10 QUESTIONS WITH CHEF ANDREW CARROLL
Superficially speaking, a favorite Los Angeles pastime is stargazing. It’s all about seeing and being seen and the city’s current hotspot is Catch L.A., a globally influenced seafood restaurant with other locations in New York, Dubai and Playa del Carmen.
Conceptualized by Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum, the duo behind the EMM Group hospitality enterprise, Catch L.A., perched above West Hollywood design district on the corner of Melrose Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard, was immediately embraced by celebrities since its October 2016 opening. A paparazzi hub these days, Kendall Jenner celebrated her 21st birthday there. Celebrity diners have included Calvin Klein, Bono, Cindy Crawford, Sylvester Stallone, Jaimie Foxx, David Beckham, as well as Paris Hilton, and Victoria’s Secret models Alessandro Ambrosio and Taylor Hill.
So, when a restaurant is this hot, does the food have to be as sizzling? Sure, stars want to go where it’s hot and “regular folk” want to follow so maybe you don’t need Michelin stars but if the cuisine falters, then a hotspot will quickly cool off. And the man that’s really feeling the heat at Catch L.A. is chef Andrew Carroll.
Having opened all the Catch restaurants, Chef Carroll has also worked in Sydney Australia and lived in Kenya where he helped start a teaching and feeding program for kids. With a menu that’s seafood heavy and also includes some stellar vegan dishes, Chef doesn’t feel the heat working in a star-studded restaurant, instead he welcomes the challenge to impress A-listers and foodies alike.
What was the inspiration behind designing the Catch L.A. menu?
We worked to create a menu that combines the spirit of the Catch brand with flavors driven by the local, L.A. market. Whether you are in New York, Dubai, Playa del Carmen or Los Angeles, you can always find signature Catch dishes like our Truffle Sashimi or Wagyu on a Rock on the menu. These classics appear alongside regionally influenced dishes, which generally make up about twenty five percent of the menu. With Catch L.A. specifically we focused on infusing local flavor into new dishes Angelenos would love, incorporating locally sourced, organic ingredients as well as gluten free, dairy free and vegan options wherever possible.
What is the most requested dish?
A lot of our guests seem to gravitate towards Catch classics such as the Truffle Sashimi, Crispy Shrimp, Crunchy Rice Cakes, and Cantonese Lobster. These dishes seem to be our most universal hits across NYC, Dubai, Playa del Carmen, and now Catch L.A. I have to say that our new Crispy Cauliflower appetizer, the vegan rendition of our classic Crispy Shrimp, is such a big hit here in L.A. that we are adding it to the menu at all other Catch locations.
Is there added pressure cooking for a restaurant full of famous guests?
I would like to say no, but I still find myself getting excited to cook for guests that I've been a fan of since I was a kid. I strive to put the highest quality food on the plate with every dish I serve and there is definitely a sense of pride when any guest, celebrity or not, comes back over and over to enjoy it.
What dishes do celebrities order the most?
That's tough to say. A lot of guests at Catch L.A. come back for our vegan menu. We always work to accommodate dietary restrictions but are also mindful of the overall experience people are looking for when they come to the restaurant so we keep these dishes fun and as close as possible to the concepts that inspired them. Another popular option is our A5 Japanese Wagyu, which cooks tableside to your preferred temperature. It makes the guest feel like a chef at the table without the stress of course.
Why was it important to you to offer so many vegan options? FYI…the Sweet Potato Gnocchi was one of my favorite dishes.
Thank you very much. At risk of sounding redundant, we take our cues from the markets we're in. Veganism is a growing trend and a serious, health-driven culinary movement. When we thought about how best to adjust our menu to incorporate the preferences of the local market, vegan dishes stood out as an absolute 'must have' in our something-for-everyone mentality.
Do you feel any pressure to meet and exceed guests’ expectations, considering how hard it is to get into Catch and the prices?
It’s more pressure to make sure that my kitchen executes the menu we have in place to the level we expect it to be at on a daily basis.
How is the kitchen at Catch L.A. different from working in Catch NYC?
The biggest difference is the fact that we worked on the design and construction for close to three years. To see what we created come to life makes this kitchen experience a little more personal for me.
Talk about your philosophy as a chef, what do you look for when constructing a menu or a dish? Working at a restaurant called Catch, obviously, the menu is seafood heavy. Please talk about the freedom you have to create within that structure.
Creating dishes at Catch is fun because we embrace the philosophy that simple freshness is king. We strive to get the best quality products in whatever we're serving and have worked to create a balanced menu that incorporates the freshest proteins and produce available to us, regardless of whether the dish falls into a seafood genre. With Catch's cuisine having a heavy global influence, I'm able to use ingredients and cooking styles that I've seen and used throughout my travels without being limited to any expectations that might surround a more traditional seafood restaurant.
What’s the next food trend?
After spending so much time living in Mexico and learning so much about their passion for food and culture I hope that more people can experience the level of flavors each region in Mexico brings to the table.
What do you hope someone takes away from dining at Catch L.A.?
I hope they take away a memory of great food, great service and great vibe in that order. The first thing people see when they walk into Catch L.A. is how stunning the dining room is and how amazing the view is. I hope when they leave the restaurant they talk just as much about the food and the experience they had while dining with us.
Catch L.A. is located at 8715 Melrose Avenue. Open Mon-Fri from 5pm to 2am; Sat and Sun from 11am to 3pm and 5pm to 2am. Call 323-347-6060.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Catch L.A.