OMG Food!

Soup's on, folks! I'm Tina M. Courtney, aka PoetKitty -- a Los Angeles based food writer audacious enough to think I can critique all manner of eateries. It's a labor of love, and I'm honored to welcome you. Grab a fork and let's get this party started.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chef Spotlight - The Real Deal Neal (Fraser)



Neal Fraser is one of those magificent, humble, seen-and-not-heard chef's that LA should tackle hug. He's helping to refine this world of scene-first food-second Hollywood food house trends, and do a smashing job of it. Neal opened Grace in 2003, and she's way more than a flash in the pan. This Beverly Boulevard gem is better than ever, a shining jewel in a sea of pretty on inside eateries that just can't deliver the goods (Geisha House, I'm talking to you).

Neal's even an LA darling. He started his tenure two decades ago at Eureka, and oldschool Wolfgang Puck eatery. He's hopped arround immensely since then, first getting educated at Culinary Institute of America, then on to work at Checkers in downtown with none other than Thomas Keller. He's also manned the ship at The Park Avenue Cafe in New York City, Splichal's Pinot Bistro, the evergreen and much beloved Spago, and many more.

Neal took on his first very-own with Boxer, another Beverly Blvd. princess, located in a small space now occupied by Cobras Y Matadors. Reviews were all over the map, but he had a good run. He left that for a short-lived stint at Jimmy's in Beverly Hills (so many Beverly's!), and then found himself jobless and ready to start-up another new venture. Enter the birth of Grace. She's a gorgeous space, very loft-like and open, warm and modern - an absolute beauty. But it's what Neal is serving that gets the gold star. Wild Boar sans any gamey flavor or toughness, Buffalo Tenderloin worth raffling your husband for, and every Wednesday is "Doughnut Night". Are you sold? I thought so.

One of Neal's latest accomplishments involves a most impressive Iron Chef America throwdown. He absolutely cleaned the floor with the woefully mediocre Cat Cora in a pork battle. And she even made bacon ice cream, something I've mentioned previously that I'm awfully fond of.

Regardless, Neal is indeed the real deal. Risk-taking, subtle, crafty, and smart enough to the let the food shine, he's definitely one to watch in the coming months and years. There just aren't enough chefs in this town willing to try crazy things like a hemp-focused tasting menu, AND make it outstanding. All hail the chef.

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