Eating out can be a conundrum for the earthly conscious. How do you know where the restaurant’s food is being sourced? Are they helping the planet or hurting it? Are they helping sustain life on this planet or are they hurting that too?
If you ask the CEO of the Obica Group of restaurants, Raimondo Boggia, who just opened his 20th restaurant, Obica, in Santa Monica on January 13, the answers to these questions are simple.
“We are about celebrity ingredients, not about celebrity chefs,” the restaurateur explained on Monday night while hosting Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara at the after party of the Tumbledown premiere. “That’s not because we don’t like our chefs but because we want the ingredients to come back to their pristine reason for being in nature.”
So what does this mean exactly? For starters it means they only purchase foods from places that respect plants and animals as much as they do humans. “All our recipes have a foot in tradition and an eye on the future,” says Boggia. “We want a local twist. When a product is good here we buy it locally from farmers. LIke all the ravicchio and the salads. We don’t serve anything with hormones. We are 99% organic. I cannot say 100% because in some seasons you don’t find 100% of the ingredients you need in an organic form.”
Then after they purchase it, the way they cook it is also as respectful to the environment and the ethos of reducing waste as possible. “We do the duck ragu for example. We buy the whole duck from a farm that is farming duck in a natural way, humanely,” Says Boggia. “Then we do the broth with the bones, we separate the meat, we cook the meat for long with celery and carrots and we do a ragu of duck like maybe they did in tuscany in the 1500s in the renaissance. That is what we like to do.”
It’s really about how you view food. “ I think we have to put nature at center stage,” says Boggia. “I like some expression of the fusion cuisine, but I don’t like when a so called chef, puts one ingredient on the other and they challenge themselves to be the more creative ones. To be creative you need to know the rules. If you know the rules, then sometimes you can break them. But if you don’t know the rule of nature it’s not creativity. It’s chaos.”
And by chaos he means the kind that involve your taste buds. “For instance, you have seen in many places that they do crustaceans like shrimp and lobster with garlic. That’s a mistake,” he said, continuing on as though he knew many would find that statement impossible to believe. “Garlic is overwhelming compared to the sweetness and the subtleness of the shrimp and lobster. If you want to associate shrimp with a strong flavor, maybe an onion. But you cannot kill the sweetness and the subtleness of a shrimp with a lot of garlic. Respecting nature means to know a lot about the consistency of the ingredients, their chemistry in essence.”
So here’s how you will eat shrimp at Obica; “My favorite shrimp is steamed and then eventually, pan seared for one minute,” said Boggia. “But the shrimp should be just white inside. Not even too much white, because by the way, the best way to eat shrimp is raw! With the head, you can suck the head of a shrimp and it’s great but it should be super raw and super fresh. Tonight we we’re serving it with a little sauce from the cantaloupe, just blended with a little bit of ginger. Because ginger is an opposite taste to the shrimp, but if you only if you don’t put too much. You know?”
Well, if you don’t know, you know where to try it!