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Humble Beginnings, Executive Talent

Chef Larry Greenwood’s rise to culinary fame is a classic story of individual talent working its way through the ranks of a kitchen, from entry-level dishwasher to prestigious executive chef. Unlike most other fine-dining chefs, Mr. Greenwood did not receive any formal culinary training, but was guided by his passion and intuition to create dishes that are soulfully prepared, and that he knew would be good.

Prior to taking the reins as Executive Chef at STK, Los Angeles, Chef Greenwood’s ability has taken him all over America, and even abroad to Tehran, Iran, where he served as chef and consultant at the Raamtin Hotel before opening his own restaurant, Bistango. With a keen sensibility to local ingredients, as well as a refined, cosmopolitan vision of food styles and preparation, Chef Greenwood has truly earned his esteemed status as a leading chef in America’s culinary scene. Recently, we had the chance to pick Chef Greenwood’s brain about his past, current position with STK, and what he likes to eat when not cooking.

-How did you begin your career in the culinary field?

I first started my career working as a dishwasher in Calgary, Alberta. From there I worked my way up to a line cook for many different restaurants. It was not until I was about 21 years old that I started to enjoy the art of cooking.  I was hired at River Café, in Calgary, where all ingredients are sourced from local farms, and everything is made from scratch—the chefs put a lot T.L.C. into each dish. This restaurant really opened my eyes to cooking as an art, especially by using of local ingredients, and keeping the food simple but well prepared.

-What restaurants did you work at prior to this one?

I have broadened my horizons a great deal since River Café. I traveled to San Diego, California when I was 25 years old, in which I was brought on as a pastry assistant under James Foran. After a year in San Diego, I was hired as Chef de Cuisine for Balboa Bay Club, in Newport Beach, California. From there I started new ventures that led me to a Chef/Consultant position in Iran, as well as my positions with BOA Steakhouse, the Standard Hotel in Hollywood, and ultimately to where I am now as the Executive Chef of STK in Los Angeles.

When I heard that ONE Group was looking for a chef for STK-LA, I jumped at the chance.  I was flown to New York to prepare a personal tasting for owner Celeste Fierro.  I showcased a wide range of dishes and, overall, I think I did pretty well. Celeste offered me the position within the hour.

Since that first tasting, I have appreciated and respected Celeste’s feedback.  When we change or add a menu item in Los Angeles, Celeste makes an effort to fly in from New York to try the dishes first hand.  While we have very similar taste, she has a unique talent for being able to direct the final product toward something she knows our guests will truly appreciate.

-What appetizer, entrée, and dessert is the restaurant most well known for?

At STK we are, of course, very well know for our steaks. We strive to put out the best quality cuts of meat that you can buy. We serve a great deal of seafood dishes as well, one of them being our highly sought after scallops appetizer. The dish consists of Parmesan bellinis, maple corn foam, diver scallops, and is garnished with shaved black truffles and chives. For those who are not craving steak after their appetizer, we have a nice selection of entrees to choose from. The Charred Bigeye Tuna is a favorite with our guests, consisting of Bigeye Tuna brought in from Honolulu, asparagus and potato hash, a goat cheese crème fraiche, and a Serrano pepper relish. For those that are still hungry and have a sweet tooth, we have a decadent chocolate chip cookie topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce that everyone just loves.

-Are you a globetrotter? If so, do you get inspiration for your dishes from places you traveled to?

I have not traveled a lot, but the places I have visited were very unique, like Iran, Singapore, Dubai, and Thailand.  I enjoyed seeing the different ways people prepared foods in Asia, the Middle East, even Canada, and used that experience to enhance my cooking with those ideas, whether it is a unique style of plating, or the simple use of special ingredients that I could somehow incorporate into my own.

-When you’re not cooking up creations at your own restaurant, where can we find you dining?

When I am not cooking at work I really enjoy a wide variety of restaurants. I love to search out great high-end burgers, yet also enjoy a lighter dinner of sushi and robata. There is the off-chance I will check out other steak restaurants to compare quality and service, but for the most part I eat steak at STK on a regular basis.

-What’s your favorite drink?

As far as drinking with my meal, I love to sip on Maker’s Mark Bourbon to begin (or finish) a sitting, but usually enjoy a nice full-bodied cabernet.

-What’s your favorite past time?

When I am not in the kitchen or dining at another restaurant, you will most likely see me riding my motorbike down the coast or enjoying the outdoors near the beach.

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014