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La Grande Orange Santa Monica: Chef Erik Palmer Profile

When you walk into La Grand Orange (LGO), you energy is immediately elevated.  From the low and excited din of diners evident even on a sleepy Wednesday morning, to the down tempo funky house infusing the restaurant, you know you are in for an experience.

I first met Chef Erik at the Santa Monica Food and Wine Festival where LGO was showcasing their talents through their signature slider.  While the festival itself was uninspired, the green chili sliders with roasted poblano peppers and grated sharp cheddar made it worth the entrance fee.  Just as worthwhile was meeting Chef Erik Palmer, the man behind the flavor.

With his shocking blue eyes and calm collected demeanor, Chef Palmer delivers fresh, bio-savvy organic food inspired by the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market right in his back yard and arguably the best farmers market in the country.   Chef Palmer has gained global acclaim for his culinary skills working in Vegas at Stripburger and Café Ba-a-Reeba, in Australia at Cicada and Eduardo’s,  at Provence Restaurant in Winnetka, Illinois, and of course you’ve heard of a little known Yountville, California spot called French Laundry (just to name a few).

Here are a few of Chef Palmer’s answers to my top food queries:

LK: What’s seasonal now that people should be cooking with?

Chef Palmer: That’s a tough question because in Southern California the fall season gets stretched out so late, I mean we still are seeing heirloom tomatoes and corn at the farmer’s market.  But for me it’s important to cook to the seasons, so right now squash, mushrooms, all root vegetables that are big on the east coast because that’s what Fall means to our diners.  And of course I cook to what’s being produced locally.

LK: What is bio-savvy food and why is it important to you?

Chef Palmer: bio-savvy food is sustainable food from local farms.  Lots of chefs are working more with fish and meats that are not packaged incorrectly and it’s incredible the amount of waste that restaurants produce, if I can make a little bit of a difference it’s important for me to.  All of our packaging is no 2 on the recycle scale the goal is to get to 1 especially in Santa Monica which has strict waste and recycling codes

LK: What are 3 things you can’t live without in your kitchen?

Chef Palmer: a fish spatula, good sea salt and butter

LK: I know you are new to the Southern California restaurant scene, but what are a few restaurants and chefs that are exciting you right now?

Chef Palmer: for pastries and coffee I think Bodega Louis downtown is getting it right.  They have great macaroons and simple, delicious pastries that challenge a lot of restaurants.  I’m also enjoying Gelina and Akasha which are a little closer to here.

LK: Who do you think is one of the most inspirational chefs to watch right now?

Chef Palmer: I’m impressed by Walter Manzke who was at Church & State he’s incredible.

Chef Erik Palmer can be found daily at La Grande Orange located at 2000 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405 tel: (310) 396-9145

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