What is your food philosophy?
“Enjoy it, destroy it” is a phrase that I heard my friend Kit use years ago and it’s always resonated with me in regards to cooking. Food is one of my favorite art forms and I love the idea that we can create or grow something of beauty and then are welcomed to lustfully cut into it, ingest it, transform it… To me the process of consumption is just as interesting as the growth or preparation.
How do you start the day?
Each morning I start the day with a big cup of brewed cacao. My sweet partner Saam turned me onto a product called Crio Brew that is simply roasted ground cacao that we make just like coffee in a French press, it’s just incredible with The CAP Coconut Butter blended into it. I’m extremely sensitive to caffeine in the morning and the cacao has the rich bitterness I crave from a cup of coffee but with more heart opening elation and fewer panic attacks. When I’m at his house we take turns in the mornings playing his gong (preferably naked) while the water heats up and the cacao is brewing (trust me, the fact that this OOOOZES “Los Angeles” is not lost on us and we find the entire thing hilarious and ridiculously fun).
How did you get into cooking, what's been your career trajectory to opening Highly Likely?
I grew up in Northeastern Wisconsin with woods on one side of the house and fresh water on the other. My mother Sheila is an avid home cook and my father “Scotty” (he was from Scotland, hence the nickname that everyone, including my mother called him) was a gifted gardener and summers were spent fishing, picking raspberries, digging around in the dirt, and enjoying meals outdoors barefoot and mosquito bitten. To this day Sheila has an incredible collection of cookbooks from all over the world that I still pore over; I suppose they sparked my curiosity not only for food, but for travel which I did A LOT of as a private chef.
In college I was a theater and fine art major, and after that I studied photography and advertising at Art Center in Pasadena. That path led to a brief career as an actress all the while selling expensive lingerie at Agent Provocateur and moonlighting as a go-go and burlesque dancer in Hollywood.
In 2008 the financial crisis and the writer’s strike led me to re-evaluate my career. I had picked up a part-time job cooking at my friend Miranda’s spot, “Flore” in Silver Lake and it reignited my young love for cooking. I decided to pack it all up and move to NYC for a year to attend the Natural Gourmet Institute and subsequently intern for 4 months at Blue Hill. When I returned to LA I quickly got a job as Billy Corgan’s private chef and almost immediately went on tour.
This was the start of what became 10 years of cooking for a handful of wonderful clients that took me all over the globe, and ultimately led me to meet my business partner Cary Mosier at a retreat in Utah. He asked if I wanted to open a restaurant with him and my other partners Alex and Chelsea Matthews back in LA and my immediate answer was “NOPE!”. I honestly didn’t think I had what it took to open a brick and mortar but they thought otherwise and after seeing the plans and realizing what an incredible opportunity it was I dove in head first. Growing and maintaining a bustling cafe like Highly Likely that is open 7 days a week has been a challenging experience to say the least, but my team is amazing and I wouldn't trade the opportunity to work with such incredible partners and build a community and brand from the ground up like this for anything in the world.
Your granola is a favorite (and we LOVE granola), what was your inspiration behind the Seedy Granola? And how did you uplevel this one?
Thank you! I have a general love for all things crunchy and personally believe that every meal should include some extra zazz in the form of said crunch to keep your mouth excited… This has resulted in friends now referring to these garnishes as my “secret crunch factor.”
The granolas that I make were really developed as garnishes that deliver maximum flavor and texture impact, I have a Savory Miso version that is amazing on salads and all manner of vegetables or soups, and of course the sweet Seedy one that is a crucial garnish for ice cream or suitable to eat by the bowlful with yogurt or milk. So it should be no surprise that when Kerrilynn approached me to collaborate on a product we found our way to granola pretty quickly. The inspiration behind the CAPnola was not only to create a light granola with a ferociously addictive texture, but also... what would be left at the bottom of the bowl? That amazing milk that you can only get at the end of a delicious helping of cereal, but leveled up with a kick of matcha. It's a pretty transcendent breakfast or snack experience!
What's always in your fridge?
I’m not going to lie… it’s mostly condiments, wine and fermented things. I rarely cook at my own house so my fridge is generally devoid of fresh vegetables.
- HiLi Hot Sauce: Our house-made fermented hot sauce that we make at Highly Likely. It is truly my finest work and if I come to your house for dinner you will most likely get a bottle.
- Yuzu Kosho: This spicy citrus bomb is my all time favorite secret flavor weapon
- Dark Horse Umami Bouillon: I am an umami freak so this is perfect when you want to add a savory complex funk to any sauce or soup. Greg from Dark Horse is a genius and the entire product line is amazing!
- Fly By Jing Chili Crisp: This sh*t is so effing addictive Jing should be charged as a drug dealer.
- Miso: umami!
- Fish Sauce: more umami!
- BEVERAGES: My beverage selection rivals that of a 5 star hotel mini bar, you’ll never go thirsty over here.
What’s always in your pantry?
- The CAP Coconut Butter: Truly divine blended into your favorite warm beverage, even savory things like bone broth!
- Crunchy things: See below for “secret crunch factor”. There is always some Highly Likely Seedy or Miso Granola around the house, and now I have the CAPnola to add to the mix!
- Tinned fish: If I close my eyes while snacking on a piece of buttered toast and some tinned fish I can almost pretend that I’m in Paris.
- Dried pasta: It’s so easy to prepare and dress up with just a few pantry staples, and even if I just have it with a little good butter I’m a happy camper.
- Honey: I love to collect honey when I travel, it never expires and is a portrait of a place and time that you can eat with a spoon.
- CAP Matcha: My afternoon pick me up is always matcha, and I’m never without a fresh stash with these lil babies in my purse.
