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 didn’t live for what you did, you wouldn’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 featured a rustic Italian menu that centered around a wood-fired rotisserie oven. Never one to stand in one place for too long, Travi left La Terza in 2006, shortly after winning a Los Angeles Rising Stars Award, to open Fraiche, and then later joined team with restaurateur Jeffrey Best to helm Firefly in Studio City.