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Photo Credit: Jon Deshler

Jason Travi
La Terza
8384 W 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-8384

Recipe »

Interview:
Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Jason Travi: My whole family inspired me to be a chef. My grandfather, my dad, and three of my uncles were all chefs.

AB: Did you attend culinary school? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs today?
JT: I went to The Culinary Institute of America. I don’t recommend culinary schools today. You can work in a proper restaurant and learn everything you would learn in school and more, and get paid along the way instead of paying. I learned a lot from school but the price no longer makes sense.

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Jason Travi
LA TERZA | Los Angeles


Biography
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 in Malibu.

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.

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Interview Cont'd
AB: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
JT: Lee Hefter of Spago. He taught me how to motivate people. Gino Angelini taught me how to teach.

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 to adapt.

AB: Are there any special ingredients that you especially like?
JT: Radishes – I love the depth of flavor.

AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
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?

AB: What 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 cookbooks?
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. And Sicilian 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’ food.

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 my wife.

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  •    Published: May 2006

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