Learn About the Culinary Tools Used to Create a Masterpiece
Written By: Nia Yates
Photographed By: Yasin Chaudhry Michael Beckman
From Chef Michael Beckman’s demeanor, it is obvious when you walk into his kitchen that he loves cooking at home; to him, it is relaxing, therapeutic and it centers him. He likes how meditative cooking at home makes him feel. He mentioned that cooking usually involves his two-year-old sitting on the counter with his wife by his side, paired with a glass of wine. They also enjoy being outside, sitting in the backyard and getting the grill going.
The conversation started with a red tool box; it was interesting to see such an industrial, unique object in his kitchen. As he continued to chop vegetables, I gazed outside, and spotted a small red top grill. Nothing extravagant, just simple. The pieces of the masterpiece that he was creating began to come together. Similar to a painter preparing for a major opening with a blank canvas, this non-assuming grill appeared as a lonely object, sitting in the middle of a well-manicured backyard with a picturesque lake as its backdrop. In no way did I imagine that this simple object would be the foundation of the dishes that he was creating.
My curiosity began to grow. I had to ask, “Are you more of a griller, or pots and pans type of guy?” Beckman replied, “This time of year, we try to stay inside. If I have the time, I like to fire up the charcoal grill because I like the smoky flavor you get from it. Usually a combination, a good healthy salad, legumes, whole grains and something smoky and grilled. A lot of the food at my restaurant comes from that flavor profile.”
Beckman uses the same tools to cook at home as he uses in his restaurants, Truss and Twine and Workshop Kitchen + Bar, and he keeps them all in that red toolbox. As the comfort level heightened, the conversation took a comedic turn. “Say for instance you were on ‘Naked and Afraid,’ cooking style. What is that one tool you can not do without?” Beckman replied, “My knife. It is my carbon steel 11-inch chef’s knife and it is versatile for everything.” He keeps his tools basic at home, something that most master chefs would appreciate.
As the fragrant aromas began to fill up the room, his wife and daughter woke up from a nap. At this point, we are all immersed in culinary bliss. He sat his daughter on the counter, and she observed him cooking as if this was a part of her everyday routine. She patiently watched her dad as he diligently prepared some of her favorite dishes. She was now his sous chef, and she was prepared to taste and give the thumbs up when necessary.
When it comes to sourcing ingredients for his home, his strategy is all about freshness. “We use farm-to-table, farmers market and Whole Foods. We are shopping for organic produce at home,” he explained. He grabs a few things from work as well to include into his home dishes. “A lot of the spices and oils and specialty fish that is hard to get anywhere retail, we take advantage of the supply chain at work.” One of his favorite places is the Santa Monica Farmers Market, due to the fact that he went there religiously every Wednesday for three years. “I feel like I know it well,” he mentioned, and “the produce is always beautiful.”
Currently, his restaurants are in a steady growth phase, and mentorship is Beckman’s number one priority. He has a renewed vibe at his five-year mark, continuing to instill passion, while encouraging his leadership team to spread the energy of mentorship. With this positive outlook, his restaurants will have many successful years ahead. Beckman emphasized that by everyone on his team staying passionate, this will attribute to keeping the restaurant’s environment special. He mentioned, “They are doing something special, and I think that in any industry if you feel that, it helps keep the right people there.”
After all of the conversation amongst family and friends, it was time to eat. The table was set outside in a beautiful manner, paying attention to every detail. Today, he was a master host, chef, fishmonger and waiter—he was everything, all while keeping a calm demeanor. He created a warm environment that I am sure spills over into his restaurants. Dinner was served. Our meal included grilled fish that was flown in from Veta la Palma, French lentils, onion confit and roasted baby fennel. He created a true work of art with just two tools; his grill and his beloved knife, and lest we forget, the love and helping hands of his family. He proved that cooking from your heart starts in the home. The delicious spread was complete; we all enjoyed the rest of the evening and continued the chatting until the sun set in the heat of the desert.
In the Works
While at home, Beckman has time to execute new experimental dishes. Recently, he experimented with what he has named “Black Dish”:
-squid ink pasta
-beurre noir (black butter)
-black trumpet mushrooms