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Home > FINE DINING > Santa Monica Fine Dining > Melisse > Conversations with Chefs
Josiah Citrin
TravelsinTaste.com had the opportunity to chat with rising culinary star Josiah Citrin of Melisse in Santa Monica, who dished about the restaurant, the Santa Monica dining scene and the culinary profession in general, including the ways in which it's changed since he began his career in the late 1980s.

Our conversation began with musings on dining in Santa Monica. Of the local culinary culture, Chef Citrin says, "It's a pretty small scene; although there are a lot of restaurants, there aren't a lot of high end ones." Still, he adds, Santa Monica is unique. "Santa Monica is special because it's a small metropolitan city by the beach, a city within a city, that is easy to get around."

Its location is what makes Santa Monica worth cooking for, according to Chef Citrin, who suggests that a restaurant's geography can truly impact its success. "It's the same old 'location, location, location,'" he says. "You never know what is going to do great. Sometimes you find a place in a good location and it doesn't work and you work very hard to find it; other times you think it's a shoo-in and the next time you see it it's closed. It's a hard one to figure out. A certain type of restaurant-one in a mall or in a shopping center-always works. When it comes to fine dining you never know what location will work or not. So many places in weird areas have done well."

That said, Chef Citrin has certainly found the recipe for success with Melisse-and while its location may be one ingredient, its food is the real star.

Chef Citrn's favorite part about owning a restaurant is being able to do what he wants to do there. He can afford to get the produce he wants and spend the money on the best ingredients he can find to ensure his clients' continued enjoyment. A Santa Monica native, he tries to spend most of his money with locals, especially at the farmers' market. Still, there are certain things that he must import, such as fish from Japan and France, Dover sole and truffles. Everything else he tries to keep local.

Of course, "local" isn't all Chef Citron likes. He also likes "seasonal." "I like ingredients that come out at certain times of year," he says. "I like summer for the tomatoes. In the fall I like root vegetables and truffles." In fact, truffles comprise a significant portion of Chef Citron's menu—so significant, in fact, that he even has a seasonal truffle menu. That said, he has several specialty dishes, including an egg caviar, which consists of a poached egg yolk inside its shell with a cauliflower puree. It has lemon chive crème fresh and caviar on top. "I love the unique way of the warmth and the cold," Chef Citron says of the dish. "It's very nice."

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