As the renowned chef of Table 8, Govind Armstrong is a chef's chef among the culinary masters of Los Angeles. Honing his skills with some of the world's top chefs, Armstrong started working at Spago at 13, during his summer vacations. Armstrong went on to work in such well known Los Angeles restaurants as City Restaurant, Hotel Bel-Air and Campanile. To increase his cooking experience, Armstrong made several trips to Europe working in kitchens from Spain to France with stints at the American Hotel in Amsterdam and the Excelsior at the Hotel de l'Europe.
As co-owner and head chef of Table 8, Armstrong continues to push the culinary envelope. His skills are lauded as fresh and innovative in a city on the cutting edge of cuisine.
Andrew Kirschner, the other co-owner of Table 8 sees both of their personal philosophies merge and reflect in Table 8. "Govind and I wanted to create in Table 8 a restaurant of excellence and elegance, drama and simplicity," said Kirschner. "From the moment one walks in, our décor, our menu, the presentation of one's meal, I think Table 8 definitely creates an entire experience."
Located in the heart of Los Angeles on legendary Melrose Avenue, Table 8 has become a strong presence on the restaurant scene in a very short time. The skills both men bring to the table (pardon the pun) have paid off not only in Table 8's reputation for excellence of cuisine but in the fact that both genuinely delight in their work at the restaurant.
Organic Authority's Vicki Godal spoke at length with Chef Armstrong regarding how he brings his philosophy to his cooking at Table 8 and how organics play into that.
Vicki Godal (VG):What was your first experience with organic foods?
Govind Armstrong (GA):We had a garden growing up but my first professional use of organics was at Spago when I was 13. They would buy a lot of their products from Chino (Chino, Ca.). That was probably my biggest learning curve. Buying seasonal products when they were available based on flavor and the sustainable practices they used for growing.
VG: Can you tell a definite difference in the way organic foods taste?
GA: Yeah, I definitely can. I eat a lot of raw produce and organic foods have a more concentrated flavor.
VG: For our readers to do a taste comparison, what food could they put side by side, organic and non-organic to get a good idea of the difference in taste?
GA: I start with something simple like tomatoes. Get some organic tomatoes and some conventionally grown tomatoes. Visually seeing them side by side is the first big difference. Then just slice them and season them with some salt and pepper. It will be quite an eye-opener.
VG: What do you mean by the visual difference?
GA: The organic tomatoes will not be as perfect and beautiful as the hybrid tomatoes or as lacking in flavor. There will be some blemishing; the color may not be as good and they will not be as uniform in size or shape. But the flavor is unlike any other.
VG: So what causes the concentration of flavor in organics?
GA: Basically it's the origin of the seeds. In organics, the seeds are not engineered strictly to produce perfect looking mass quantities. Once the seeds are altered for mass production it sort of makes sense when you think about it that if they're making something for beauty and lots of it, that something, in this case the flavor, is going to get lost along the way.
VG: How do organic products figure into Table 8?
GA: It's just a conscious decision to use as many organically grown products or as many sustainable products as we can. As more and more people do that it will really start to help the future of the earth. It's also about watching what we put into our bodies, you know. Ingesting vegetables sprayed with pesticides or generic chickens fed growth hormones.
VG: In regard to your own life do you try to observe this philosophy of eating organic at home?
GA: Not 100% but I try to keep it in mind when eating at home and find a happy median.
VG: Last time we spoke, you were working on your next Table 8 restaurant down in South Beach, Florida. How is that coming?
GA: It's going great. It's going to be open by next year. We're shooting for the end of November.
As a means of comparison for our cooking readers, I asked Govind for a recipe that would really showcase the flavor of organic tomatoes. The following recipe is one of Govind's favorite's with a twist, cool, comfort tomato soup.
Chilled Summer Tomato Soup with Dungeness Crab and Avocado
2 lbs ripe summer organic tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz dungeness crab meat
1 rganic Avocado
1 tablespoon avocado oil
To make the soup, begin by cutting the tomatoes in half and squeezing out the seeds. Then coarsely chop the flesh, sprinkle with 1 T kosher salt, place in a colander and set aside for a half an hour. Use a hand emersion blender and puree the tomatoes until smooth. Pass the tomatoes through a fine mesh strainer, whisk in the olive oil and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed and allow to cool in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, whisk the soup, check the seasoning and pour into a chilled soup bowl. Quarter the avocado, peel, remove the stone and thinly slice each quarter into a fan. Place a small dollop of crab meat in the center of the bowl and place the avocado fan on top. Sprinkle the remaining crab meat around and drizzle with the avocado oil.
Table 8 Restaurant is located at 7661 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. For reservations call 323-782-8258.