Thomas Salamunovich, exec chef of Larkspur (and Larkburger) on farm-to-table fatigue
Biggest menu bomb: I've had many. There was once a pounded diver scallop warmed with a Tahitian vanilla-bean nage, ruby grapefruit and some other items that I've tried to forget. Let's just say it wasn't successful.
Favorite dish on your menu: Right now, it's the tuna carpaccio Niçoise. It's an entire play on a Niçoise salad, but done as an elegant carpaccio. We pound tuna from the top of the loin and press it with lemon oil, which almost makes it seem confited. Then we add a mosaic of soybean tapenade, which replaces the green beans; botarga -- that replaces the anchovies; tomato powder; two types of salt (one for texture, intense hits of flavor and mouthfeel; the other for the flavor development); Niçoise tapenade; pommes gaufrette; micro-basil; and caramelized garlic aioli. When you think of what's in a classic Niçoise, you'll find all the same elements in this dish, but even if you're not focused on these details, the dish is beautiful and really enjoyable to eat -- and if you do understand the thought processes behind its creation, then it's even more interesting. Nonetheless, everyone who's tried it seems to really enjoy it.
Favorite childhood food memory: Frying just-caught abalone with my uncles, parents and siblings. My oldest brother and uncle used to go scuba diving off the coast of Los Angeles on Fridays, and since we're a Catholic family, we ate things from the ocean on Fridays. The old-style pan skillet with the plug attached to it sat on the counter with newspaper under it, and we'd eat the crispy pieces with squeezes of lemon while standing at the counter. They'd have their spears with the rubber strap to propel the spear in the water, and I'd sneak out to the yard with fish in my mouth to practice using the spear, shooting it into the lawn. What little kid doesn't like spears and fried fish? I didn't know at the time that abalone would become such a delicacy.
Favorite junk food: I don't really indulge in junk food, but on the very rare occasion that I do, McDonald's hash browns are to die for. It requires a total slip of decorum and common sense, but every now and then, they're an amazing guilty pleasure. Of course, I hate myself the minute they've gone down my throat.
Last meal before you die: Any meal made with loved ones and enjoyed together with great music, good wine, and candles burning everywhere. I'd love to start it during the late daylight and go right through the night. No one would be in a hurry to leave; they'd be totally committed to the moment. And there would probably be a roast chicken or two on the table.