Fourteen Years an American Chef: Stefan Richter of LA Farm
If you are looking for a great time with fabulous food at a restaurant then you have got to spend an evening at Stefan Richter’s L.A. Farm. Denise, my wife and best friend, were there to celebrate Chef Stefan’s 14th years as an American Chef. A special pre-fixe menu was served as well as Stefan’s favorite bites and libations. The restaurant shares the same space as the famous Todd AO studios in Santa Monica, California. The parking lot is littered with Mercedes, Lamborghinis and Porches all with spots reserved for the Hollywood elite. L.A. Farms is not just a place to be seen but a place where you can rub elbows with the chef himself as a great host.
A little bit about the chef. Stefan was born in Finland and moved to Germany at the age of ten. Stefan was mentored early on by his mother who is a very gifted chef herself. Stefan grew up in the restaurant business hanging around kitchens with mom making traditional German and Finish fare. He spent his youth investing time in some of the best kitchens in Germany that definitely paid off. Stefan immigrated to the USA 14 years ago. He started at the Ritz Carlton in Detroit Michigan, opened the Bellagio Hotel with Grant McPherson and eventually made his way to California. The chef now has three delis, a restaurant and catering company here in California along with three restaurants in Finland where he commutes often. Stefan loves America and is an avid camper. And ladies… he is single! But stand in line the chef loves his restaurants, his staff and his clientele.
Now we knew of Stefan’s “Bad Boy” reputation from other local chefs and from the show “Top Chef” but I have to say that this chef is not only a great cook and host but an astute businessman. He is on top of his game. The restaurant was packed out from the dining room to the bar to the patio on a Tuesday night. Stefan spent a great deal of time visiting tables with regulars and new comers. There was even a group of teenagers waiting for him for over an hour just to take his picture. The Chef willingly obliged, signed autographs and sent some very happy excited fans along their way.
Now, the main event – the food. We were greeted at the door with a very friendly smile by Nickie. We were shortly escorted to the best seats in the house – in the kitchen. WOW!! Stefan joined us for with his favorite wine, a crisp steely Sauvignon Blanc from St. Suprey. Marlena and Jorge took care of us for service with style and ease. After a toast to Stefan, the kitchen kicked into high gear with flames turned up high and the aroma of a great evening was about to begin. Troy and Rudy are in command on the line. The chef jokingly calls the two “Trudy”. The two are attached at the hip. Where you find one you will find the other. We sampled some of the staff’s favorite dishes. First two cubes of truffled arancini. Crisp, creamy and the fragrance of white truffle was such a delight as we bit into these tasty treats. Next, bruschetta of yellow tomatoes and fresh anchovies that went down all too well with a glass of Gainey Chardonnay. The oak of the wine was a nicely cut through the oil of the anchovy. Along came some spicy calabrese with shaved 4 year old parmesan and house marinated cornichons. Chef Stefan suggested the Ferrari-Carrano Sienna to accompany the spicy charcuterie plate. A perfect match. The staff’s favorite dish was their own creation of chili cheese fries but we passed on the element knowing that the celebration meal was yet to come.
We caught a break between courses with the chef and a glass on Schonramer Pilsner. A great German golden brew that dates back over 200 years. A very bubbly glass of floral hops and malted liquid that was refreshing and a sure match for food. Smiles came across our faces as stories were told by Stefan about his growing up in Germany. Here is a man that loves his family and their traditions. Stefan is very proud of his heritage and it shows in the food that he chose for this evening’s celebration.
The three course celebration pre-fixe was introduced to us with the duet of Cali Crudo. Thin slices of Saku Tuna-Hamachi with a light spicy dressing, Toasted black sesame seeds and micro greens garnished a very generous portion. Some Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne and this course was definitely a crowd pleaser. Next the Chef’s pride and joy recipe of pureed cauliflower soup. This is no ordinary soup. A picture in itself suitable for framing, this beautiful silky white soup was dressed with black truffle oil, paper thin parmesan crisp and Howell Mountain Chives. General Manager Kelly Guilday joined us and shared plans of the restaurant expansion. Kelly does a great job of overseeing the dining room and shepherds chef Stefan from kitchen to tables to the delight of guest.
The finale of our meal was an unbelievable dish of German sausage. The sausage was undoubtedly the best sausage that we have ever had. Pan roasted and finished in a high heat oven the dish was served with cloud light mashed potatoes, sauerkraut confit with a kiss of anise and a bit of shiny demi-glace sauce. Okay, I have to admit, I asked for the recipe. That went over with rounds of laughter by the staff. “NO WAY” was the resounding chorus. The recipe is kept under lock and key and only the trusted few know it. We capped off the evening with the staff with another glass of Schonramer, celebrated the moment and thanked everyone. We left the memory of a great meal and chef and with every intention on returning.
In SoCal, stop by L.A.Farms and treat yourself to a great meal. Be sure to call Kelly at 310.449.400 and ask about the Scotch Paring Menu event. An evening with Highland Park, Glenfiddich’s 12-15-18 and Macallan Single Highland Malt.
By Robert Sturm
L.A. Farms is open for lunch Monday – Friday and dinner seven nights a week.
3000 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404
310 449 4000