Chef and restaurateur Nancy Silverton rented a house in Tuscany 33 years ago, and promptly became obsessed with Italian cuisine. “I fell in love with Italy then, did a lot of cooking, but mostly, I fell in love with how delicious everything was,” she recalls. “I really appreciate dishes that are very very simple.”
Three decades later, she’s the owner and co-owner of multiple restaurants across Los Angeles — namely La Brea Bakery and Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza — the author of over 10 cookbooks, and among LA’s most notable chefs when it comes to Italian cuisine and fresh bread.
Her inspiration may have begun in Italy, but her restaurant career began with LA’s bread scene, or lack thereof. The opening of Silverton’s La Brea bakery was a game-changer for Los Angeles. “When I created [La Brea Bakery], I didn’t know where it was going to lead,” says Silverton. “Nothing was premeditated. It was as simple as: I was going to open a restaurant, there wasn’t a lot of good bread in Los Angeles, why don’t I try to figure out how to bake a loaf?” There are now six La Brea bakeries across the U.S., and all of them continue to use Silverton’s original 30-year-old starter, created with wild yeasts from the skin of organic grapes.
These days, Silverton spends half the year in California, and the other half at her home in Umbria, cooking, learning, and meeting local restaurant owners, farmers, cheesemakers, and other food-world people who also spend their time celebrating the bounty of what the Italian countryside has to offer. “It’s my ideal vacation, because it’s a vacation that I get to cook at,” she says. “For me, a real vacation is being away from the pressure of running a restaurant, but still being able to cook on my terms.”
Check out the full video to learn more about how Nancy Silverton came to be the creator of some of LA’s most beloved Italian restaurants, and how she continues to learn about Italian cuisine through her insatiable curiosity.