Thursday, December 12, 2013

Episode 11: Chef Felix Barron, KTCHN DTLA and KTCHN 105, Los Angeles CA

Val and Eddie with Chef Felix Barron
Felix Barron built KTCHN 105 as a home chef culinary school in an industrial space in downtown Los Angeles from scratch, incorporating a gorgeous professional kitchen with a landscaped garden retreat reminiscent of Giverny. Chef Barron had initially opened as a Sunday brunch pop-up to garner attention for the school and promote his catering services, but the venture took on a life of its own and blossomed into a hugely popular underground dining spot almost by demand, Chef Barron created KTCHN DTLA as the go-to spot for week-end brunch in downtown Los Angeles.  underground dining spot. KTCHN DTLA is a roaming brunch, popping up in Downtown's under-utilized restaurants every weekend, with its home currently at The Gorbals inside The Hotel Alexandria.

Chef Barron measures for gloves
Based on his triumphant battle in Esquire's "Knife Fight", Eddie and Val were confident that Felix would be able to hit out of the park anything that was thrown at him, and so Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 11 documents one of our toughest challenges to date. Under pressure to fashion and edible dish from alligator feet from Exotic Meat, Chef Barron pulled out the heavy artillery, cooking the meat down to the consistency of carnitas and incorporating it into a corn cake topped with fresh corn, shredded cactus, cheese and onions caramelized with maple, resulting in an outstanding dish that left its footprint on Val and Eddie's taste buds. You can follow Chef Barron's recipe here if you dare - wrestling alligator into a delicious dish is no small feat.

Gator Cornmeal Pancakes

Gator Cornmeal Pancakes

  • One or two alligator feet
  • orange juice as needed
  • milk as needed
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put gator feet in a presser cooker and cover with half orange juice and milk
  2. Add spices and cook until tender, about one hour (the meat is done when the meat falls out of the skin)
  3. Pull out the bones and reserve the meat for later
Maple Onions:
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 cup maple
  • 2 oz. butter
  1. Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes
  2. Turn off heat and let set on the stove to allow the flavors to come together
  3. Reserve for later
  • 10.5 oz. flour
  • 10.5 oz. corn meal
  • 1 oz. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 32 oz. buttermilk
  • 4 oz. melted butter
  1. Sift the flour with the corn meal, baking powder and salt together
  2. Mix the eggs and buttermilk into the dry ingredients
  3. Slowly add the butter (NOTE: DO NOT OVER MIX)
  4. Cook pancake on a cast iron pan with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil
  5. Pour batter in hot pan and sprinkle the gator meat on top of the batter, letting it cook until bubbles come through
  6. Flip the pancake and cook the other side until light brown
Once cooked, plate and garnish with maple onions and optional garnishes (shaved nopales, cotija cheese, greens and brown butter)

Follow Chef Felix Barron on Twitter at  @KTCHNDTLA
Follow KTCHNDTLA on Facebook at and online at

Monday, January 14, 2013

Episode 8: Chef Jessica Christensen, City Tavern, Culver City CA

Chef Christensen preps the duck testicles
Chef Christensen's culinary talent is the blending of a playful and creative methodology with a respect for simple, easily-approachable cuisine with Southern flair - her fried grits are the stuff of legend at Culver City's City Tavern where she spends most of her time. As Director of Culinary Operations over City Tavern and nearby Rush Street, Christensen is a formidable character who knows her way around a large, sharp knife. Like many of the chefs we've worked with, Chef Christensen started in the culinary trenches of Southern California with a variety of jobs, in this case on the front line at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, eventually proving her mettle to helm The Studio at Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach.

