Chef Curtis Stone is receiving rave reviews for a tasting menu focusing on a single ingredient, says Kerstin Kühn
Curtis Stone is an Aussie chef who's become a household name in the US for his TV show where he picks people in supermarkets and cooks their dinner. He may seem an unlikely candidate to open Los Angeles' next top fine-dining restaurant, but with Maude, his intimate 25-seat "passion project" in Beverly Hills, he has done just that.
Named Los Angeles' best new restaurant in 2014 by LA Weekly and Restaurant of the Year by Eater Los Angeles, Maude presents a unique approach with its tasting menu-only concept.
Each month Stone chooses a "seasonal hero", a single ingredient that drives the menu, from first bite to dessert. "My hope is for my guests to leave loving and appreciating the ingredient and its extraordinary versatility," he says.
After starting his career in Melbourne, Stone moved to London in the 1990s to work with his culinary idol, Marco Pierre White.
He spent eight years with White, starting at the Grill Room at Café Royal before moving to Mirabelle and then head chef at Quo Vadis, where he gained three AA rosettes.
A move back to Australia, where he hit TV screens with a series called Surfing the Menu, saw him snapped up by US TV producers and, over the past eight years, he has become one of the USA's best known television chefs, appearing on numerous shows, publishing books and launching his own cookware range.
But what Stone wanted most was to cook in his own restaurant and, in February this year, he opened Maude. It's named after his grandmother, who first inspired him to cook. Old Windsor chairs and antique plates and cutlery meticulously sourced from flea markets are nods to his granny's style, while the open kitchen, blue leather banquettes and dark stone countertops add contemporary touches.
The menu offers nine to 10 courses with one seasonal ingredient creatively woven throughout. In July that ingredient was berries, in August corn, in September tomatoes, in October pears and November's was truffles. He is concluding the year with winter squash.
"We change the menu completely every month. We have a structure to how it progresses, but the actual dishes are totally different," says Stone.
goat's cheese rolled in hay ash and hazelnut.
The soup was pear and smoked celeriac, an ingredient not often found on California menus. "Celeriac is such a beautiful ingredient, but it gets lost here," Stone says. "We get it from the high desert, where there'll be snow soon. That's the beauty of the climate: it's so diverse." The soup is served whipped from an iSi canister and extra texture comes from celeriac crisps. A garnish of wood sorrel foraged from Stone's garden adds a note of citrus.
Building up to the heavier meat dishes, next up was a tuna crudo and kimchi with a subtle hint of pear, a forbidden rice cracker and seaweed,
before the next course of pig's head terrine.
"That dish has definitely been influenced by my time with Marco," Stone says. "The use of cheaper cuts is not something LA diners are used to, but it's such beautiful meat." The terrine was caramelised and served warm with parsnip, parsnip toffee and raw pear. The next course was of guinea hen ravioli filled with a mousse made from the breast and confit of the leg, accompanied by a sweet pear cider sabayon, Swiss chard and a lightly pickled
On to puddings, and a pre-dessert of cheesecake with raspberry coulis and pear ice-cream set the tone for the main attraction: stout-poached pear with roasted peanut foam, dark chocolate and panna cotta - a deliciously indulgent end to the meal.
"Maude is a passion project that gives me the creative fulfilment I had been craving," says Stone. The chef has returned to his fine-dining roots and proved to even his fiercest critics that he's not just a face off the TV - he can cook, too.
From the menu
- Pear & beetroot: goat curd, hay ash, hazelnut
- Soup: smoked celery root, wood sorrel
- Tuna crudo: kimchi, forbidden rice, seaweed
- Pig's head terrine: parsnip, parsnip toffee, raw pear
- Guinea hen ravioli: Swiss chard, Tokyo turnip, pear cider sabayon
- Veal cheek: cauliflower, pear gelée, parsley oil
- Brie: salted walnut tuile, grape, frisée
- Stout pouched pear: roasted peanut foam, dark chocolate, panna cotta
October's tasting menu was $85 (£53), plus $55 (£32) with paired wines
212 S Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212