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holiday entertaining: professional eater & bravo tv star kat odell gives us the exclusive on finding good food

Editor of Eater LA and star of the hit Bravo TV show Eat, Drink, Love!—Kat Odell is taking over the food world one glorious bite at a time.  She gives us the inside scoop on finding great food, including her favorite spots to eat and her own amazing Simple & Crisp creations!

Kat Odell

Photo by Elizabeth Daniels

Why we love her:

Not only does she get to call herself a “Professional Eater,” she’s also one of the sweetest people we know!  As former writer for Bon Appetit, current editor of Eater LA, and new star of Bravo’s Eat, Drink, Love!, Kat Odell has made quite a name for herself in the food world.  Her opinion is highly respected and her taste undisputed.  We love her passion for food, her adventurous spirit to discover great places, and her outgoing personality that’s making a splash in the LA food scene.

Kat has come a long way from her hometown of Scarsdale, New York, having now eaten her way through both New York City and Los Angeles.  We sat down with Kat to get her professional opinion on finding great food, discover her top places to eat, and hear her own perfect pairings with Simple & Crisp!

Many people are envious of your fabulous job title, “Professional Eater.”  What inspired you to build your career out of your love of food? 

I attribute my love of food first and foremost to my grandmother.  My mom is from the Czech Republic and my grandmother is from (and still lives in) Prague.  When I was very young, while my parents were at work, I would spend my time in the kitchen cooking with my grandmother.  I started cooking when I was just four years old.

My family also happens to be very gastronomic and into food.  My dad is a very intuitive cook and loved to experiment in the kitchen, so I grew up eating “weird” food.  We had a garden and everything was always fresh.  We’d eat everything—Turkish dishes, Malaysian, you name it!

When I was in high school, I knew my passions were food and fashion.  I started my own granola company and decided then that I wanted to choose food over fashion for my career.  Right out of college, I worked for a restaurateur in Manhattan.  I began to realize I wanted to pursue food writing specifically, so I reached out to Barbara Fairchild, Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appetit.  There were never any positions available, but I kept following up with her; I basically said I would scrub the floors to get hired!  Finally a position opened up in the magazine, so I flew to LA for an interview and was really fortunate to land the job as an assistant in editorial!  I had just five days to move my entire life from New York to LA.

What’s your job entail as editor of Eater LA?  What are some fun secrets about working for one of the most prestigious food blogs? 

My job involves writing during the day and dining out at the night–a lot of eating and drinking.  I absolutely love what I do, but it is work.  A large percentage of my job is spent socializing, exploring restaurants and bars around LA.  I spend my nights eating at bars, talking to the bartenders and seeing what cool projects they’re working on.  My role is super social and a lot of the stories I get are just from being out and about, talking to everyone.

I make an effort to try something new every day.  People actually make fun of me because I haven’t been to some of the classic, older LA institutions—but I have to find all the new places for my job!  But I love that I get to find out about new places before anyone else.  I love going to restaurants, meeting a new chef in the kitchen, and being completely blown away by his food.  Two years ago, I was introduced to a new chef named Ari Taymor in Santa Monica and I was really impressed by his food.  He was in a bizarre location, but then he eventually landed a temporary restaurant space.  And now, just two months ago, Bon Appetit named his restaurant, Alma, the Best New Restaurant in America!  It’s truly a pleasure to watch chefs grow and succeed.

Luckily I’m not a picky eater—I actually prefer to have the chef make me his personal recommendation.  I’ll eat absolutely everything.  I’ve even had Alaskan Cod sperm, which is a delicacy in Japan.  It was okay…I just might not order it again!

Kat Odell

Photo by Elizabeth Daniels

Where are your favorite places to eat in NYC and LA?  What are some of the main differences in food culture and restaurant life between the two? 

In New York City, I’ve had incredible meals at Blanca—it’s a café style, pre-fix restaurant in Brooklyn that’s impossible to get into.  One of the best meals I’ve had all year was at Blanca.  I love Uncle Boons; I’ve had great meals at Betony.  I waited in line for hours to get a cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho.

In LA, I really love hole-in-the-wall, truly authentic food.  LA has great ethnic food, which people sometimes forget.  I love Bestia; Musha is my go-to for good Japanese izakaya.  Eveleigh is a really good bar; everything they make at Milo & Olive is ridiculously delicious.  I also really love sushi and there’s a great hidden sushi bar inside Sugar Fish in Beverly Hills.  And Tokyo Kalbi is a great hidden gem in LA for rare meat.

I’d say New York City is more about fine dining, whereas LA has a more laid back atmosphere.  I think NYC has much stronger service and attention to experience, but LA has way better sushi and ethnic food (especially Japanese, Chinese, Persian, and Mexican food).

Where’s your absolute favorite spot to eat (restaurant, food truck, friend’s house)?

I think meals are most defined by the company you have, as opposed to what or where you are eating.  But putting that aside, I’d have to say my favorite place to eat is a restaurant called Yamakase.  It’s an amazing invite-only 12-person sushi bar, very intimate.

As a Professional Eater, what do you look for in an amazing food experience—tastes, restaurant ambiance?

When on the job, food first and foremost is the most important aspect to me.  When I’m looking for good food, taste is more important than design of the restaurant or aesthetics.  It always comes down to flavor and quality of what’s on the plate.

Have you become a master chef along the years, with all your experience working with food?

I’ve been cooking my whole life!  I love the farmers markets out here in LA, they’re amazing.  But when I’m cooking for myself, it’s generally pretty boring.  I mostly make salads, nothing too exciting.

Congratulations on your new show, Eat, Drink, Love!  What’s it like being in the limelight and watching yourself on TV?

It’s been a really interesting experience; when I watch myself on TV, I don’t feel like it’s me.  It’s kind of a weird experience that so many people now know me, but I did get used to being followed by cameras eventually.  But it’s been a really fun opportunity and a great platform for me, as well as an extension for Eater LA.  I’ve had some amazing dinners and unforgettable experiences—I went to an incredible organic farm, visited a cow ranch and had delicious beef, and spent a lot of time with the girls.

We’re so excited for the holiday season and all the parties and entertaining that come with it!  What are your go-to dishes for holiday parties? 

I love holiday cookies and spiced wine!  Also can’t beat my dad’s turkey and potatoes roasted in olive oil.  Personally, one of my favorite dishes to create for the holidays is to slice a baguette, drizzle olive oil, and toast it in the oven.  I also include some juiced blood oranges and grate some of the zest on top, then add honey cracked black pepper and goat cheese.  I also love doing a nice assortment of cheese and charcuterie when entertaining during the holidays, it’s a fun and easy way to serve guests at the beginning of a meal.

What are your perfect Simple & Crisp pairings that you recommend for entertaining this season?

1. Malaysian Pulled Tea garnished with Simple & Crisp Orange

  • 1.5 tablespoons orange pekoe tea
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 tablespoons condensed milk
  • Simple & Crisp Orange
Simple & Crisp Orange Tea

Photo by Kat Odell

 

2. Apples in Bathrobes (Czech Apple Fritters) topped with Simple & Crisp Apple

  • 1 apple (cored and peeled)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup flour + 1 tablespoon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar
Simple & Crisp Apple Fritter

Photo by Kat Odell

For more information on Kat Odell, you can visit Eater LA and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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