Freshly fried duck testes
We had no doubt Chef Christensen knew her way around a duck, but suspected she had never had her hands on Daffy and Donald's progeny - once again we were staring down a sack lunch in Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 8. We presented Christensen with enough duck testicles to make our own flock, and she tore through the kitchen accentuating the fowl balls with a variety of other duck derivatives including duck bacon, duck prosciutto and duck butter (don't ask, just watch). Chef Christensen created a spectacular and colorful dish with simple, basic flavors that didn't step on each other's webbed feet and produced a culinary masterpiece with the duck testicles from that was fun, beautiful and delicious. Christensen shares the recipe here for her unique creation - give it a shot if you've got the balls:

Duck Testicles Southern-Style

  • approx. 1 lb. duck testicles
  • 1 qt. of foie gras duck fat
  • 1 sprig thyme
  1. Rinse the duck testicles in cool water and allow to drain; shake dry in a lint-free towel to remove all outside moisture
  2. Heat the duck and foie gras fat in a large sauce pot with the sprig of thyme; carefully lower the duck testicles into the duck fat when it is just barely warm
  3. Bring to barely to a simmer and monitor the duck testicles until they are firm to the touch (do not allow the fat to boil or you will fry the balls too early)

  • up to ¼ cup of duck fat for sauté
  • 1 ½ cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt, fresh ground white pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch chopped Italian parsley
  1. Pulse the cornmeal and flour in food processor and reserve
  2. When the duck testicles feel firm (like a sausage), use a skimmer to remove from the duck fat and coat well in the cornmeal and flour mixture
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add a little of the duck fat from the confit; pan-fry the testicles until just browned on the outside and slightly crisp.  Season to taste and toss with parsley.

  • 2 lbs. beet greens (washed well)
  • approx. 2 tbsp. duck fat for sauté
  • 1 breast duck bacon, lardon
  • 4 shallots, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp. red chili flake
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • approx. 4 tbsp. preserved lemon, julienned
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the duck fat over medium heat; sauté the lardon, shallots, garlic and then add the beet greens in batches as they wilt (don’t raise the heat too high or the greens will crisp instead of wilting)
  2. Season with chili, salt, pepper and vinegar
  3. Cook until liquid is almost all evaporated

  • beet stems, washed and cut into one inch sticks
  • 2 cups rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tbsp. salt

  1. Heat all of the ingredients except the stems to boiling
  2. Add stems and simmer until stems are just barely tender; allow to cool in pickling liquid

  • 2 qts. whole milk
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. of white vinegar
  • 3 juiced and zested Meyer lemons

  1. Heat milk, yogurt, cream and salt; when milk mixture starts to boil, lower heat and add remaining ingredients
  2. Simmer for about 6 minutes then pour into a coffee filter or cheesecloth suspended over a large bowl (to catch the liquids as they separate)
  3. Allow to drain slowly and do not agitate - the ricotta is good served slightly warm or can be held in the refrigerator for a few days

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Duck prosciutto, shaved thin to garnish

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl
  3. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix until batter is all moistened
  4. Pour into the greased baking pan (you can double this and cook it in a cast iron skillet – heat the skillet in the stove while you mix the ingredients and you will get a crisp outer skin to the cornbread); you can also use a greased 13x9 inch baking pan
  5. Cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes
  6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then flip onto a cooling rack 

Follow Chef Jessica Christensen on Twitter at @jkachristensen, and on Facebook at /Jessica A. Christensen
Follow City Tavern on Twitter at @CityTavernCC, on Facebook at /City Tavern - Culver City and on the web at

Monday, December 31, 2012

Episode 7: Chef Alfonso Galan, redwhite+bluezz, Pasadena CA

Chef Alfonso "Fonz" Galan has his heart in his hand
Chef Galan was brought to Kamikaze Kitchen's attention as whiz-kid who can cook anything. Having only been in the United States for 8 years, Galan has risen through the ranks in a short period of time - after graduating at the top of his class at le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts, he has served in the capacity of line cook all the way up to Executive Chef at a variety of establishments including the Peninsula Hotel's Belvedere Restaurant, The Kitchen for Exploring Foods (Pasadena), Bistro 45, Madeleine’s Restaurant Wine and Bistro and Church and State Bistro. He calls Pasadena's redwhite+bluezz home, which is where we caught up to the versatile sous chef for Episode 7 of Kamikaze Kitchen.

