Olive oil is like wine: we have two very good harvests every year. Every six months we’re receiving something new and fresh.
Pascal Lorange knows haute cuisine. He has worked for three-star Michelin Chef Georges Blanc, served as Julio Iglesias’ private chef and has personally cooked for Oscar de la Renta, Princess Stephanie of Monaco and the Clintons, among others. This Belgian-born foodie is now the bi-coastal Corporate Executive Chef for one of LA’s hautest restaurants, the French Riviera-inspired Fig & Olive. Here, Lorange discusses his passion for olive oil, cooking for Bill Clinton and what it was like preparing a $17,900 per-plate meal for our newly re-elected President, Barack Obama.
Why do you think Fig & Olive has become so popular in LA?
We try to do something different from everyone else. Our concept is healthy food; we don’t use any sauce. The only sauce we use is olive oil. We want our food to taste like food. We don’t try to cover the natural flavors with sauce, cream or butter (it is really healthy). Our food is really healthy.
What is your favorite dish to prepare?
We just introduced the new Chilean Sea Bass with heirloom carrots confit, which is finished with a puree of cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil. It’s the number one most popular dish in LA. It’s really clean—there’s almost no fat— and the fish is really flaky and flavorful.
Which type of olive oil do you prefer to use in your dishes?
I really like the Marques de Grignon, an olive oil from Spain. It’s very green, and goes well with fish and tomatoes.
What is the most expensive olive oil you use?
The Marques is $4.50 a liter and is top range. We import new oils twice a year, usually from Chile and Australia. Olive oil is like wine: we have two very good harvests every year. Every six months we’re receiving something new and fresh.
Who are you celebrity regulars?
Jodie Foster was coming every two weeks and Halle Berry is in pretty often. David Beckham is often spotted there, as are Lionel Richie and Sharon Stone. There are many famous people who dine here.
You’ve had the opportunity to cook for a variety of celebrities. Who else have you personally made meals for?
I was Julio Iglesias’s personal chef for two years. I also got the chance to meet former President Bill Clinton. We were alone together for two weeks in the Dominican Republic ( Julio has a house there). I was seeing him every day, so I got to know what kind of foods he prefers. For example, he cannot eat any seafood. I’ve fed him twice; he really likes his food to be clean these days.
What new additions are you planning for the menu in 2013?
We have some new fish, including the Mediterranean Branzino with glazed fig, 18-year-old balsamic vinegar, snow peas and Koroneiki olive oil, as well as a French Riviera Salmon with fennel, orange, grapefruit, cherry tomato and Picholine olive oil.
You recently hosted President Obama. What did he personally say to you after eating your meal? What were his favorite dishes?
We had the chance to host a fundraising dinner for Obama. It was really stressful because we had very little time: an hour and 15 minutes to do a dinner for 20 people. But we managed, and it was very nice in the end; everything went well. We featured four different appetizers on one plate because they wanted to consolidate. There was fish, lamb, filet mignon and one dessert. I took a picture with [Barack] and then asked him to take a picture with all my chefs. He complimented me, which, coming from the President of the United States, was a huge compliment indeed.
Any plans for expansion in Los Angeles or the OC?
I’m working on a new location in Orange County right now at Fashion Island which will open in October of 2013. It’s going to be bigger: twice the size of our Melrose Place location. It’s going to be quite busy, I imagine, as it will be open all day.
Where are your favorite foodie haunts in LA?
My favorite restaurant in LA is The Bazaar by Jose Andres. I like the food and what they do with their menu. I can go every day and the food will be consistently good which is hard given how big the menu is. I’m from Belgium and love beer, and love to drink it at Chateau Marmont. When I’m in Los Angeles I’m there to work so I’m not exploring many restaurants. When I have a chance to eat proper meals, I usually head to the Chateau.