In the course of a week and half, I’ve now twice encountered Jeff Mahin, Chef/Partner of Stella Rossa Pizza Bar. First at Zagat’s first-ever LA 30 Under 30 list, honoring the top chefs, managers, mixologist and industry professionals under the age of 30 in the LA/So. Cal area, where he was honored as one of the elite 30. Jeff’s awesomely unassuming for a super young Chef/Partner (he’s 28).
The second time was on Tuesday at the Windy City West 2012 event held at his restaurant (again, Stella Rossa, for those just skimming this post) along with their sister restaurant M Street Kitchen. For those who don’t know Windy City West it’s a legendary party uniting Chicagoans in entertainment in Los Angeles (total disclaimer in preparation for a couple of paragraphs down: I am Jersey born and breed).
For someone so young, Jeff’s got quite the culinary background. At the age of 17, he dropped out of school to cook at Nobu in New York. Then, without ever having been to the restaurant, he was hired to work in the culinary laboratory at the Fat Duck run by Heston Blumenthal the famed molecular gastronomist. By his early 20s, Jeff was back in the U.S., hired by Chicagoan Rich Melman, founder of the restaurant company Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, as his chef in charge of developing new concepts.
So when Melman decided to open his Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica, he called on Jeff to create the pies, which have become to be known as one of the staples of the insurgent pizza revival in Los Angeles. I like to think of Stella Rossa as all the tastiness of Pizzeria Mozza, without all the pretentiousness.
Now I’m sure I’m not supposed to say this because on this given night we were celebrating all things Chicago, but even though all the Chicagoans were going gaga for the deep dish Lou Malnati’s pizza slathered in cheese (which is a Chicago staple), in my opinion Jeff’s Stella Rossa pizza was the winner of the night (and remember, I did give you a disclaimer in the first paragraph). Substantially thick, but still holding that great crispy crunch it was the shining star of the event. And I’m not alone in my admiration; Stella Rossa consistently has a wait at its doors!
2000 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA