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Kitchen Life at Aventine Hollywood
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I’m eyeing two enormous pork chops sizzling in their own fat over the stove top in the kitchen of Aventine Hollywood—a trattoria located on North Cahuenga Boulevard. Executive Chef Adolfo Veronese prepared the cuts of pork with a simple brine consisting of equal parts salt and sugar, a pinch of pepper, a sliver of garlic, and rosemary. The chops were brined overnight to better infuse the flavor and increase the tenderness of the meat. On the adjacent burner, a pot of hot water is roaring in its boil with several red potatoes—skin on—to be mashed up in the moments to come. Using a set of tongs, Chef turns the two pork chops over to reveal a brown and golden color along the edges, ready to be finished off in the oven.

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At the corner of the narrow kitchen, one of the cooks is scooping ground meat from a large container with an ice cream scooper, forming the restaurant’s housemade meatballs. On the opposite end, prep cooks chop, slice, and dice vegetables that will eventually be used up after tonight’s busy service. The ritual continues with every new day; guests come and go but the kitchen life remains. There’s something rather romantic about it all and it continues to draw me in—even if only to observe and chat with the fellow cooks. The subject matter is usually the same; the rest of the world doesn’t seem to matter behind those kitchen doors (at least until a plate gets returned from a grumpy diner).

A small pan begins to warm up for a generous amount of sliced porcini mushrooms, a few twigs of thyme, and white wine. The heat is up and the sauce begins to thicken quickly while Chef moves effortlessly, whisking cream into the pot of potatoes, he begins mashing. He is calm and moves swiftly, but never rushed.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay, Adolfo graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in New York, worked in numerous restaurants across the country including Evvia Restaurant in Palo Alto, San Domenico in New York, Drago in San Francisco, and is now running Aventine in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He flies from LA to SF and back every week, but it doesn’t seem to phase him as he consistently presents a rather carefree attitude.

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“If my flight gets cancelled or delayed, I just go home,” he says. “I don’t wait around.”

He seems to take what life has thrown at him in good spirits and is willing to take every moment—including those in his own kitchen—as an opportunity to learn and play. A prime example of this very idea was when popcorn was casually mentioned in our conversation and the next thing I know, I hear the popping of kernels in a pot on the stove with another pot sitting on top of it upside down. I mean, why not, right?

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After being roasted to perfection, Chef removes the pork chops from the oven to plate it. A mountain of crunchy potatoes first, followed by the pork resting on top, and then a thick mushroom sauce poured liberally over—with slices of porcini and all. The sauce is piping hot and it begins to make its way into every pore of the pork chop. The finishing touch is a striped baby beet, peeled and cut in half.

After I stood in the kitchen with a blue blazer cutting into Adolfo’s creation and munching on popcorn with truffle oil, I am reminded of the beauty of the kitchen life. Behind all of the containers for the mise en place, stainless steel counter tops, and narrow passageways, there is a beating heart of equal parts passion, hustle, and talent. For Chef Adolfo, there’s probably a sprig of playfulness garnished on top for good measure.

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