he culinary world has been deeply rooted in his blood since childhood. Govind’s resume reads like a Who’s Who of the restaurant industry. From Wolfgang Puck and Nancy Silverton to Joachim Spilchal and the ”two hot tamales. Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, Govind has had the most brilliant opportunity to work with so many legend, members of the culinary world. Goat cheese, chanterelle mushrooms, nasturtiums, black cod, sea beans, heirloom tomatoes, green garlic… At the peak of the California food revolution, Govind was soaking it all up and identified with it completely.
After almost twenty years of honing his craft, Govind Armstrong is an amazing chef at the top of his game and only getting better. His restaurant, Table 8, in Los Angeles, is one of the toughest reservations to get. This book is full of recipes that will inspire everyone. His relaxed style will make you feel good about entertaining and confident in putting it together- and his fresh and focused food will blow you away. Small Bites, Big Nights is everything you are looking for in a cookbook. From great cocktails to small plats and brilliant desserts, this book gets to the point.
On personal note, I am thrilled to be writing the forward for Govind’s first cookbook. He and I are great friends, and we’ve found ourselves in many a place cooking together. Whether we’re hanging out in South Beach talking about his plans for the newest Table 8 Miami location, or trudging through the snow with coolers of steaks at the Sundance Film Festival, or sitting on the roof deck at my New York apartment having
dinner, Govind has instant rapport with anyone he meets and you can’t help but feel like you’ve known him Iota long tome. He also happens to be a very good sport about being harassed by all of our friends, who beg him for his Grilled Cheese and Pulled Short Ribs sandwiches at every occasion. Anyone in the know at Table 8 knows that Govind only serves the grilled cheese in the lounge area, not in the dining room. Mature, respectable friends at our dinner table have been known to leave the table momentarily to order a quick grilled cheese sandwich in the lounge. Trust me, they are addictive. So consider yourself lucky as the secret recipe for the infamous grilled cheese sandwich makes its Iona-overdue appearance in this book. & adventurous and make them at home!
In my opinion, Govind is the brightest young cooking talent, that Los Angeles hos seen since Wolfgang Puck, and he will be one of the great ones to watch along the years.. grew up in the city’s best restaurants, and now if s his loin.
Govind, I love your book.
New York City
By Juliette Rossant
Small Plates Big Nights (Clarkson Potter 2007) is a party book, a variation on Tyler Florcence’s Tyler’s Ultimate (see previous review). The subtitle is “Seductive Little Plates for Intimate Occasions and Lavish Parties.” No wonder, its author is Govind Armstrong, who spent his formative years – age 13 onwards – in some very hot restaurants where entertainment was king.
Start with his summer internship at Spago Hollywood. (If you want to know how eye-opening that experience was like for a teenager, read about Nancy Silverton and Mary Bergin, who posed as “Madame Isis,” in Super Chef, pp. 12-14.) After Spago, young Govind worked for other Super Chefs and top French chefs, like fellow Spago alumni Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel at Campanile, fellow Spago alumna Susan Feniger along with partner Mary Sue Milliken at City Restaurant, Joachim Splichal at Pinot Bistro, and another Wolfgang restaurant, Postrio in San Francisco. Americans may worry about being super-sized: Govind is super-chef-ed.
Govind is a good student, in more ways than one. His vocabulary is grounded in French Californian cuisine. He focuses on high-quality, fresh, seasonal ingredients. He presents in a simple way, without too much adornment and fuss. He approaches cuisine as entertainment. He now runs Table 8 in Los Angeles and Miami and L’Scorpion in Hollywood, making the onetime student a Super Chef.
With that mantle of Super Chef come the celebrity chef photographs by Lisa Romerein of Govind strewn throughout the book: Govind smelling herbs at a farmers market, Govind presenting a dish to a guest, Govind choosing lemons, Govind eating. Too bad these photographs tell us nothing more about his ideas, philosophy or technique.
Take a look at the table of contents. It’s all tongue in cheek—Govind uses the number “8” to finish words, as in celebr8 or cre8 . After an exuberant forward by fellow Celebrity Chef and entertainment maestro Tyler Florence, Govind traces his career in food from his family vegetable garden to Spago and onwards. Govind is enamored with small plates:
“After years of working with different ethnic foods and farm-fresh ingredients, I discovered that small plates were the best way to tie together all of the knowledge I had accumulated. Lounge menus allow for freedom in creation.
When you are making three or four dishes as opposed to one larger one, the diversity of flavors is more interesting as a cook (and as a guest).”
The key, of course, is to make sure none of those three or four dishes is too complicated or time consuming. The cookbook is helped by identifying difficulty levels.
By Rachel Levin
At his restaurant Table 8 in Hollywood, Govind Armstrong has elevated the concept of small plates to celebrity status. The market-driven, seasonal lounge menu attracts a well-heeled crowd of famous young things and food adventurers alike with inventive diminutive dishes. Armstrong is something of a sensation himself, having started his cooking career at the tender age of thirteen under the tutelage of Spago’s Wolfgang Puck. In Small Bites Big Nights, his first book, Armstrong reflects on the journey that led him to his small plates specialty and reveals the recipes for some of his most sought after creations, including the now-famous grilled cheese with pulled short ribs, Krispy Kreme “Coffee & Doughnuts” bread pudding and signature Table 8 creamsicle cocktail. This is a personal and passionate book, evidenced by Armstrong’s intimate introduction and his explanations, tips and anecdotes that accompany each recipe.
As far as organization, eight is the magic number: the eight chapters have roughly eight recipes each (plus cocktails), designed for the most part to feed eight people (Armstrong’s ideal party size). Such internal consistency speaks to Armstrong’s deep attention to detail. Recipes appear as building blocks of fresh ingredients wedged between forward slashes: arugula/dates/parmesan, roasted sunchoke soup/blue cheese croutons/pear, beef tenderloin/oxtail ravioli/swiss chard/cipollini onions. Such seeming simplicity belies the sophistication of technique. Luckily, each recipe is marked with difficulty level from easy to challenging to tip you off to the amount of time and labor involved. A centerpiece of the book, the chapter on dinner for eight supplies an elegant menu of Santa Barbara spot prawns in pernod and whole-roasted Colorado lamb rack with wine pairing suggestions. Cooking for only iwo? The chapter on “sexy savories” includes sensual possibilities like truffled gruyere fondue and oysters with Champagne granita. Since the plates are small, you won’t feel as guilty indulging in petite desserts like mascarpone peanut brownies or carrot cake with cream cheese mousse. This former child prodigy has certainly preserved his sense of wonder when it comes to “playing” with food.