#MODERNCREATIVE Head Chef at newly launched Los Angeles restaurant & rooftop bar 'E.P & L.P', Louie Tikaram is currently one of Australia's greatest young culinary exports. Creative craftsman come in all forms, whether it be building a surfboard, hand crafting furniture or in this case, an innovative young chef.
Having previously headed up top restaurant and Sydney institution Long Grain (also a favourite of ours), a year ago Louis packed his bags and headed to Los Angeles following an invitation to spearhead a new project in West Hollywood by fellow Australian, music producer Grant Smiley. Short for "Extended Play & Long Play", Louie has drawn on his Fijian, Chinese and Indian roots to create a "modern asian fusion" style menu for EP & LP, that to our delight, even includes a Haydenshapes name sake tribute dessert cocktail named "LOVE BUZZ".
Here we speak to him about his craft, finding a unique edge and what landed him in the business...
Where did you grow up and what landed you in the culinary business?
I grew up in the small coastal farm town of Mullumbimby, in Northern NSW Australia. Many of my school holidays were spent in Fiji where I would cook alongside my Fijian/Chinese grandmother. I wanted a car so badly and on my school holidays one year around the age of 16, I started washing dishes at a local Thai restaurant in Byron Bay. I already knew how to cook so I quickly moved onto the woks, bought my car and never looked back.
In a sentence, how would you describe your food style?
What I like to eat on my days off.
Is there anything unique in your approach to creating new recipes and curating a menu?
I often scribble down notes and jot down ideas & inspiration when I see them or think of them - at the farmers markets, eating out, watching TV, walking, reading or driving etc. When I finally read the ideas, I have no idea what they say though I eventually remember and put them all together. It has worked for me so far.
As a young Chef, you have achieved a lot in your career. What would you say gives you an edge?
My main focus in the kitchen is to train and mentor my junior chefs as much as possible, creating an environment where they can be creative and help me execute my food is the aim of the game. I think being so young helps me understand what they are going through everyday and I’ve learnt what to do and what not to do only a few years ago so it is still very fresh in my mind. Having a good crew with me in the kitchen has made my life so much easier and I owe it all to them.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the industry that you are in?
Tattoos, alcohol & drugs.
Who is the one of the more interesting people that you have cooked for?
Damn, I have cooked for some interesting cats - though I think the funniest was when I cooked dinner for the cast of ‘The Lord of The Rings’. It was crazy listening to the table casually chat while eating dinner and it felt like I was cooking in middle earth. Gandalf, Frodo and Leglas talking about crispy skin chicken and beef curry.
Tell us about EP and how that project all came about?
My personal interests has always revolved around the USA - especially LA. West coast Rap, The LA Clippers, Skateboarding, surfing etc. Naturally it was always my dream to move out here.
When the opportunity came up I immediately hesitated, however my beautiful wife Jorja told me that we should follow my dreams and that she'd support me 100% - so we packed up the house and made the move over. When we arrived the new space was just a shell and for the last 8 months I have seen it transform into an amazing restaurant with a rooftop bar overlooking the Hollywood Hills. I serve up Modern Asian food, a mix of my Fijian/Chinese background and my love for South East Asian cuisine.
In terms of surfing, what are you currently riding and where is your wave of choice in the LA area?
I have a 9’4” longboard for spending Sunday down on the beach at Malibu with my wife. For the more serious days, I ride a 5’8” Hypto Krypto with the Dusty blue Resin Tint (Reign) that my wife bought me for my 30th birthday.
All time favourite wave?
I’d say The Pass, near Byron Bay in Australia. This is where I learnt to surf with my dad and hung out for so many years with my friends growing up.
Hayden ate at EP recently and was pretty chuffed to be served a drink named the “LOVE BUZZ”?
Hayden was actually the inspiration behind our dessert drink, ‘Love Buzz’. Lots of thought, detail and technique has been put into the dessert menu, yet still maintaining a presentation that is fun and approachable - just like his surfboards. This drink packs a punch and will get your night started. Wait till you try the Hypto Krypto… is contains Absinthe and Magic Mushrooms. (kidding).
What influences you beyond your industry?
Although crockery and pottery play a huge part in the restaurant industry, I seek a lot of inspiration from my Friends at Robert Gordan in Victoria Australia who hand make all of my crockery for EP. The colours, shape and textures are amazing and often influence the different ingredients and direction I will take with a dish.
Lastly, what is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
Best - “The risk takers reap the rewards.”
Worst - “Don’t work too hard Louis.”
Photo Credits: Daniel collopy, Scott Needham