Friend of Graza: Karla Subero Pittol
The Los Angeles based chef behind Chainsaw on Australian french fry spice blends, dreaming of a tabletop Carpigiani, and the Pixar movie soundtrack she likes to cook to (that isn't Ratatouille).
Q: How do you describe yourself?
K: I know I’m a little rough around the edges, but I have a big heart and I love deeply.
Q: Do you think you're more Sizzle or more Drizzle?
K: Undoubtedly Drizzle. I can honestly drink good olive oil straight, which is why drizzling is almost a crutch for me in my cooking and plating. From ensalada, a dipping sauce, to arroz, fried fish to ice cream, I will be drizzling. I’m drizzling for flavor, yes. But maybe even more so for the tiny little jewels and sparkles that come from the impressive shine of a final drizzle on a dish.
Q: What's your current favorite grocery store find/ obsession?
K: I just got back a few days ago from a trip to Australia and if you haven’t heard of Chicken Salt yet, that is a google search I highly recommend. All the chips (fries) are heavily doused in this power umami spice blend and I might not want to eat another french fry without it again. I went to the grocery store a few hours before my return flight and picked up 5 bottles. I’m excited to play with it outside of the realm of potatoes, but I'll definitely start there.
Q: What’s on your wishlist for your kitchen?
K: I have very different goals for my work kitchen and my home kitchen. For work, it’s a very big ice cream maker!! I dream of a table top Carpigiani and the capacity to make tubs and tubs of ice cream quickly. At home, at the top of my wishlist is an entire set of Chamba clay cookware. They are the most stunning vessels made from local river clay in La Chamba, Columbia and for my purposes can be used to cook over open fire, and also to immediately elevate a family style tablescape when used for serving. I have a couple and I want more more more.
Q: You're known for your incredible pop up parrillas and food events. What's been the most special event you've organized, and how did it come to life through the menu?
K: Every event is special for me because no two are alike. However, an immediate standout for me was a Sobremesa, a collaboration with sister duo Claudia and Isabella of Casa Balandra from Mallorca, Spain. The name itself is a reference to the Spanish tradition of lingering at the table after a meal to carry on enjoying the pleasure of being in good company, usually over a coffee, more drinks, or (and!) good chat.
At ours, guests were encouraged to relish in a languid meal dotted with small plates and interactive bites plated straight onto the table leading to the finale, a heaping family style spread inspired by the tradition of a torrada: a Mallorcan celebration in which you’ll find bonfires city wide at the center of town squares, and smaller fire pits for friends and family to gather and bring their own meat, vegetables, and bread to toast. Clau and Isa transformed the Chainsaw space into another world for an evening with bits of charcuterie and garlic to rub on hand torn bread strung together and hung from handmade structures of driftwood collected in Mallorca, crisp white Spanish linens, and taper candles mounted by roughly and elegantly molded modeling paste.
The menu to complement this dreamscape was a marriage of California market produce, a sizzling South American style parilla, all laced with ties to traditional Spanish cuisine and kissed with fire to emulate the char from the cooking at a torrada. Round this out with a scoop of basque cheesecake ice cream topped with burnt bruleed winter citrus, and bottles of Hierbas de Mallorca liqueur placed directly on the table, sobremesa style. The night was pure magic.
Q: Are there any dishes or ingredients on your cooking bucket list that you have yet to attempt?
K: My partner is Sri Lankan and before him I had little to no experience with the cuisine. His family is in Australia and in the three years leading up to finally meeting them in person, we’ve been collecting their recipes to make at home. I’d heard so much of mum’s exceptional beef curry but it was the only recipe she couldn’t relay because of how in-the-moment it is. I finally met her and watched her make it step by step while recording every eyeballed measurement to try and transcribe it not only for me, but for their family. All this is to say that I now have the recipe for the dish, and it’s on my near future bucket list to make it myself and do it some serious justice. Following that is another Sri Lankan dish called Black Pork Curry. I had a homemade version from his father and it was life changing.
Q: What are your all-around life mottos, mantras, philosophies?
K: This sounds so corny out of context to me, but I’ve lost count on fingers and toes how many times I’ve said that variety is the spice of life. What that means to me is: try all the things. It plays to what I feel is the importance of trying and cooking dishes and recipes outside of our wheelhouse or cultures or comfort zones. The more we taste the more we feel, and the more we feel, the more we know. It doesn’t have to be related to food at all either for the same sentiment to apply. Sometimes I replace variety with other things that are the spice of life to me in the heat of the moment, but variety is the key.
Q: What's your favorite music to cook to?
K: My playlists are an indecisive yet fluid jumble and I’m happy to share them with anyone who wants to get in that headspace, hit me up. But something I really like to do is play a radio for a song that feels like what I’m making. For instance I’ll do something like, if I’m making homemade pasta I’ll cue the radio for Città vuota by Mina, an Italian power cover that was all over the ending credits of Pixar’s Luca, and then Spotify will take me on a journey so I can take it easy and just focus on the cooking and hosting. La vita bella.
Q: Who do you turn to, watch, or follow for food inspiration?
K: I’m so inspired by the people around me every day. My incredibly talented chef peers in restaurants, pop ups, or just sharing their cooking from home on an instagram story, my closest friends, my own family, and new people I meet. I’m not the *best* conversationalist so inevitably for me, creating a point of connection always goes back to food. When I’m getting to know people I’ll always ask what they like to eat, what kinds of dishes they grew up on, and what they make at home if and when they cook, which are questions that make sense coming from me because of my job of course. Even though it’s a tool to help me in social settings, there’s nothing I love more than learning from the source about something I’m not so familiar with, and I’ll often take a pinch or two from these lessons and conversations to weave into my own cooking.
Q: What's on the horizon for you!
K: Oh man!! Something really exciting, but it’s kind of a secret, but I can tell y’all pretty soon!! Did I mention it’s really exciting??? :)