Executive Chef Julie Picco may have just joined the team at the Restaurant at the Getty Center in Los Angeles this spring, but she is no stranger to farm-to-table cooking. In her more than 10 years of experience, she has developed healthy dining programs and a deep appreciation of seasonality. Her menus showcase bright, simple flavors and a unique juxtaposition of textures that gracefully complement the experience of visiting the Getty.
So when looking for ways to get to know her new staff, a visit to the Santa Monica farmers’ market seemed like the perfect group outing. She wanted to bring the entire kitchen team, so that those who hadn’t yet had the chance to visit the market in person could meet vendors and be inspired by new seasonal ingredients. And for Julie, it was an opportunity to build relationships not only with her team but also with the farmers who supply the restaurant’s produce.
As luck would have it, the group ran into their representative from L.A. Specialty Produce Co., Rhonda Rago, from whom Julie does much of her produce purchasing. Rhonda took the Bon Appétiters on a guided tour of the market, introducing them to farmers and explaining who grows which types of produce. The Getty team had the opportunity to ask questions and talk to each vendor about their ingredients. When they encountered an ingredient they weren’t familiar with, they brought some back to the Getty kitchen to experiment with. They even discovered a varietal of red and green butter lettuce, Salonova, that Julie has since incorporated into her tuna poke dish on the menu.
The visit was such a success that, in addition to returning to the Santa Monica farmers’ market regularly to keep an eye on what’s in season, Julie is planning a second team field trip to meet another local purveyor, La Española Meats. Everyone is so excited that they’ve already arranged their schedules to ensure that all prep work gets accomplished in advance so the entire group can attend. “These trips are a way to keep the team spirit, and to keep us learning about where our food comes from,” said Julie. “Visiting the farmers’ market with our chefs is a way for us to get inspired, and to start writing the next season’s menu.”