I wish all Fridays were like today... Not only was the weather in Los Angeles absolute perfection (sorry East Coast), but the drive into Malibu looked like it was in High Definition. Today's meeting was not about fabric shrinkage, pattern development or product inspection. Today was just about hanging out and catching up with one of the coolest people I know and love, Gregorio Stephenson, head chef at Nobu Malibu.
I've known Gregorio for many years and today I had the opportunity to introduce him to Flavour Gallery. I played a short game of "Parking Olympics" upon arriving at the Malibu Country Mart, dodged the paparazzi, and picked up a mid day coffee before our meeting. I spotted Gregorio as he was walking past that "quintessential" Malibu t-shirt store and greeted him with our traditional "bro-hug." We moved inside the restaurant which was in full prep mode for what will be a typically busy Friday night. Chefs were behind the bar chopping and dicing hastily, tables and boxes were being shifted around like a Tetris game, and freshness was at the tip of every knife and across every cutting board.
Upon sitting down at an empty table we were interrupted by a passerby waving Gregorio down trying to score a reservation for tonight... good luck lady! He then proceeded to open the personalized package we prepared for him with childlike curiosity and restless anticipation. He was absolutely thrilled by the selection of shirts we gave him and he commended our designs, fit, and quality. We sincerely appreciate his support at every level, but we also admire his talent in the kitchen and superb delivery of culinary passion when it comes to his diverse gastronomic interests - you have to see him in action!
Here's the scoop on Gregorio Stephenson... born in Fresno, has lived in Los Angeles and Italy, among other places . Picked up a knife professionally at age 15 and has worked with Nobu for the past 11 years. Aside from his duties as Head Chef at Nobu Malibu, Gregorio is instrumental in the set-up and opening of most of the Nobu Restaurants across the Western Hemisphere. Upon sitting down I noticed he had two notebooks in hand. One was a slick Macbook computer and the other was a beat up composition notebook full of personal notes and spilling with handwritten napkins of his own kitchen secrets. This is very much representative of the towering 6'5" Gregorio. His approach is old school kitchen madness with modern sophistication. He's got the charm of that Italian cousin you lost touch with, works his iPhone like a Hollywood agent, and manages the Nobu staff with a sophisticated level of coolness as if he was Pat Riley with the Lakers during the 1980s.
Aside from filling me in on the latest developments at the restaurant and discussing future opportunities he showed me something that is very rare to see especially in the Los Angeles restaurant circuit. He first showed me a photo he took on his iPhone of three crates loaded full of Ají Amarillo - the beautiful yellow pepper from my native Peru. This is one of the most important ingredients in Peruvian cuisine and Nobu's menu delivers nothing but the freshest. They have such a loyalty to fresh ingredients they have managed to secure an endless supply of a few types of classic Peruvian hot peppers. I won't divulge any secrets of his, but it is important you learn about the freshness of this pepper and how it affects the quality of what you are getting when dining at Nobu. I was fortunate to score a bag of Ají Amarillo and Rocoto, the other amazing super hot pepper. I cannot wait to work these beauties into the next adventure in our kitchen.
Upon leaving Malibu I got stuck in light traffic on Pacific Coast Highway. Typically in Los Angeles one would feel their veins begin to boil, but luckily I was behind a mid-1920 American Classic with the Pacific Ocean to my left. At that point it was about 3:30PM and there was no point in letting LA's tendencies get in the way. I had to keep the flow of this great Friday alive. At that point I began thinking about Gregorio's grin as he tried on our shirts and my smirk as I cradled my bag of fresh ají.
3835 Cross Creek Road # 18
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 317-9140 tel