LA Taste Talks celebrates culinary excellence

On Oct. 28 and 29, Los Angeles hosted the food and drink festival Taste Talks in one of four national annual conferences. Photo by Gabrielle Robinson | Daily Trojan

“Are you coming to the cereal party we’re hosting with Roy Choi?” Nguyen Tran of Button Mash asked Pawan Mahendro of Badmaash at Taste Talks on Sunday.

These were the types of conversations occurring among the celebrity chefs and restaurant owners of Los Angeles at Taste Talks. Taste Talks holds four national conferences annually in Brooklyn, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles — the latest of which took place this past weekend. Taste Talks Los Angeles was a packed event that included a conference and cookout, bringing together influential chefs, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and other food industry professionals for tastings, outdoor cookouts and panels.

Some celebrity chefs cooking and participating in panel discussions included Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone, Christian Page of Cassell’s and Josh Elkin of the Cooking Channel. The food festival was a celebration of culinary innovation in the global city of Los Angeles, as exemplified in talks by chefs like Pawan Mahendro.

Born and raised in Punjab, India, Mahendro is the owner and executive chef of Badmaash, an Indian gastropub located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles serving Indian dishes, burgers and beers with Bollywood movies projected onto its walls. His sons, Nakul and Arjun Mahendro, are also co-owners of the restaurant.

“Bollywood, Biggie and butter chicken,” Nakul said on why USC students should try Badmaash.

Pawan Mahendro attributes Badmaash’s success to customers leaving satisfied and happy with their dining experience, which extends beyond the dishes themselves. At Badmaash, the high ceilings, marble-topped counters and hip Indian decor contribute to this experiential satisfaction. 

On his top three favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, Pawan recommends  getting reservations at Bestia and Otium — both located in downtown Los Angeles. Their story and culture was one of many represented at Taste Talks 2017.

Aside from the talks, there was an outdoor grilling event featuring owners of Los Angeles’ hottest restaurants. The Exchange in downtown Los Angeles, by Alex Chang, serves Israeli food with a Californian influence. The dish it served was intriguing enough to compel tasters to visit the restaurant. Chang emphasized that the restaurant is inspired by worldwide hotels and echoes USC’s global community.