Tag: #Foie Grock

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Meet Francis, Union’s General Manager

March 26, 2016

We sat down to talk with Francis Castagnetti Jr. , the General Manager who keeps things running over at Union. We discussed what makes a great dining experience, his background in the restaurant business and his love for Chef Kalman’s spaghetti.

 

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How did you come to work at Union?

I moved to California from the East Coast back in 2003 and got a job working over at Match in North Hollywood before it turned into Tiki No. From there, I met Marie Petulla (Union’s c0-owner) who brought me over to Firefly in Studio City. Then when the person who had my job before me at Union was moving on, Marie just said, “you’re coming to work for me at Union.”

Have you always worked in the restaurant business?

My very first job, when I was 15 years old, was in an ice cream shop in Framingham, Massachusetts. Then when I was 19, I started working in an Italian Bakery in Newton, Mass. I was the guy who made the bread. And I loved making the bread. It’s a science. But bread people are always talking about temperature controlled rooms. Go to Rome. No one cares about the temperature of the room. They just make the bread.

When I was 19, making bread was just a job. Who cares? But when you get older it becomes pretty cool to have these skills. Here at Union we get all of our bread from Etxea Bakery in Hawthorn. They make it specific for us. We give them the flour we buy from Grist & Toll and then they mix it with their own special sour.

Details like this are why I love working for Union. This restaurant is a philosophy. We don’t deal with any middlemen whatsoever. We’re dealing directly with bakers, farmers and ranchers. Working at Union brings me back to my Italian childhood. Grandma was cooking food from scratch every day. And if you wanted fish, you went out and caught it.

How would you describe the Union experience to anyone who’s never eaten here before?

Everyone who works here comes from a fine dining background, but we’re all super laid back. Dan, Flower and I all work in tandem to create the best dining experience possible. This is a dream team. We all have a massive amount of respect for what Marie and Bruce have built and for each other.

Restaurants are how I’m able to be social. Working at a restaurant allows me to bring people joy through the experience. It’s like I’m throwing a party for every single person eating with us. It’s our job to make people feel like this is the very best place they can spend their money.

If a restaurant’s look or music doesn’t match the crowd, you’re gonna have problems. We keep an upbeat vibe going in here. I’m playing DJ now that Bruce is downtown with Knead. But Bruce and I are from the same era, so our sensibilities are very similar. You’re gonna hear Led Zepplin. You’re gonna hear Michael Jackson.

But at the end of the day, it’s about the food. You have to ask yourself, would I drive 45 minutes across town for this food? If the answer is no, then we’re not putting it on the menu.

What are you excited about in the near future?

I’m also looking forward to us bringing in some more lamb, veal and beef to the menu.

What’s your favorite dish at Union?

The spaghetti. The first time I had it I was hooked. It reminds me of grandma. Chef Kalman’s spaghetti brought back tastes and flavors I hadn’t thought of in 2o years. I would not want to live without that spaghetti.

 

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Francis also plays drums in the band Foie Grock with Chef Bruce Kalman. You can follow them on Twitter @FoieGrock, Facebook and Instagram @FoieGrock

 

Foie Grock on Food is the New Rock

December 1, 2015

Chef Kalman’s band, Foie Grock, is on today’s new episode of ‘Food is the New Rock,’ the podcast that talks food with musicians and music with chefs.

You can listen to the podcast at this link on iTunes.

If you’d like to hear more from Chef Kalman’s band, you’re in luck! They’re playing this Thursday night, 12/3 @ The Hotel Cafe in Hollywood: 1623 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90028.

Tickets to see Foie Grock are available at this link.

You can read more about Foie Grock in this article from LA Magazine:

Meet Foie Grock: L.A.’s Self-Proclaimed #1 Chef-Led Alternative Rock Cover Band

Duff Goldman, Bruce Kalman, and a few other culinarians start their journey towards rock stardom

For years we’ve said that chefs are the new rock stars. Now, two high-profile local chefs—Duff Goldman, from Charm City Cakes West and Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, and Bruce Kalman, from Union and soon-to-open Knead and Co Pasta Bar—are putting that theory to the test. They’re trying to be actual rock stars—like, with guitars and bright lights and everything. The two started “LA’s #1 chef-led alternative rock cover band,” and it’s called Foie Grock. Because of course it is.

“We tossed around a lot of names,” Kalman says. “Bread Zeppelin. Meatshop Boys. A Flock of Meatballs. Oreo Speedwagon. Limp Brisket.” The food-music puns are endless.

It makes sense, really. A kitchen crew is like a band on so many levels; words like rhythm, harmony, lead, and backup can be used for both. People need to gel in the kitchen, flavors meld on the plate, and it all has to come out pleasing the general public. “I think the bass is like the salt in any dish. The bass brings all the other sounds together. The bass is bridge between rhythm and harmony. It’s the midway point between the drums and the guitar,” says Goldman, who plays bass in the group. He goes on to equate the drums with the protein, the piece everything else is built upon, and the guitar is the sauce. “The bass and the drums make the meat of the dish taste meaty, the guitar gives it the FLAVOR.”

Foie Grock came together rather, um, organically. Kalman and Goldman were standing next to each other at an event, and someone told them they looked like they were in a band. “Well I do sing and play guitar,” Kalman said. “And I play bass,” Goldman replied. And there you have it—magic.

Along with Kalman on lead guitar and vocals and Goldman on bass, the rest of the band includes a few others in the local food world, even if tangentially. Drummer Francis Castagnetti is general manager at Union in Pasadena, and guitarist Ben Offenberg works for Resy, the reservation app. Only Jeff Liffman, who plays keyboards and sings back up vocals, is the professional musician. But he’s a “serious eater” the others say.

Before, or most likely while, the two chefs were coming up in the ranks, both have played instruments for years, even publicly. “I played in a Jersey rock band for awhile,” Kalman says. “We opened for Meatloaf!” Goldman has a more storied past on stage with several Baltimore bands: Big Mama Cotton Crotch; the “post-rock” soihadto; Danger Ice, a psychobilly Elvis cover band; and Two Day Romance, an Emo band that “almost got signed by Sony,” he says. “Thank God we didn’t or I wouldn’t be cooking today.” Two of Goldman’s bands included other chefs he worked with at the time.

“Kitchens and bands are just groups of talented sociopathic individuals all trying to coexist and work towards a common goal. If one guy isn’t doing their job, then the whole group is affected,” Goldman says. “Also, they’re both jobs that you don’t make a lot of money doing, they both have long hours and require years and years of training, and they are both incredibly difficult to get right. They are both jobs that you have to love with deepest part of your soul in order to succeed.”

The group performs hits from bands like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Animals, Foo Fighters, and Black Crows. “Covers, so everyone can sing along, and mostly stuff we listened to in high school and college,” Goldman adds. “The band really wants to play “Lighting Crashes” by Live, but I kinda hate that song.”

You can catch Foie Grock’s first public appearance this week, on Thursday, October 1, at Room 5 in West Hollywood. Tickets are $10 (get them here), which is cheaper than anything you’ll eat at either chef’s spots. Proceeds from this performance will help a friend and fellow Union manager recently diagnosed with cancer cover medical costs for her treatment (find more info on their Gofundme page). As for when they’ll play next, Kalman says as much as they can. “It just all depends on our busy schedules.” Rock and roll, people. Rock. And. Roll.

– See more at: http://www.lamag.com/digestblog/meet-foie-grock-l-a-s-self-proclaimed-1-chef-led-alternative-rock-cover-band/#sthash.hvhJsYgv.dpuf