The heart of the matter - llama, to be exact
Chef Galan was challenged to make something edible of a llama heart procured through, and we're proud to say that his skills were worthy of his reputation. As the heart is one of the hardest working muscles in the body, Galan's quest was to render it into a dish that maintained the organ's unique flavor yet not requiring lengthy chewing like llamas on the grasses of the Argentine pampas. His dish (a variation on a bourguignon), passed with flying colors. His recipe is printed below should you wish to try to prove the adage that way to a llama's heart is through your stomach:


Llama Heart Bourguignon

  • 2 llama hearts
  • 1/2 # slab of bacon
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cups red wine
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Parsley for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Chop the celery, onion, and carrots
  2. Cut the llama heart and bacon into 1 inch cubes
  3. Place the meat into a roasting pan and add the mirepoix, aromatics, garlic, tomato paste, red wine and water
  4. Braised for 1 1/2 to 2 hours
  5. Serve with roasted potatoes and a French baguette
Follow Chef Alfonso Galan on Twitter at @fonz090965, and on Facebook at /Alfonso Fonz Galan
Follow redwhite+bluezz on Twitter at @redwhitebluezz, on Facebook at /RedWhiteBluezz and on the web at

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Episode 6: Chef Juan Mondragon, Juan's Restaurante, Baldwin Park CA

Chef Mondragon prepares iguana birria
Chef Juan Mondragon was introduced to us by friend and Mexican culture afficionado Chuy Nomas, who raved about Mondragon's expertise in the pre-Hispanic cuisine of Mexico and extensive knowledge of the health benefits of many of the dishes and ingedients used by the indiginous people. Val's penchant for wearing dragon shirts seemed particularly appropriate for Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 6, as Chef Mondragon's surname is French for "my dragon", although Mondragon only appeared to breathe fire at the end of his encounter with Kamikaze Kitchen. Mondragon was born in Mexico City and raised on a farm, where he learned to cook at a very young age in his grandmother's kitchen, using locally grown and raised ingredients (including nopales, tunas (cactus pears), cocoa and a variety of seeds such as pumpkin, chia and pine nuts).

Cut pieces of iguana and a shot of iguana blood
Mondragon is famous for his hand-crafted moles made in the style of the state of Guerrero; he uses 17 different types of chiles and utilizes recipes passed down to him by his grandmother. Having studied culinary arts at Gastronomico Chefuri Culinary Institute in Mexico City, Chef Mondragon was discovered by Ryan Seacrest, having served as Seacrest's personal chef for several years, as well as preparing food for celebrities such as Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Iron Chef Chairman Mark Dacascos, Sofia Vergara, and Raul de Molina.

Chef Mondragon shows what he's done with the mystery ingredient
Chef Mondragon recognized our ingredient immediately, having eaten iguana many times growing up; although he decided to use one or more of his grandmother Leonor Arellano's recipies, he had never cooked the reptile before (a fact made obvious by his reaction to the skinned and gutted creature lurking at the bottom of the mystery bag). With only a single iguana in tow from, Mondragon opted to alter two recipies - one with mole, and the other a birria. Mondragon is bursting with pride when he describes the joy of sharing the culinary delights from his childhood, and hopefully you will be able to use the following variation of his grandmother's recipe to make a tradition of your own:

Iguana Birria (Stew)

  • 1 whole, skinned and gutted iguana
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. oregano (dry)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole peppercorns
  • 1 whole onion
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 lbs of chile guajillo
  • salt to taste
  1. To a liter of water, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and the juice of one whole lime
  2. Allow the water and ingredients sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash the iguana thoroughly
  3. Cut the iguana into pieces of desired size
  4. Toast the garlic, cloves, bay leaves, onion and chile guajillo (the chiles can be boiled if preferred)
  5. Blend all ingredients together
  6. Heat very little oil (preferably grapeseed or cold-pressed EVO) in a sauce pan on low heat
  7. Add blended ingredients to the sauce pan
  8. Add the iguana pieces and keep on low heat
  9. Stir all ingredients every 5 minutes; do not allow the sauce to over-thicken
Iguana should be ready in 1 to 1 1/2 hours (check it after an hour)

Follow Chef Juan Mondragon on Twitter at @Chef_Mondragon, and on Facebook at /Juan Mondragon
Follow Juan's Restaurante on Twitter at @juansrestaurant, on Facebook at /Juan's Restaurante and on the web at

