Being the chef/owner of a restaurant means running both halves, front and back, and every facet in between. Physically, it’s up there with tarring roads, and all the moving parts eventually coalesce – like Italian bureaucracy.
Restaurants are theater, the staff is entangled through showtime, and the subject is food. It’s a demanding business, with long days, and little down time. What starts with a 7 A.M. bread delivery, ends near midnight when veal stock cooks down in a lights out kitchen.
Chefs have telltale scorch marks raking each forearm, carpal tunnel in their favored hand, more often than not a sore back, and sensory overload from using sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound in a nightly high-speed circus show called the dinner rush.
There’s also the business side with food cost, getting the wrong wine delivery, battles between accounts and invoices, corralling employees who show up late because they were at an audition, or wanna leave early for band practice. There’s payroll, that’s fun. And usually fantastic regulars, peppered by disgruntled customers due to inevitable kitchen mistakes, and last but not least – Yelp. That’s how life as a restaurant chef & owner works. And after all that, some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten were made by Corina.
True or False: Corina makes a Paella that rivals a cadre of Gypsy grandmothers from Valencia, Spain. TRUE! Her paella would be my “last request” meal, and hers is a mix of plushy arborio rice, fresh chunks of seafood, and saffron and a smattering of sticky crust from the scraped reduction at the bottom of the pan, and cooked over a fire of hickory wood and lavender.
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This is Corina on a day off, having a well deserved break by her brother’s pool and catching up on her knitting. It’s actually only a half-day off, because she was going in to work that night. But we met between brunch and dinner.
We sat down with a plate of watermelon and talked about how Canele happened.
Her first memory of cooking is making an omelet. She confirms in hindsight, “I used way too much oil,” and it was more like a frittata, than an omelet. It was “brown and wrinkly,” which is how my own omelets always end up, so… Good to know.
If you want to taste a proper omelet order one from the starters section the next time you go to Canele. Eat a Canele omelet, and you will see why Julia Child’s entire journey started the day she was served a perfect omelet at a random bistro in France.
True or False: As a child Corina’s mother sometimes served spaghetti with ketchup. TRUE! When I refuse to believe her, she assures me, “that was our tomato sauce.” But wait, there’s more! Dinner staples that were equally repugnant, like the inedible classic Liver ‘n’ onions, and Beef Stew in the style of saddle leather. Not the grass roots inspiration that would make a chef like Corina.
So what happened?
It really boiled down to the desire to make something that tasted good for herself, and friends. A college job lead to cooking for visiting artists, then a move to Switzerland, and an early marriage, and that chapter ended with divorce and culinary school in New England. Internships lead to San Francisco, and then a move to L.A. for the next boyfriend.
Once in L.A. she spent some time at Campanile and Lucques, working with Suzanne Goin. She did some catering, and then – frankly – it was time.
She leased the space in Atwater Village, and runs a restaurant that is classic Corina thinking. The kitchen is open, and the communal table has the best view in the house. When it’s time to leave you’re offered a canele pastry from a basket filled with this Bordeaux classic, and it’s still warm from the oven. Her “Friends Cook” on a chosen Tuesday night, so if you have an idea, and friends to feed, schedule an evening, jump in and go live in a real restaurant kitchen. And as for her own food? Well, it’s a lot like Corina; completely unpretentious, inspired, grounded by perfect combinations, and most of all, sincere.
Brunch & Lunch: Wed.-Sun. 11-3 | Dinner: 5-10 every day. |
Ph: 323.666-7133 | Canele
* No Reservations | Closed Monday