Learn more about The Tasting Kitchen’s Executive Chef Travis Passerotti
Located on Abbot Kinney in Venice, The Tasting Kitchen is a contemporary Italian restaurant designed around a central olive tree in the entrance with a New American farm to table heritage. Their menu changes regularly based on fresh seasonal produce and offers an optional tasting format as a guided dining experience. Dishes include handmade pastas, in-house cured meats and produce from farmers markets on the Westside, and the neo-classical cuisine is amplified by a purposely-curated wine portfolio and a celebrated cocktail program.
Executive chef Travis Passerotti leads The Tasting Kitchen’s award-winning food program with his passion for sustainably sourced ingredients and expert knowledge of local food communities. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, he grew up exploring farmers markets with his father, who was also a chef and restaurateur. He was also influenced by his mother’s love of culinary heritage and hospitality.
Passerotti honed his culinary skills by studying under classically trained European chefs including Chef Bollag (Bruno’s Chef Kitchen) and Chef Landsberg (Inn at The Seventh Ray, King Estate Winery). He worked with Chef Landsberg at King Estate Winery, directing the charcuterie program before moving to Los Angeles in 2013. Passerotti draws inspiration from Nouvelle French and Contemporary American cuisines, the American local food movement and farmhouse ideology, and each dish he creates reflects the provenance of its ingredients while still emphasizing light, bright Mediterranean European flavor profiles that complement the flavors of Southern California.
We chatted with Passerotti, who shared what sparked his initial interest in the culinary arts, the signature dish he’s best known for, the kitchen tool he can’t live without and more.
What got you interested in cooking?
It all started when I was a freshman in high school and over the summer I decided that I should receive lunch money during the off-school months as well, to which my father replied, “Why don’t you get a job?” At the time he was managing a well-known restaurant in Eugene, Oregon that had just opened up a new concept, and by the end of the week, he helped me get my food handler’s certificate and a job washing dishes. By that time I had been running around in restaurants for a while and was crazy excited to be a part of the kitchen.
How did you become a chef?
Lots of hard work, missed family and social events, and a strong commitment to learning. Once I had truly committed to cooking in my early twenties, I knew being a chef was my end game. Becoming a chef is a hard moment to nail down; there is so much that goes into it. To me, one of the deciding characteristics is how much you are able to teach the people cooking for you. Before I became an executive chef, there were days when I would spend my time showing people how to execute recipes or answer questions about products, and in those moments were the first times I felt like I had earned the title of chef.
Most important thing you learned in culinary school?
When I was looking at culinary schools I was already working as a line cook, and I knew there was merit in attending a culinary program, but at the time I was more interested in actually cooking. I worked for several European-trained chefs and practiced the apprentice/journeyman approach to learning the culinary arts. I have always learned more effectively from watching and doing than in a classroom.
What’s the first dish you learned to make really well?
I’m going to have to go broad strokes for this one; not a dish per se but a singular food item: the egg. I worked with an old school line cook, like the ones you can read about in the old Bourdain books. His name was Rivers and he could be a mean sob sometimes, but that man taught me how to cook eggs.
Signature dish you’re known for?
That’s always a tough one; I love cooking with wild mushrooms. I can personally guarantee that when we cook with wild mushrooms here that they are properly respected. I do a Basque-inspired Funghi Misti with Pedro Ximenez sherry every winter that I deeply love; it tends to hit the menu right when Chanterelles are booming.
Favorite ingredient to cook with and why?
Whichever vegetable or fruit is absolutely the freshest at the moment. We live in such an amazing place for fresh food, it has changed the way I cook irreversibly. That being said, I can’t wait to get my hands on some corn!
Kitchen tool you can’t live without?
Other than a nice knife? A nice spoon goes a long way. I love building relationships with my tools and I can say that the bond between a chef and their spoons is a hard one to break. I will tear the kitchen apart looking for one of my spoons when it goes missing.
Who do you look up to in the culinary world?
Who don’t I look up to is the real question. I love the grandmas and grandpas all over the world keeping forgotten cuisines alive; the fishermen, farmers, ranchers and all of the people doing the hard work to grow and raise the fine ingredients we get to cook with; every young cook who is out there breaking boundaries and changing the rules; and most importantly, all of our spouses who put up with our terrible schedules and support us anyway.
What do you love about being a chef?
The ability to connect with strangers, friends and family alike over a common experience or memory attached to foods and dining. And the opportunity to teach and learn from fellow culinarians.
The Tasting Kitchen
1633 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice