A child of Chinese immigrants and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, Mei Lin cut her teeth in the fast-paced kitchens of Las Vegas before landing in Los Angeles. This season, she’s hoping to prove herself on a competitive cooking reality show and, eventually, open her own restaurant.

We spent a morning walking the stalls at the Santa Monica Farmers Market where she delighted in the fresh produce. Afterwards, we headed to her friend’s home in Santa Monica to cook a couple of dishes and mix a round of Absolut cocktails for a leisurely, afternoon lunch in a quiet, courtyard garden.

With a bundle of asparagus in hand, Mei Lin surveyed a stunning sea of squash blossoms at the market. She was very discerning in the produce she chose.

Returning to a Santa Monica home, Mei Lin picked some Meyer lemons from a tree. Even though they were slightly unripe, they were still immensely fragrant.

Lin sandwiched whole sea scallops between double sheets of cheesecloth and sea salt. She zested both yellow lemons and Meyer lemons over the salt to lend a bright fragrance to the cure. She let the scallops cure for about half an hour.

Slicing the cured scallops into thin coins, Lin fanned them out onto a plate, along with a creamy wasabi-sunchoke purée. She garnished the scallops with curls of thinly sliced Granny Smith apples and parsnip chips. The dish was finished with tangy apple-yuzu vinaigrette.

To pair with the light, acidic flavors of the cured scallop dish, Lin made an Absolut gimlet. Replacing the traditional lime juice with yuzu juice, she also added simple syrup, cucumber juice, mint, and basil to the Absolut.

Lin’s gimlet had a milky, jadite color. She garnished her Absolut gimlet with fresh opal basil and sliced cucumbers.

For her second dish, Lin sliced yellow squash and asparagus thinly on a mandoline.

On a bed of bulgur wheat, Lin nested a coddled egg, wobbly with a runny yolk. She ringed the egg with the ribbons of squash and asparagus, and garnished the dish with sprouts and dollops of tofu-miso custard, which gave the dish a savory boost in flavor.

To finish, Lin added crisp, nori-flecked chips to her coddled egg dish, for a crunchy contrast.

Lin wanted something rich and robust to pair with her egg dish. So, she blitzed some kimchi in the blender, and then strained it through a sieve to smooth out the juice. To the kimchi purée, she added Wostercheshire sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, and one part Absolut Vodka. She garnished the drink with some spicy radishes, a marigold blossom, and a thick plank of cucumber. The velvety thickness of this drink, along with its color, tanginess, and spiciness resembled a traditional Bloody Mary remarkably. But with the kimchi, this version had a noticeably garlicky kick.

Lin finished her Kimchi Bloody Mary with a dash of sansho pepper.

Mei Lin’s Absolut gimlet, paired with cured scallops.

Mei Lin’s cooking, high in acid and heat, was representative of her Asian heritage. Her cured scallop dish, paired with a bright Absolut gimlet highlighted her restraint, producing subtle, but sophisticated flavor combinations. Her coddled egg with tofu-miso custard, served with a punchy kimchi Bloody Mary, showcased her ability to be bold and brassy in her cooking.

Bonjwing Lee

The Next 75 Miles Story

Shawn Gawle

Shawn Gawle

Bonjwing travels to San Francisco to meet up with Shawn Gawle. Known for his pastry skills, Gawle makes a pastry-inspired gnocchi and a brilliant dessert both derived from his success at the Ferry Terminal Marketplace.

Shawn's Persimmon Feast