This is the first in an ongoing series of provocative grill sessions with some of the best chefs in the world. This month we bring you Wes Lieberher , Executive Chef at Beer Belly in Los Angeles.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY JR Rosenthal, Food and Wine Editor, www.naturaltraveler.com.
- Do you have a favorite go-to dish to have with drinks?
If we are talking alcoholic drinks, I’d have to say my favorite thing to eat with a beer is cheese and charcuterie. My favorite cheese is Rogue Smokey Blue Cheese and my favorite charcuterie is Speck Prosciutto. If it’s a full meal I’ll go with braised short rib, for sure.
- Culinary Inspiration : What or who got you started with cooking?
Me earliest memory of making food was pulling all the condiments out of my mom’s pantry and mixing all of them together in different combinations. It’s actually pretty funny I’m writing a sauce book because that’s really where it all started. I started cooking in restaurants out of necessity for a job and was told I was good at it, but I really didn’t enjoy at first. It wasn’t until I went to work for Chef Jason Gleichman in downtown Philadelphia that I realized how many possibilities there were in making food. I eventually became Executive Chef of his restaurant.
- Favorite color?
Black. But since my wife keeps telling me that black is a shade not a color, then my next favorite color is red.
- Favorite restaurant?
I don’t really have a favorite restaurant of all time, but my favorite restaurant at the moment is Osteria La Buca at Wilton Pl and Melrose Ave in LA. My favorite restaurant in Philly is Heritage, which is run by my buddy Chef Sean McGee.
- Best meal you’ve ever had: when, where, and why?
This was a tough one to think of, but I let my mind drift and it keeps taking me back to one moment. I was about 10 years old at my home in PA and my Aunt Jan was visiting from Louisiana. She made this monsterous lasagna that was filled with all kinds of cheese and I remember the middle was lined with Velveeta. It was probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted as a kid. I wouldn’t say overall best meal because of all the food I’ve discovered since then, but it is such an amazing food memory that the reaction I had really was for the best meal I’ve ever had. I think about it all the time.
- Favorite food city?
Philadelphia of course! Come on…cheesesteaks, roast pork, pretzels, pork roll, scrapple….and the amazing restaurant scene.
- Favorite condiment?
MAYO!! Just kidding. When I read this question out loud my wife said “Oh, that’s easy for you! .Mustard!” I do adore mustard. All kinds of mustard. But I also love BBQ sauce. No particular brand. I just love making it and eating it.
- Favorite movie?
Another tough one because I’m obsessed with movies. If I had to pick one movie to watch before I kicked the bucket it would be The Goonies.
Runners up…Die Hard, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, The Breakfast Club, Real Genius, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Red Dawn, Blues Brothers, Big Trouble in Little China. I’ve literally spent countless hours of my life watching these movies alone.