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VALLEY WEEKEND | TIDBITS

Chef Sets High Standards for Chain's Delis

November 21, 1996|JUAN HOVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bruce Jacobs has the air of a man who loves what he does--and who has always done what he loved.

Now executive chef for the Bristol Farms gourmet and specialty food store chain, Jacobs, 33, grew up in a big family in Boston, the youngest of six children. His mother watched Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, on television when Jacobs was a small boy; nap time, Jacobs remembers, came right after the program aired.

Helping his mother in the kitchen led him to take home economics classes in school. Often the only boy to do so, he became the object of the scorn of other boys, Jacobs said. But he knew what he wanted to do. His first restaurant job came at age 13--washing dishes, of course. Throughout adolescence, he bused tables, waited, and paid attention to what cooks did in the kitchen.

As a young man, he took a two-year course in the culinary arts at the Essex Agricultural & Technical Institute in Danvers, Mass., and then donned the chef's white tunic, cooking in restaurants in New England.

Jacobs moved to Southern California six years ago. He cooked briefly at the landmark Admiral Risty restaurant in Rancho Palos Verdes, and then went to work for Bristol Farms.

As executive chef, he oversees the chain's delis, which groan with widely varying fare; he also creates the recipes for most of the items sold in the delis.

"We want to have restaurant quality food to go," Jacobs said. "People don't have time to cook these days, and I think they're getting burnt out on going out to eat all the time. They want the family time that comes with dinner, and they want good food, too.

"We have a whole line of low-fat and nonfat foods in the delis, and we're going to post all the nutritionals, too."

Like many a cook, Jacobs enjoys putting on a show. He was on hand recently when Bristol Farms opened its fifth Southland gourmet and specialty food store, in the spanking new Westlake Promenade at Westlake and East Thousand Oaks boulevards in Westlake.

Jacobs showed patrons how to make a Thanksgiving stuffing of sun-dried cherries and pistachios. "Here's the recipe," he said, handing out copies to his audience and smiling. "You can read along and yell at me if I forget something."

Working quickly, Jacobs showed how a pro dices an onion--with a few deft slices--and he urged cooks in his audience to exercise their own imaginations in varying the ingredients in his recipe.

"If you don't want wine in your stuffing, use broth instead," he said. "And you can substitute other sun-dried fruits for the cherries.

"You know what?" he went on, touching his hands to the front of his white chef's uniform. "I sometimes make a mess when I cook and I forget what it's like to have to clean up after myself. But when I get home at night I take this uniform off first thing--and then head straight into my own kitchen."

And who follows him there? His own son, Kyle, 7, who tells people that he, too, knows what he wants to be when he grows up.

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New Additions: Hoklai and Anna Chan, owners of the popular Yang Chow restaurant in Canoga Park, have added some delicacies to their menu, which features Mandarin and Sichuan cuisine.

At the top of the list is a dish featuring fresh asparagus with chicken in either a black bean sauce or a spicy garlic sauce. Waiter John Wang also likes to talk up a fillet of sizzling sole in a sweet and spicy sauce, and a dish of shrimp sauteed in the shell and sauced with garlic, ginger and cilantro.

The Chans have operated the Canoga Park restaurant for 19 years. They run a second restaurant, also called Yang Chow, in downtown Los Angeles at 819 N. Broadway.

Yang Chow, 6443 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 347-2610, and 819 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 625-0811.

*

Where There's Smoke: Saddle Peak Lodge--usually on anybody's list of top restaurants in Southern California--escaped damage during the brush fire that ate its way through the Santa Monica Mountain range between Calabasas and Malibu last month.

General Manager Lennart Lehman, unable to get to the restaurant when the fire erupted, learned that everything was OK only when he managed to make telephone contact with a neighbor.

The next day Lehman, Executive Chef Josie LeBalch and the restaurant's crew threw their doors open to the firefighter crews battling the blaze, offering them refreshments and refuge from their labors.

Now the only smoke coming out of Saddle Peak is from the restaurant's fireplaces.

Recent additions to the Saddle Peak menu include wild mushrooms simmered in sweet cream with shallots, Chilean sea bass cooked in a paper bag, and roasted pintelle hen.

Saddle Peak Lodge, 419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, (818) 222-3888.

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More Room: Phyllis Vaccarelli, who runs the respected Westlake Culinary Institute in Westlake Village, hopes to begin construction within a month on a project to expand her cooking school.

Under the direction of architect Leonard Polan of Westlake Village, the project will make it possible for Vaccarelli to offer more hands-on cooking classes, with more floor and counter space, more sinks and ovens.

Vaccarelli bought the Westlake Culinary Institute in 1984. She offers one-day demonstration classes featuring a host of widely known chefs and cookbook authors.

She also offers a six-month course for students heading into professional careers as chefs.

Westlake Culinary Institute, 4643 Lakeview Canyon Road, Westlake Village, (818) 991-3940.

Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He can be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at 103254,3561@compuserve.com

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