Q+A: Chef Anne Lee Huffman dishes up the iHeartSilverlake Eastside Food Festival

By MEGAN HUGHES
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Chef Anne Lee Huffman of Castle Gourmet beams with positivity which makes us believe that in a town of smoke and mirrors, she’s the real deal. Take her latest endeavor, the iHeartSilverlake EastSide Food Festival, setting off on November 9th at Mack Sennett Studios. Chef Anne Lee has pulled together some of LA’s favorite chefs, brewers and tastemakers for special guest appearances, panel discussions, DJs, gift bags for Angelenos to devour. Alimento, Pine & Crane and Black Hog are just a few of the restaurants who will be dishing up food, with drinks from the Silverlake Wine Shop and Angel City Brewing Company: all of this in an effort to raise money for non-profit organization, PATH (People Assisting The Homeless).

Chef Anne Lee’s influence stems from both her travels and her community; her broad perspective helps focus her work on giving back. She explains, “Everyone wants the community to do better, so we want to support each other in every way we can.” Ahead of the festival, we chatted with Chef Anne Lee about community, her personal philosophy, the east side of Los Angeles and of course, her favorite food:

LA CANVAS: There are a ton of recognizable chefs and restaurants contributing towards this event- most of whom are pretty busy with their own restaurants and appearances. Let’s be blunt, how did you get such an all-star lineup like Ari Taymor (Bon Apetit’s ‘Best New Restaurant’ in the America) or Craig Thornton of the famed underground dinner party, Wolvesmouth? 

CHEF ANNE LEE: It’s true – these guys are busy! Not everyone that we reached out to was able to come on board because of that. I had a great time working with Zach from the Food is the New Rock podcast curating the list of restaurants that we chose to invite. Zach has some great relationships with chefs that he has had on the podcast in the past, so it was a great place to start reaching out. I think what drove people to commit was the message – we are really trying to make this a community event – something to support and feature locally-owned and operated businesses.

LAC:  The festival is benefitting PATH. Tell us a little about how you got involved with the charity.

AL: PATH is awesome! The issue of homelessness is one that effects all of us. The work they do is unique because they are trying to help with the long term – by getting people in to permanent homes. It’s the permanent part that really makes a difference.  The PATH offices are also just down the street from Mack Sennett Studios, so we liked the idea of benefitting an organization right in the neighborhood.

LAC: Taking on a food festival, especially with a such a broad focus of the East Side of Los Angeles  is a HUGE endeavor. Your cooking style seems to lean more towards vegan but it seems that most of the restaurants attending the festival aren’t. How are you preserving your approach to food while balancing theirs?

AL: Though I am a vegan chef, the reasons behind this are based in sustainability and environmental reasons.  I respect those that do things conscientiously, even if they do not fit in the exact parameters of my personal approach.  The other side of things is my respect for any chef – no matter what they are cooking.  When a locally owned true “farm to table” restaurant like Pine and Crane opens up, it excites me as much as any vegan restaurant would. On the same note, I’m beyond excited that we are able to feature great names from the vegetarian community – Elf Café and Kitchen Mouse are two of my favorite veggie locations in L.A.

LAC: Is this a festival that you’d be interesting in parlaying to other parts of Los Angeles? 

AL: I think that any community has a place for this type of event. It would certainly make sense in Venice or other westside areas.  For me, this is about my own community in the eastside of L.A. Part of the reason I wanted to focus on the eastside is that when I go to food festivals, the large majority of restaurants would be from, say, Beverly Hills or West Hollywood. I thought there was a gap there and I want to help showcase all of the amazing establishments that we’ve got going on in this part of town.

LAC: Is your hope that each year, you benefit a different charity?

AL: Working with PATH has been great, and I definitely think that we will continue to work with them. Not to say that there might be room in the future for other benefactors as well.

LAC: You’ve traveled and lived in some pretty exotic places with stellar food scenes. Give us a peek behind your curtain! Which restaurants and chefs in LA best represent these experiences for you?

AL: Most people will tell you that I’m addicted to Thai food, as well as almost any kind of Asian food. Traveling through Thailand and learning to make Thai food in the kitchens of  Thai people was one of the best travel experiences that I have had in terms of food. Everything was so fresh and flavorful, nothing pre-packaged. The fresh ingredients really make it! Chef Kris at Night Market Song in Silverlake really does this well, with fresh chilis and herbs that really set [his cuisine] apart. Pine and Crane is another one that really does this well. Oh and Starry Kitchen! So delicious.

The iHeartSilverlake EastSide Food Festival is on November 9, 2014, from 4pm-8pm. Get your tickets

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