What do you turn to, to make you feel your best, food and all the other practices?
I am notoriously neglectful of my self care, but when I make the time for it I love to be near or in the ocean (or any body of water for that matter). Swimming, baths, showers, even simply running my hands under cool water at work all help to calm my nerves. A gorgeous scent can also shift my mood for the better and I always have the CAPtivator nearby. I like to dab a little on while in traffic or spritz the bed before slipping in.
Saam and I often cook together which is always fun and as close to playing jazz as I’ll probably ever get… the meals (which are based on whatever odds and ends are in the fridge) are typically loose and unplanned, but always delicious. He has no rules or bias around his cooking style, so he’s often combining flavors and experimenting with techniques (you should see what he puts in the Vitamix) that make my head spin. It took a moment to get used to his untamed behaviour in the kitchen, but it has ultimately led me to relax my beliefs on what is “right or wrong” when it comes to cooking.
Caring for my robust collection of plants is also a favorite go-to for down-regulating my oft frantic nervous system… Many of them I’ve grown from cuttings and I get a deep sense of satisfaction when I tend to them and watch them grow and burst with new leaves and blossoms year after year, it’s wonderfully sensuous.
What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
I have SO MANY… but some all-time favorites and a few new ones are:
Simple Fare (Fall/Winter + Spring/Summer) by Karen Mordechai
- This collection of seasonal recipes are incredibly simple and beautifully shot
A Treasury of Great Recipes by Vincent and Mary Price
- Famed B-list horror personality Vincent Price, and his wife Mary were avid world travelers who compiled their favorite recipes into this incredible book, and is a family favorite.
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz
- One of the great fermentation bibles. Sandor is a genius and if you can ferment it, it’s probably in this book.
Bar Tartine, Techniques and Recipes by Nicholaus Balla and Cortney Burns
- This one is a constant go-to for inspiration, if you ever wanted to know how to make your own bottarga or “hoshigaki” persimmons, pick up a copy!
Bottom of the Pot, Persian recipes and stories, by Naz Deravian
- Currently on my nightstand. Beautiful stories of Persian culture as told through Naz’s family history alongside equally gorgeous recipes.
À Table by Rebekah Peppler
- My friend Rebekah’s second book is an unpretentious take on French cooking and hosting and will make you feel like you are on a sexy getaway eating all the delicious things.
Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, 1956
- In the age of Google it’s nice to put down the device and pick up this classic when you’re on the hunt for the perfect cake to bake for a friend.
Good Drinks by Julia Bainbridge
- Julia is another talented friend of mine, and her book Good Drinks is my go-to when I either don’t feel like drinking alcohol, or I’m hosting guests who don’t imbibe. I love the idea that a drink should be thoughtful regardless of it’s ABV.
Go-to meal that you make for yourself more often than not?
Are cheese and crackers considered a meal?
Seriously tho, I most often eat at the cafe and am generally tossing odds and ends into a bowl. Unless I am cooking for someone else I rarely make a fuss over my food.
Favorite kitchen tool?
When I was working as a private chef I would often find myself cooking from random kitchens all over the globe, which is a great way to find new tools and techniques. One of my most memorable experiences was cooking at the Peninsula Hotel in Tokyo. The chefs there were making the most gorgeous omelets with long steel silicone-coated chopsticks; when I inquired about where to get a set they directed me to Kappabashi (kitchen town) which is a street dedicated entirely to kitchen tools… Needless to say I was in heaven and I came home with a very heavy suitcase. They are the BEST for making the softest scrambled eggs, and they always remind me of that trip.
How do you end your day?
My days are pretty intense so ideally I like to try to stop working by 6pm and dedicate the remainder of my day to unwinding. I’m currently renovating a 70’s casita in Palm Springs so many of my evenings of late have been spent poring over tile, furniture, rugs and general vibe inspo. If I’m at Saam’s we usually take a moment to “switch gears” by playing the gong and sipping a little mezcal, cooking a light dinner, and on occasion “consuming media” which has recently been in the form of Ted Lasso (SO GOOD). I’m an early riser so I like to slide into bed by 10:30pm, although if I have a rare solo night at my home I love to get into my pajamas and between the sheets the second I walk in the door.
Buttered noodles with Miso and Cherry Tomatoes
We just made this last night so please excuse the lack of formality. I do believe that this is not something you need exact measurements for and I think we can all agree that it's how most of us cook at the end of the day.
- Enough pasta for 2 people
- 1 handful of cherry tomatoes
- 1 generous pat of butter
- 1 glug of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 nice pinch of herbs, fresh or dry… we used dried tarragon because we ran out of fresh parsley
- Something spicy… we had some fermented chilis. Could be some leftover chili flakes from the last time you ordered pizza, or if you're lucky it could be the last of your HiLi hot sauce that I brought over to your house
- 1 small spoonful of miso paste
- 1 squeeze of acid… we used ume plum vinegar, but lemon juice or any kind of vinegar you be perfect
- A few dashes of fish sauce, this is optional
- Shaved Parmesan
- Melt the butter and olive oil together in a medium saucepan and toss in the tomatoes over medium heat, meanwhile bring a nice big pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta according to the directions.
- Cook the tomatoes until they are soft and beginning to blister, then add the herbs and chilis to the pan until they sizzle.
- With the back of a spatula smash the tomatoes until they release their juices and stir in the miso, vinegar, and the fish sauce (if you swing that way).
- Drain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.
- Toss with the pasta with the reserved liquid in with the tomatoes and stir over medium heat for a few moments until the sauce thickens slightly and coats the pasta.
- Serve with as much parmesan cheese as you like and go turn on Ted Lasso.
- Sit back and bask in the umami paradise you’ve just created.
Photos by Saam Gabbay.