Episode 5: Chef Kevin Meehan, Kali Dining

Raw bison testicles
New Yorker Chef Kevin Meehan hit the road right out of culinary school, taking a position in a highly acclaimed restaurant in Belgium where he learned the ropes. On his return to the States, Meehan did time in such prestigious eateries as Mirabelle, L’Orangerie, Bastide, and did a stint as a chef for the illustrious Patina Group. While serving as Executive Chef at Los Angeles' Café Pinot, Chef Meehan participated on Food Network's “Extreme Chef” where he emerged victorious in a western-themed challenge where one of the tasks was to prepare a dish using rattlesnake.

Meehan regularly visits Asia, where he discovers exotic new ingredients and techniques and utilizes them in a unique and impressive display of culinary skill. Chef Meehan is a hunter and forager, gathering many of the ingredients he uses in his imaginative dishes. His current project is a pop-up dinner experience called Kali Dining, where a small number of guests assemble for dinner in an intimate setting, typically in someone's home. A bit of a renegade, Meehan occasionally finds a way around the recent ban on foie gras in California (offering the delicacy free of charge with his dinners). In addition to Kali Dining, Meehan has recently employed his experience with pop-ups to participate in the resurrection of Los Angeles' legendary Test Kitchen.

Chef Kevin Meehan with Kamikaze Kitchen outside a super-secret Kali Dining location
Chef Meehan is a formidable character with a wry sense of humor, and we knew that he would have no qualms about getting his hands around a pair of bison testicles for Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 5. We had no idea what to expect, but were ecstatic when Meehan presented us with several dishes, including one that features testicle sashimi in an esthetically pleasing and colorful assembly that was surprisingly delicious. As usual, the testicles were sourced from, however, folks that want to try making these dishes at home will need to improvise, as man of intrigue and mystery Meehan ate the recipe for the dishes with spring greens and light bisque.

 Smoked Testicle Sashimi with Onion Tar

Pan-seared Nut-encrusted Testicles

Follow Chef Kevin Meehan on Facebook at /Kevin Meehan
Follow Kali Dining on Twitter at @kalidining, on Facebook at /Kali Dining and on the web at

Episode 4: Chef Brendan Collins, Waterloo and City, Culver City CA

Chef Brendan Collins removes the meat from the lamb's skull
Our chef of choice for Kamikaze Kitchen Episode 4, British expatriate Chef Brendan Collins is one of the hardest working chefs in the Los Angeles area, and although he means business in the kitchen, he's also the kind of guy you'd want to down a few pints with and have a round or two of darts. Chef Collins designed the menu at Waterloo and City in tribute to simple, workingman's fare, but with an artistic flair and focus on hearty dishes using what traditionally would be called "utility cuts". From the rich, earthy blood cake to the masterpiece King's Platter of charcuterie, Collins' prowess with nose-to-tail gastropub fare is the stuff of legends, and we knew going in that Chef Collins would be able to bat out of the park any pitch we threw at him.

The lamb's head prior to cooking
Collins, a native of Nottingham, England, landed a spot at two-star Michelin restaurant, Le Gravroche, by age 17. Having mastered his craft in the UK, Chef Collins jumped the pond in 2002 to serve as chef de cuisine at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica at the request of Chef Josiah Citrin. Under his watch, Melisse received at the Mobile Four Star Rating and was one of the first California restaurants to receive a Michelin two star rating. Collins developed Orange County's Mesa Restaurant, Anisette in Santa Monica, and The Hall at Palihouse before opening Waterloo & City and serving as Executive Chef; he splits his time officiating between Waterloo and City (named after a London Tube station) and Larry's in Venice Beach.

It should have occurred to us that a chef that knows meat inside and out the way Collins does would know exactly what to do with a skinned lamb's head - using a range of techniques (which included an electric Skil saw), Chef Collins used every bit of real estate on the beast's head in a dish that included lamb brain ravioli with pea puree, chunks of savory face meat and braised tongue. The lamb's head was sourced from and a recipe for the dish is forthcoming.

