Jessica Largey can trace her culinary roots back to an early childhood experience. While watching her mom make scrambled eggs one morning, Largey took in every detail and recreated the dish on her own the next day. From that moment she was interested in everything that went on in the kitchen, gaining many early culinary skills from cooking lessons with her grandmother.
A Southern California native, Largey got her first professional gig as an intern at Los Angeles’s Providence. Her attention to detail helped earn her a position as line cook, where she worked with 2004 Los Angeles Rising Star Michael Cimarusti, furthering her training and skill in fish cookery. Cimarusti encouraged Largey to pursue a stage at Heston Blumenthal’s iconic The Fat Duck, where she helped with prep for the busy kitchen and worked the garde manger station.
Returning to Los Angeles, Largey accepted the role of opening chef at LAMILL Coffee Boutique, a coffee house opened by the team behind Providence. That year, Largey was introduced to Chef David Kinch at a Providence special event, which led to a stage at Manresa. Largey was drawn to Kinch’s philosophy and his relationship with Love Apple Farms, the restaurant’s exclusive farm partner. After working at West Hollywood’s Bastide, where she managed the fish side of the kitchen, Largey decided to move to Northern California to work at Manresa. After three years of working alongside Kinch, Largey was promoted to chef de cuisine in 2011 and continues to bring a fresh outlook and soulful approach to the produce-driven, naturalistic menu.
Interview with 2013 San Francisco Bay Area Rising Star Chef Jessica Largey
Katherine Sacks: What is your most important kitchen rule?
Jessica Largey: Take labels off of your container when you are down with them.
KS: How would you describe your style?
JL: I really like to focus on simple food that is based upon actual cooking and only using modern technique when it’s most purposeful. I feel like a lot of chefs get into these phases where they like to do everything the modern way. Squab is the only meat I like to cook sous vide, because it’s the best technique for that piece of meat.
KS: Where do you get your inspiration?
JL: I think I'm very inspired by produce. I don’t really look through cookbooks for inspiration as much as I look through an herb book or a wild food book. I pulled all these dishes out of my brain just a few nights ago just by looking through an issue of National Geographic.
KS: What has been the most challenging you’ve done in your career?
JL: Currently it is trying to learn how to manage and inspire other people to push themselves as good cooks while keeping in mind to push myself. I want to keep learning and growing and cooking as much as I can even though I have these new responsibilities.
KS: And what are you most proud of?
JL: My commitment to stay and really invest in restaurants—my three years at Providence and now almost four years here [at Manresa]. Also having the decisiveness to leave when the time is right.
KS: What advice do you have for young cooks?
JL: Observe as much as you can while focusing on the task at hand, keep in mind that everybody has a role to play, and have respect overall for every aspect of the kitchen.