Former True Food Kitchen Chef Gabriel Pacheco on Healthy Eats in LA

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Growing up in Los Angeles County, Gabriel Pacheco dreamed of being either a chef or a naval aviator. His influences are his family of talented cooks and his father, who’s a disabled Navy Seabee veteran. The two of them would watch cooking shows together, and, because his dad was physically unable to make the dishes portrayed, Pacheco would do his best to emulate the television chefs. After 11 years in the hospitality industry, Pacheco has worked everywhere from fine dining restaurants in Napa Valley to healthy eating spots in Santa Monica (where he was a sous chef at True Food Kitchen). Pacheco’s passion is still serving up healthy meals for others, and he thinks Los Angeles is the perfect place to find nutritious meals that are full of flavor. Here, he shares a few of his favorites.

What are some misconceptions people have about healthy food?

That it contains zero flavor! I’m no health nut, but correct seasoning and proper cooking technique can make anything taste great. One of my favorite dishes is a grilled tofu steak simply marinated in yuzu kosho (a Japanese chili paste with fermented yuzu zest) and tamari (gluten-free soy sauce).

What’s unique about the food scene in Los Angeles, and where are your favorite spots to grab a meal?

The best part about LA is you can get authentic food from around the globe. Whatever your desire, Mexican pan dulce on Alvera Street, amazing pork dumplings in Chinatown, or hand-picked produce from the farmers markets in Santa Monica – everything is available and just a short distance from one another.

It’s Saturday night, and you’re about to hit the town with your friends. Where do you go for the perfect night out in LA?

Start off at Abbot Kinney Road, noshing on fabulous charcuterie boards at The Tasting Kitchen and bike riding up the beach for some succulent shrimp at The Lobster on the Santa Monica Pier. Ending the night at Red Medicine in Beverly Hills for the báhn mìs and beef tartare used to be the best closure to an evening, but now that it’s closed I’ll have to find a new spot to end the night.

Even though you’re a fan of healthy eating, is there a spot you go to indulge?

Hinano Cafe in Venice. Best little burgers and draft beer!

What advice would you give to someone visiting LA?

Try everything you can. Don’t be afraid to walk into the hole-in-the-wall/mom-and-pop shops. Those tend to have the best food around. Ask the locals where they give their repeat business.

Why do you love LA?

It’s the center of everything: food, climate, pop culture, scenery, amusement. Anything and everything you desire can be found in LA.

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