The Culinary Quilt at Grand Central Market

When I was invited to the historic Grand Central Market (GCM) in Los Angeles to preview their new cookbook – The Grand Central Market Cuisine and Culture from Downtown Los Angeles, I first rode the 116 year old Angels Flight funicular located directly across the street at 361 S. Hill Street.

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Known as the world’s shortest railway, Angels Flight originally opened in 1901 and finally reopened, after being closed for renovations. For just $1 the public can ride the hillside track up to the top of California Plaza and then another $1 to go back down to Grand Central Market. It’s open seven days a week, 365 days a year, including holidays, from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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After the ride, I walked over to the Horse Theif BBQ outdoor patio to meet some of the vendors who contributed to the Grand Central Market 100 year anniversary cookbook. It’s a collaboration by owner Adele Yellin, creative director of GCM Kevin West and over 40 vendors at the market.

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The first person I talked to was the enthusiastic Keven West. I learned that when the market opened in 1917, it was the Golden Age on Broadway. Throughout the years, it’s been a starting ground for chefs. “Sticky Rice was once a stand at the Altadena Farmers Market, and EggSlut was once just a food truck,” said West. “A lot of amazing businesses got their start at the Grand Central Market and have now expanded to other neighborhoods in Los Angeles.” He introduced me to tenant Fernando Villagomez, one of the many success stories.

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(Fernando Villagomez – Villa Moreliana and La Tostaderia)

Fernando Villagomez owns Villa Moreliana and La Tostaderia in the market. Growing up at The Grand Central Market, he opened his first stall in 2008. “All I knew how to make were really good, slow-cooked pork carnitas prepared Michoacan, Mexico style,” said Fernando. The recipe of his carnitas is on page 89 of the cookbook. “The market supported and guided me as I went back to culinary school. Now I am expanding my restaurants in La Jolla and on Abbott Kinney Blvd.”

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Michael Palmer and Eva Ein with McConnell’s employee

Next I walked over to McConnell’s Ice Cream table and talked with owners Michael Palmer and Eva Ein. It’s been Palmer’s dream to open his Santa Barbara based artisan ice cream shop in GCM. Growing up in Hancock Park, he used to come to the market with his grandfather.  In 2014, his dream came true.  Eva makes all of the unique McConnell’s flavors including the Cinnamon ice cream (Page 232) and Mango sorbet with fresh pineapple sauce and chile-lime salt (Page 236) included in the cookbook.

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Chef Mark Peel

One of LA’s most esteemed chefs Mark Peel is now at GCM with his new Prawn seafood counter. He provided his recipes for a warm albacore salad (Page 172) and delicious curry shrimp (Page 188) for the cookbook.

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Before leaving I enjoyed a slice of Brad Kent’s Olio Apple Focaccia. I’ve known Brad for years when he opened Blaze Pizza in Los Angeles. “We met at the 12th Blaze, now we have opened over 200 Blaze restaurants,” said Kent. His Olio Wood-Fired Pizzeria at the GCM makes savory and sweet pizza pies. Looking in the cookbook, his grilled Margherita Pizza (Page 136) and Apple Focaccia (page 238) recipes are easy to follow and make at home.

The GCM Cookbook is an anthology of 80 recipes with nearly 160 photographs by Johnny Autry. It’s filled with food, people, and the neon signs that bring the GCM experience to life.

Other vendors secret recipes include Horse Theif BBQ’s pork belly and apple fennel slaw (page 196), banana pudding (page 231) and popular Nashville-style hot fried chicken sand (page 178). Madcapra’s signature Sumac-Beet soda (page 169), EggSlut’s coddled eggs with potato puree (Page 43), Weller’s Smoked Salmon Latke (page 54) and Golden Road Brewing’s Vegan Crunchy Avocado Tacos (page 106) and featured.

To buy a copy of this cookbook, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and INDIEBOUND.

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