 Pea Brain Ravioli

Follow Chef Brendan Collins on Twitter at @ChefBrendanC, and on Facebook at /Brendan Collins
Follow Waterloo and City on Twitter at @WaterlooandCity, on Facebook at /Waterloo and City and on the web at

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Episode 3: Chef Jet Tila, The Charleston, Santa Monica CA

Chef Jet Tila's toothpaste commercial
Chef Jet Tila was the ideal candidate for a mystery ingredient that would have sent weaker chefs screaming and running for the door; his bigger than life persona convinced us that he was the right person to take on our biggest (literally) challenge to date in Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 3. Chef Tila takes command of every situation he's in, and Episode 3 of Kamikaze Kitchen was no exception - armed with his knife-laden mini-coffin, Tila addressed the situation with skill, strength and science. Of course, Chef Tila is no stranger to challenges on a gargantuan scale - in addition to breaking world's records for the longest California roll at (at an impressive 442 feet) and a record for the largest stir fry (1,085 pounds in a single wok), he recently took the Guinness crown for a 6,658 pound fish stew at UMass Amherst (using the same pan as the one used for the stir fry).

Tila cut his teeth as a boy working in the renowned Bangkok Market and Royal Thai restaurant in L.A.'s Thai Town, further honing his skills at Le Cordon Bleu and California Sushi Academy. In addition to appearing on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Chef Tila has also regularly appeared on NPR and the Food Network, as well as clashing blades with legendary chef Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America. Tila has written regular columns for The Los Angeles Times and Las Vegas Weekly, is a frequent guest on KCRW's Good Food with Evan Kleiman and is the host of KLAA's radio program, The SoCal Restaurant Show.
Making Chef Tila an offer he can't re
Chef Tila's reputation led him to be chosen to helm Wazuzu at Wynn Las Vegas’ Encore casino in Las Vegas, where he served as Executive Chef from 2008 through 2011, a stint that earned the restaurant a place on Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot List Tables” list. In 2011, he returned to Los Angeles to partner with Chef Alex Ageneau on the innovative BistroNominics fine dining pop-up. He recently became owner and Executive Chef of The Charleston in Santa Monica, California a night spot, drinking and dining establishment that exudes a classy 1920s vibe, which is where Kamikaze Kitchen caught up with him to do a little contract work and accept an offer he couldn't refuse. Chef Tila quickly dispatched of our victim and transformed an alligator's head into a variation of The Charleston's signature dish which he simply calls, "Gator and Waffles". If you feel so inclined to acquire an alligator's head from and attempt Chef Tila's creation, a recipe is provided here:

The assembled Gator and Waffles

Gator and Waffles

Chicken-fried Alligator
  • 1/2 gallon buttermilk
  • 2 qts. water
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cajun or crab boil spices
  • 1 gallon oil (grape seed or peanut)
  1. Using a sharp knife, pull as much meat as possible off the alligator's head in pieces about the size of two fingers; if you find a bullet, set it aside as a conversation piece
  2. Heat the water until boiling and then add the salt; when the salt is dissolved, remove from heat and refrigerate
  3. Add the pieces of alligator meat to the cold salt water, making sure the meat is completely submerged; refrigerate for 1 hour
  4. Pour off the brine and rinse the container, placing the meat back in afterwards
  5. Add enough buttermilk to cover the meat and refrigerate overnight
  6. Drain off and replace the buttermilk and refrigerate for at least another 2 hours
  7. Combine flour and your choice of spices in a large bowl
  8. Heat the fryer or large skillet to 350°
  9. Dredge the meat through the flour until evenly coated
  10. Add the meat to the oil and fry until brown color is achieved; remove and drain on a rack


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  1. Combine all ingredients and blend until evenly mixed.
  2. Coat hot waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray
  3. Pour or ladle waffle batter evenly onto hot waffle iron and cook until golden brown

Assembling the Dish:

  1. Stack the alligator fingers upright on the waffle
  2. Garnish with chopped red onion and chiles, top with cilantro
  3. Serve with small cup of maple syrup with swirl of Sriracha
Follow The Charleston on Twitter at and on Facebook at /TheCharlestonLA
Follow Chef Jet Tila on Twitter at on Facebook at /chefjettila
and on the web at