Chef Ori Menashe and Chef Genevieve Gergis are more than just the talented visionaries behind Bestia, one of LA’s premier and innovative Italian restaurants located in the Arts District. They are also the warm and passionate husband-and-wife team with plans to expand both their restaurant and family in the coming months. The pair discuss their inspirations, the LA food scene, and, of course, the challenges and rewards of mixing love and cooking.
LAC: Dishes like “sea urchin with mint and nectarine” or “cacao pasta with oxtail and currents,” and in the dessert arena, “tarts laced with butterscotch and coconut,” scream innovation and creativity. Not to mention all of your in-house cured meats. What inspires your menu?
Chef Ori: I create depending on the season. So when nectarines were in season, I created that dish to center around the nectarine. Maybe the sea urchin seems like the main ingredient there, but it was more about the nectarine. For example, I taste the nectarine and then I try to balance the nectarine with other flavors. Very seasonal and we try to think outside of the box—not to be too focused on a traditional Italian menu. Though there are a lot of traditional elements, we try to put a spin on it based on what is here in California or what produce we have available. For us, it’s all about fresh ingredients, local ingredients, and the highest quality possible. The flavor profile is just things that make sense in my head. So, you have the nectarine that is sweet and you have the brininess of the sea urchin, and add the element of mint to balance the two. Nectarines work really well with mint, maybe not with sea urchin, but with mint bringing the two together, it makes sense. Then, we put some lardo on top, which acts as the binder. You need that balance to create a dish. Whatever it is– sweetness, acidity, herbs—for me it is all about balance. The right bite of everything on the plate.
Chef Genevieve: Mine is a little bit different. I am very focused on the season too, but I would say my inspiration comes from childhood. A lot of my desserts are about experiences in my childhood. So the butterscotch and coconut actually comes from a Samoa cookie. When I was little, my absolute favorite Girl Scout cookie was a Samoa. I tried to recreate it, but I felt that the chocolate overpowered it. I ended up just using butterscotch and coconut and pairing it with a fresh coconut sorbet to give it a freshness. You get the dry coconut and then the summery coconut that goes with it. When I create a dish, I will often use an inspiration from something I’ve had and end up turning it into something that no one recognizes. Everything comes from things I love or have had along the way—a cookie, a candy, anything.
READ THE FULL FEATURE ON BESTIA HERE.
text NOAH BRISCOE
photo KATHRYNA HANCOCK