Master baker Brad Winnaman has recently opened the doors to his new pizzeria, Urbano, in downtown Los Angeles. It has taken him many years to arrive at this point. He honed his skills by working at several famous restaurants and bakeries including La Brea Bakery, Campanile, and Border Grill. This interview let's diners get to know Chef Winnaman a little better by understanding his history and cooking philosophy.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I made the decision in the summer 1986. I was enrolled to attend college in the fall and I took the summer off and spent 4 weeks in Europe. The people and the food along the way, made me change my mind to pursue my cooking career.
What were your favorite dishes growing up?
My Mother's artichokes, gazpacho, and chili. Her Mexican food was amazing too.
What is your cooking philosophy?
Keep it simple. Buy what's best, when it's at it's best, and prepare it simply.
What challenges have you faced and overcome to open a restaurant, especially in this economic climate?
It's been 17 years since I've been in a kitchen. I have been baking bread for the past 17 years, and re-connecting with the labor pool of Chef's and cooks has taken more time than I thought it would.
What makes Urbano unique from other restaurants and pizzerias?
The people that work here. The owner's (Will Shamlian, and Michael Leko), and Jonny Valenti (General Manager) and I all worked together 17 years ago at a restaurant in Brentwood. Over the years we have kept in touch, and it finally came together to open Urbano.
Who do you consider to be your chef mentor and why?
Nancy Silverton. Her knowledge, her experience, her passion, and her success.
What is your advice for new chefs?
I think anyone interested in cooking professionally should try woking in a professional kitchen before they make the commitment to go to school. That's what I did. I took a cooking class taught by Susan Fenniger and Mary Sue Miliken of Border Grill and that was their recommendation to me. I applied the next day, and two weeks later, I started my cooking career at the Border Grill. The rest is history.
What are three kitchen tools you can't live without?
A knife, a cutting board, and a saute' pan.
If you could sit down at the dinner table with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?
My father. He passed when I was 12 and I would enjoy seeing him again, and having a meal with him.
What are your plans for the future?
Continue to develop and grow Urbano