Internationally-renowned restaurateur and Top Chef Canada resident judge Shereen Arazm is the reason why so many Canadians – Torontonians in particular – feel at home in Los Angeles. The Toronto-born, LA-based businesswoman extraordinaire and co-founder of LA’s sushi staple, Geisha House, decided to help bring the beloved Terroni south of the border, and the Toronto-based Italian restaurant empire has been a Hollywood hotspot ever since. Now an ambassador for Nespresso, Arazm was recently back home to bring her take on the future of coffee in the culinary scene to Taste of Toronto. We caught up with the restaurateur to find out more about her life and work…
Tell us a bit about yourself, What should people know?
I’m a mom, an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, a food lover, and a restaurateur. Many people know me from Top Chef Canada, where I was the resident judge for four seasons. I am a proud Torontonian, who lives in Los Angeles, but comes home as often as I can.
You brought Toronto’s beloved Terroni to LA. What brought about the desire to open in California, and what has the experience been like?
I worked at the first Terroni on Queen Street over 20 years ago (I tell people I started when I was nine!) and did everything from the dishes, to making coffee, to helping on the line, and serving the food. I fell in love with the brand. With the owner, Cosimo Mammoliti, we brought the concept to Los Angeles – because how could I live in LA without a Terroni?! I’d owned my own restaurants in Los Angeles before, but I felt like I wanted to introduce Angelenos to amazing Southern Italian food. Today, Canadians – both expats and tourists – come in, and are so proud to have a little piece of home in Tinseltown.
What are some of the latest trends in coffee pairings?
The worlds of gastronomy and coffee are now being perceived of as part of the same excellent overall dining experience. I became a Nespresso ambassador because we share the same passion for quality and freshness in the ingredients we use. Did you know over 300 Michelin-starred restaurants use Nespresso coffee? Nespresso actually flies in sommeliers and chefs from around the world for an education program to expand their coffee expertise and help them guide their customers to the perfect cup.
What are some current culinary trends that you are interested in?
On the topic coffee, I love the fact that coffee is being integrated into the overall experience of a meal and it is not just about the end of the meal and dessert. Its rich flavours can be combined with the most unexpected food items. Recently I tried a pairing of coffee with a seafood tartare, which brought out beautiful flavours. Coffee can also be used in the actual cooking too. I was in town at Taste of Toronto, and Brassaii‘s Executive Chef, Marcus Monteiro, made Nespresso Livanto Espresso-Infused Foie Gras with Candied Red Wine, and a Nespresso Cosi Espresso-Infused Nova Scotia Lobster and Sesame Toast (like a variation on shrimp toast) that were both outstanding. You should try it! (Recipes below.)
What are some of your signature dishes when you cook at home?
I am entertaining all the time, so I always need to be ready at a moment’s notice. I always stock my fridge with fresh ingredients and grow a lot of my own food, like avocados, tomatoes, and citruses. Lately we have been on a Latin kick, especially with the World Cup – we have been making ceviche, gazpacho and fresh salsa, all with ingredients from my backyard. I also love to let guests jump into the action. My Nespresso is always at the ready, and I invite people to make their own coffee recipes. Right now, I have been making a recipe where I mix espresso and Agave, shaken with ice, and serve in a champagne flute. It’s a hit with everyone who comes over.
What are some of your favourite restaurants in the world and why?
In Los Angeles, I’m loving Republique, Son of a Gun, and my favourite secret, a Thai restaurant about an hour outside of LA called Rice. It’s worth the drive – good food is always worth the drive. When I come to Toronto, I love Actinolite, The Harbord Room, and the Nespresso Boutique Bar in Yorkville – they always treat me so well.
Brassai Executive Chef Marcus Monteiro’s Taste of Toronto Livanto Espresso-Infused Foie Gras with Candied Red Wine
Livanto Espresso Infused Foie Gras Ingredients
– 80 g foie gras – cleaned
– 1⁄4 ounce of brandy
– pinch of salt
– pinch of pepper
– 1/3 capsule of Livanto Espresso
– brioche bread
– red wine
– pepper seedlings
Livanto Espresso Infused Foie Gras Directions
Place 80 grams of cleaned foie gras in a bowl, pour 1⁄4 ounce of brandy on top, and the salt and pepper. Place in a 125 mL mason jar, and vac pack tight. Set your water circulator to 70F, and place your vac packed foie gras in the water. Set a timer for 7 mins, and let cook. Once the 7 minutes are up, shock the foie gras in an ice water bath. Once cooled, let set for 24 hours, once set, place into a vita prep blender and whip till light and fluffy. Using your Nespresso coffee machine, obtain roughly .5 ounce of Livanto Espresso and mix into the whipped foie gras.
Candied Red Wine Ingredients
– 250 mL red wine
– 2 tbsp sugar
Candied Red Wine Directions
Combine red wine and sugar, and reduce on stovetop until a syrup consistency.
Livanto Espresso-Infused Foie Gras with Candied Red Wine – Service Directions
1. Using a cooking cutter, cut out 2-inch circles approximately 1⁄4-inch in thickness from the brioche bread. Place on a baking sheet and put into the oven (400F) till toasted golden brown.
2. Place the coffee infused foie gras into a piping bag, and pipe out on the toasted crostini.
3. Next to the foie, place a little bit of the candied red wine.
4. Garnish with the pepper sprouts.