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Norbert interviews Jennifer Naylor August 24, 2000
N: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
J: I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I am the third generation in a restaurant family also from LA. My grandfather was Tiny Naylor and started the Tiny Naylor's restaurant chain, one of California's original family-style restaurants. I've been cooking for 16 years, the last 11 under Wolfgang Puck. I spent a year in Italy cooking in Umbria at Vissanni under the most famous chef in Italy right now, Vissanni, and then in Lombardia at Dal Pascatore with Nadia Santini. I am currently the Chef at Granita in Malibu where I cook California Mediterranean with an Italian influence.
N: How do you work cheese into your menu and what are some of your favorites?
J:We use a lot of Parmigiano Reggiano for example on antipasto and pasta dishes. I have a Four Cheese Pansotti with Robiola, Pecorino, Parmesan and Ricotta Buffala. That's one of my signature dishes. Also, we use a lot of the Tuscan Pecorino, shaved and grated over the pastas and risottos. I like it better than the Romano. It's sweeter and nuttier and not as aggressive.
N: Are you using more cheese now than 10 years ago for example when you opened?
J: Yes, because of my Italian influence. And in the winter months especially.
N: Do you find that people are eating more cheese as a cheese course for example?
J: I think people are more accepting of how lovely that can be instead of or before dessert.
N: Do you think that is because people are traveling more?
J: I think it is because chefs are traveling more really. You see cheese courses on the menus at Spago and Melisse for example. And, yes, people are traveling more.
N: How receptive are people to new foods on menus? More open?
J: At Granita, I have a lot of regulars, and I like to send out new things for them to try. They might order it the next time they come in. Sweetbreads, cheeses, whatever it is.
N: If you are relaxing at home with a glass of wine, what kind of cheese would you have?
J: Well, right now I have a wonderful piece of Cargnavecchio that a customer brought me back from Italy. I like to have shavings of that with a glass of wine. In the wintertime, I like to buy the Fontina Val d'Aosta to make the Fonduta with the shaved white truffles. When they are in season, we like to do a special truffle dinner every year.
N: Do you see the concept of truffle dinners and truffle season becoming more popular?
J: Yes, people are understanding the seasonality and the perishability of it. It is a fleeting thing, and they want to partake of that. We did a salad with Pomegranates, Black Walnuts and shaved Truffle Pecorino over the salad. It was a nice wintry dish. I had Wolfgang going around and shaving truffles table to table. It was very exciting!
Click here to view the recipe for Jennifer Naylor's Watercress, Frisee, and Shaved Fennel Salad with Black Walnuts, "Tartufato" Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette.
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