CHATEAU MARMONT | Los Angeles
Mohammad Islam became interested in the culinary world through
a passion for cheese and wine. Islam is a late-in-life career changer,
leaving computer engineering for fine-dining after a long soul-searching
fishing trip in Montana.
Islam has developed his career in the kitchens of numerous restaurants,
which includes positions in award-winning restaurants such as The
Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton in Chicago, where he worked
closely with Sarah Stegner, a James Beard Best Chef award winner.
Islam was also the executive sous chef at the famed Mercer
Kitchen in New York City, working extensively as part of the
senior team with world-renowned four-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Islam also held a brief stint at Jean-Georges’ flagship restaurant,
Aside from his mastery of the kitchen, Islam enjoys hiking, mountain
climbing and skiing. He currently resides in West Hollywood with
his wife and newborn son.
AB: Did you attend culinary
school? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs today?
Do you only hire chefs with culinary school backgrounds?
MI: I was older and didn't
have the financial means for schooling. I would recommend school
to aspiring chefs because it helps to build the basics. But I hire
any person with ambition and passion.
AB: Who are your mentors? What
are some of the most important things you’ve learned from
MI: Gabino Sotelino of
Ambria in Chicago who helped to direct my ambition. Sarah Stegner
of Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, taught me the importance of discipline.
Jean-Georges helped to bloom my creativity and imagination.
AB: What is your philosophy
on food and dining?
MI: There are no shortcuts.
Everything I cook is made from scratch. I believe in using the best
products that I can find including local, organic and seasonal produce.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients
that you especially like?
MI: Chinese dry beans. I use
them in braising and for depth of flavor and complexity. I also
use fresh tamarind to add a hint of sourness to dishes.
AB: What is your most indispensable
MI: A mortar and pestle - because
I like to be able to control the texture and coarseness, as well
as keeping flavors fresh and vibrant.
AB: What is your favorite question
to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
MI: Do you like this profession
or love it?
AB: What tips would you offer
young chefs just getting started?
MI: Discipline and concentration.
That is what I see lacking in most young people today.
AB: What are your favorite
MI: Earlier Charlie
Trotter cookbooks. Georges Blanc's Simple
French Cooking, Alice Waters' Chez
Panisse books , The
River Café cookbook.
AB: What cities do you like
for culinary travel?
MI: Any foreign place I am
lucky enough to visit. I am always interested in trying something
new and learning new techniques.
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants – off the beaten path – in Los Angeles?
MI: Royal Star and
Yuca taco stand.
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 to 10 years?
MI: Continuing to create good
food with a strong following. Pursuing and continuing my passion.