The expression “less is more“, has always been an adage to the lifestyle of keeping things pure and simple. In the case of Chef Govind Armstrong, he takes that adage very seriously. His obsession with fresh, seasonal ingredients and produce is one of the reasons why he’s becoming a prominent player in the culinary industry. His background in French-Californian cuisine has provided him an opportunity to be an executive chef, owner, author, and personal chef (makes his own organic baby food) to his beautiful 1-year-old daughter.
Over the years, Chef Armstrong has opened and operated a number of eateries including Post & Beam and ROFL Cafe (both in Los Angeles). He’s also in the process of expanding his other restaurant, 8oz. Burger Bar, all over the country with locations in Miami, Seattle and Mississippi. So needless to say, this is one chef who doesn’t mind having a lot on his plate. After landing safely in the frigid Northeast, Govind Armstrong was kind enough to chat for a bit. Hope you enjoy!
Chris: So, later tonight, the Mohegan Sun Winefest will be in full stride, kicking off what should be a very cool weekend. Cool as in rad because it’s freezing in here in New England. What are your plans for the next couple of days?
Govind Armstrong: It was definitely a reality check getting off the plane. Haha. I’m here to work man. It’s my 9th year here and it’s a cool event. And I think that ongoing commitment to the event is a testament to the honest, hard-working people who run and coordinate it every year. While I’m here, I’ll be participating in a Bourbon tasting as well as a book signing on Sunday.
C: You’re going to be a part of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around as well, correct?
GA: Yeah I’m doing a new, compilation dish. Something I’ve never done before but there are some familiar elements in the dish that I’ve used at my restaurants. I’ll be making a Lamb pastrami (the lamb is soaked for five days in a “funky” brine and then coated with a dry rub) accompanied by some delicata squash. There are some very layered, defined flavors in the dish since I’m using lamb belly.
C: I’ve spent most of the morning watching episodes of your Republic of Laughter Café YouTube videos. Really dig the concept behind your web series. Any memorable moments?
GA: Yeah man, it’s a fun concept that I’ve been working on for a while. The ROFL Cafe is in a great little neighborhood in LA (Melrose). I’d say one of my favorite moments are the Sunday strolls through my local Farmer’s Market with my little girl. I just have a bunch of great farmer friends and there are tons of seasonal produce.
C: I also noticed in one other episode, the importance of using fresh, organic food as much as possible when it comes to your cooking. Why don’t you think more chefs play to this rule?
GA: I think it just doesn’t come as easy for some chefs. You need a real balance to find out what you can afford because it does cost a little more. I also know how lucky I am to be able to utilize organic food into my cooking. Living in California gives me that opportunity to always be surrounded by markets and gardens. Los Angeles has the climate for year round markets. Some place don’t.
C: I’ve read that you started your culinary journey at a very young age under the wing of Chef Wolfgang Puck. How old were you when you really knew this was something you wanted to do?
GA: 9, 10, 11 yrs old maybe. At that time it wasn’t just about eating. It was looking at the stove and coming up with ways to make the best eggs or pancakes imaginable. Growing up here and in Costa Rica, having a garden in our backyard was always a part of my childhood and like I said, it’s something I’m very lucky to have had.
C: What did you take away from working alongside Chef Puck?
GA: I was able to experience and help create ground-breaking food and at the time Wolfgang’s work was revolutionizing the way people were eating. It was right around the time of the California cuisine boom. I was more of a sponge than anything. I did what I was told and made sure to stay out of people’s way. Haha.
C: In three words, what would you say to your 13-year-old self now?
GA: Keep pushing forward.
C: In three words, describe Wolfgang Puck.
GA: Very patient man.
C: Ok, so I know you appreciate a good burger (80z. Burger Bar). What would be your “ultimate” burger (toppings and all)?
GA: It’s actually a burger I just created for my restaurant, Post and Beam. It’s a grounded beef patty blend of sirloin, chuck, brisket and beef navel. The burger is then topped with slices of 10-day aged beef bacon, a fried egg, white cheddar, BBQ aioli, spicy mustard and arugula.
C: Thank you Chef for taking the time to chat. We’ll hopefully see you this weekend!
GA: Thanks man! Bye.