The best things are created out of need. When Chef Tal Ronnen became a vegetarian 20 years ago, he felt like he was “getting served the side dishes to the entrees” at the foodie restaurants he had always loved. There was certainly demand for vegetarian cuisine – so Ronnen trained professionally to create supply. Now he is chef and owner of Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles. And though he “studied photography for a while” before becoming a chef, he can’t imagine having a different career.
Ronnen describes the Crossroads modus operandi as “small plate Mediterranean cuisine that just happens to be plant-based.” He explains that people often fear vegan food “won’t taste good.” One of these people was his partner in the restaurant who, in the pre-Ronnen days, once went to a vegan restaurant and “felt like he had lost a bet.” You certainly won’t feel that way at Crossroads, where the atmosphere is chic and the clientele decidedly cool (and often famous). In fact, Chef Ronnen’s favorite culinary compliment was voiced in a tweet from Chef Michael Voltaggio of Ink Restaurant, also in LA: “chef tal, after that meal, I think I could be vegan, but with [an] occasional in and out burger chaser. Your food is seriously delicious…”
Chef Ronnen derives his inspiration from local produce and creating dishes that he misses as a vegan. Take, for instance, his version of calamari, which involves substituting hearts of palm for squid. This was my favorite thing on the menu. In creating such dishes, the Chef uses, among other things, his top three tools. These are a “10-inch French-style chef’s knife,” his hands and a Vitamix blender to create sauces with “silky textures.” From personal experience I can say that a meal at Crossroads is all it’s cracked up to be: a Mediterranean delight that just happens to be vegan and is all the more creative because of it.
A few more questions…
RW: What is in your refrigerator at home?
TR: Not a whole lot. I don’t do a whole lot of cooking at home. At the end of the day, you know, I think most people don’t like to bring their work home.
RW: What is the best advice you could give to someone cooking at home?
TR: I think picking up books to teach you the basics – how to hold a knife, how to cut, how to make soup stocks. Basics really help you become a better chef by doing things that ultimately, at the end, will save you time.
Originally published on cuative.com. Photos retrieved from Crossroads Kitchen.