going to show up
after you’ve been up drinking ‘til 4 am and you’re
hung-over? How dedicated will you be?
tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
JT: Be very selective in picking
restaurants to work in. Don’t just pick based on the pay because,
usually, they’re not where you need to be.
AB: What are your favorite
JT: Visually, I like Michel
Bras’ cookbook. For utilization, I like Culinary
Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It interviews
all these famous chefs. It asks them what their favorite ingredients
are, what goes with what, and it has interviews and signature dishes.
by Carlo Middione. It helps you realize how things are really
done in Italy.
AB: What cities do you like
for culinary travel?
JT: New York. It seems that
the whole dining population there is interested in the dining experience.
Also, Tokyo has amazing food and culture and it re-works other countries’
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants – off the beaten path – in LA?
JT: Nozawa, a Japanese
sushi restaurant that has the best sushi in LA. Sunnin
is a Lebanese cafe with plastic plates and paper cups, but for $15
you can really eat. Sanbousek has a great pastry dough.
And Angelini Osteria is my favorite.
AB: What trends do you see
emerging in the restaurant industry now?
JT: I see a food revolution.
Sous vide really makes a lot of sense in terms of ease of cooking.
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 to 10 years?
JT: Owning a restaurant with