6 Questions with Michael Cimarusti

What’s a dish you remember eating in Narraganset growing up?

Yeah, definitely fried clams. Even when I was a little kid, I remember people shy away from clams with bellies. But I loved them, and that was the one thing that whenever we went up there, I always wanted. That, and clam cakes.

LA fine dining seems so removed from casual New England seafood. What drew you to it?

It’s the seafood that drew me to it. What we do at Connie & Ted’s, and the food I grew up with such a reverence for, is very casual. But, my training led me to work in places not quite as casual. Through that, I developed a love of fine dining and hospitality and that’s sort of how Providence came to be.

What do you think has brought fine dining back to popularity?

It never really was dead, in my opinion. There was definitely a time in Los Angeles where it waned. Providence and my friend, Josiah, at Melisse were a couple of the only fine dining restaurants left. But now, there are all types of people with aspirations of doing what we’ve been doing for the last 15 years and Josiah’s been doing for 20. You have traditional stuff and much more modern experiences now, so it’s definitely ramped up again around Los Angeles.

Why are sustainability and conservation so important to fine dining, particularly when it comes to seafood?

I think it’s important across all levels and platforms of dining. Even at home, as consumers, having thoughts about sustainability, especially when it comes to food, is important. Dan Barber said that thoughts about sustainability sort of starts at white-tablecloth restaurants and then trickles down to the restaurant stratosphere and then to the home consumer. So, I think it’s important that in my position as a chef that I try to lead by example, and also with deeds and actions.

Does your love of fishing affect your view on sustainable practices?

It informs everything. More than anything, I have a reverence for wild seafood. I came to that through being a fisherman myself. But I have such an affinity for it and appreciation because it’s really the last wild food that we all eat. It still has a common place on our table. There is no other wild food we eat on a regular basis, so it’s obviously very important we do everything we can to protect it, so it’ll be around for my kids, your kids and their kids.

You’ve lived in LA for a while now. So, Pacific or Atlantic?

Well, if I had my druthers, I’d probably say the Atlantic. I love the Pacific and everything it has to offer. But cooking on the east coast, there’s really nothing else like it. But, then again, in California, we have some of the best produce in the world. Oh, man, that’s a tough question. You know, I guess—yeah, I guess I have to just stick with the Pacific!