LA’s Chef John Rivera Sedlar Wins Chef of the Year & Best New Restaurant

In an ode written to young, aspiring cooks throughout the United States and the world, Esquire magazine Restaurant Critic John Mariani pens an appreciation to a veteran chef of Hispanic decent that has forever altered the way that the world understands and appreciates the history and culture of Latin foods.  From the Esquire awards site, Mr. Mariani writes the following:

Dear young chef: Congratulations on your graduation from culinary school! Unless you’re busy competing on a TV show to become a celebrity chef, the smart move would be to apprentice yourself to a master like John Sedlar. He’s twice your age, but he cooks with more verve and a deeper understanding of ingredients than any ten cooks you went to school with. He was born in Santa Fe and always married Mexican and South American food with a southern-California swagger — cutting edge neo-Latino cuisine. At Playa, his thrilling new restaurant, he presents reflexiones (his translation: “windows into memories”), thematic dishes that reflect his favorite chefs or movies — A Clockwork Orange was a recent theme. After you get your pig tattoo, order a mess of tortillas he calls “maize cakes” — one is made with wild mushrooms, black garlic, olives crushed to look like soil, L’Explorateur cheese, and mushroom foam. Try to assess the delicacy of a dish like corn custard with Cotija, black quinoa, and squash-blossom sauce, and learn how he builds flavor into piquillos relleños with Gruyère, golden raisins, and chorizo. Then beg him for a job peeling vegetables.

Chef Sedlar owns two restaurants in Los Angeles, California – the critically acclaimed RIVERA in downtown Los Angeles, and the new Playa, named by Esquire as among the Best New Restaurants in America.  These awards arrive on the heels of the Thirtieth Anniversary of his historic Saint Estephe Restaurant in Manhattan Beach, California, a dining room that was the first American restaurant to witness foods such as the tamale and the blue corn tortilla – indeed, the foods of his childhood – served in a fine dining, white tablecloth restaurant.  The month long retrospective enjoyed a wealth of media attention, honoring Chef Sedlar as one of the primary architects of Modern Latin & Southwest Cuisines.

Upon being named the first chef of Hispanic origin to receive this award, Mr. Mariani generously suggested that the award was not simply in recognition of the two critically acclaimed restaurants currently doing business in Los Angeles, but for a lifetime of commitment to the chef’s Hispanic heritage, indeed of introducing the foods, culture, and history of Latin cuisine into the popular culture of American diners.

When speaking of the importance of opening his first LA restaurant (since Saint Estephe, thirty years earlier) in the downtown historic district, Chef Sedlar was emphatic, offering that “It was critical.  Downtown Los Angeles is the crossroads of culture, heritage, race, and ethnicity.  It is the place where an entire world of Hispanic American’s arrived to settle and form homes, and families, and careers.  I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

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Best New Restaurant in America.  It is a phrase that speaks to the talent and commitment of a chef.  It is a phrase that infers a staff of unparalleled knowledge and devotion.  It is a phrase that rewards a group of financial investors.  It is a phrase that changes careers and increases the awareness of a talented group of people that labor night after night after night to produce a simple product, the complexity of which most patrons will never even consider. And it is a phrase the rewards diners with the knowledge that they have snagged among the best reservations possible and will enjoy among the most innovative menus in America.

Today, three Los Angeles chefs traveled to New York City to be recognized by Esquire magazine as among the best new restaurants in America – Chefs Steve Samson and Zach Pollack of Sotto and Chef John Sedlar of Playa.  Each of these chefs epitomizes commitment to craft, and each helms the kitchens of two of LA’s most critically acclaimed, dynamic and successful dining rooms.  In addition, Chef Sedlar was named Chef of the Year, an honor that arrives on the heels of the thirtieth anniversary retrospective of his original fine dining destination, Saint Estephe.

We invite you to visit the Esquire Site for the full list of 2011 Best New Restaurant honorees and The Chef of the Year.

We then invite you to make a reservation and enjoy both of the Los Angeles recipients of Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurant in America – SOTTO and PLAYA.

Bon Appetit.

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