Chef Bradley Long got his first restaurant job at 16, at the original Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Long Beach, as a dishwasher. “I started getting into cooking because those were the jobs you could get as a young kid.” And yet. Long discovered a new passion in the kitchen, and gradually worked his way up the culinary ladder, eventually ascending from the dish pit to the line and ultimately—thanks to a cold email sent on a whim—finding his place at a string of James Beard and Michelin-awarded restaurants, until finally landing with us at Reunion Venice Beach.
NEUEJOURNAL: Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
I actually was more of an art kid. I was into skateboarding and photography and music. But then I found that working in kitchens just felt kind of natural—like, ‘I can do this.’ I kept working in kitchens and just read a ton about cooking— I had one chef who just gave me all his old cookbooks and I would just read and read. It went like that for a few years, and then I discovered this chef named Sean Brock, out in Charleston. I think the New York Times had just named his restaurant “Husk” one of the most important restaurants in the country. They were making their own ketchup, their own olive oil. And I was like, that’s where I want to work. So I emailed him. He called me back like an hour later and we talked for two hours, just about food. At the end of it he said,” well, if you can make it out here, you have a job.”
Three months later, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I had packed up most of our stuff, sold the rest, took our cat, got into our little Nissan, and moved out there.
NJ: Has that experience influenced your own approach to cooking?
BL: Sean’s cooking was really honest. They were making everything in-house, from an area that was pretty much a 20 mile radius around them. It felt like it had a story to it. And I would say I gravitate towards food that’s sincere in that way. Honest, not overly complicated, not following food trends.
NJ: How would you describe the menu at Reunion Venice Beach?
BL: We have that Italian influence, but it’s California Italian. So for example, we have a mussels cioppino—which is a dish everyone thinks of as Italian, but it actually was invented in San Francisco [by Italian immigrants]. Cioppino is all about this fragrant tomato–based broth. You’ve got fennel in there, then you’ve got the onion. I’m half Mexican and my mom cooked a lot—I grew up eating a ton of Mexican food. So I added some dried chili in there as well. It’s really a mix of influences, inspired by the abundance of California produce and really good, fresh, local seafood.
NJ: Are you loving tomato season right now?
BL: Yes! The Santa Monica Farmer’s market has really good farms all the way. I’m there every Wednesday. We have some green tomatoes from a farm called Munak Ranch. Sungold tomatoes are really coming in— they’re smaller than cherry tomatoes, but they’re bright orange and have an incredible sweetness. Summer has been all about the tomatoes, peppers, and all those really fresh bright herbs, like basil, mint, everything that grows really well in the heat.
NJ: The concept behind Reunion is “a memory of the best dinner party that you’ve ever been to.” What do you think makes a great dinner party?
BL: Great company, right? The weather here is so great, and we have a big backyard down in Long Beach. So my wife and I will invite a bunch of friends over, have drinks, and I like to cook outside so I’ll grill fish or even grill oysters. Sometimes we’ll smoke pork.
NJ: Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?
Mandolin. There’s a Japanese brand called Benriner and it’s just the best. It’s a little razor blade. And anyone can get one—you don’t have to have a $500 knife. It’s literally a $30 piece of plastic with a razor blade. And you can get these slices that are super thin, super consistent.
NJ: I’m always so curious about what chefs cook in their downtime. Do you have an after work go-to meal?
BL: If it’s late in the day, a peanut butter and jelly and a glass of milk. So simple but it’s so good. It has to be Martin’s potato bread, and chunky peanut butter.
NJ: Jam or jelly?
BL: Strawberry preservers, with the seeds to give it that crunch.
NJ: And aside from Reunion Venice Beach, any culinary recommendations in LA?
BL: Philippe’s, the French dip spot downtown. I love that place. I drive out there as much as I can. It’s been around since like, 1930. You get a potato salad and a French dip, and it’s all so cheap and the people working there have been there for 30 years. Oh it’s so good. It’s great.
NJ: And what about outside the kitchen? What else do you do for creative inspiration?
BL: My passion project is working on old vintage motorcycles—I actually used to run a little shop with some of my friends. We repair them, we flip them, we ride them. I have vintage mopeds, I have a small Honda and then I have a Harley.
NJ: The chef, the motorcycle, driving up the California coast to get to work. You’re really painting a picture.
BL: You got it. We figure it out from Long Beach, right?
Reunion Venice Beach is located at 73 Market Street,
on the second floor of NeueHouse Venice Beach.
Dinner begins every day at 5PM