Chef/owner Jeremy Fox took back the reins at the kitchen of Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica a couple months ago, and he’s brought back one of his most beloved dishes: pozole verde. But because this is Fox, who’s constantly tweaking preparations and never likes to do things the easy way, he’s revised the pozole.
Previously, the pozole verde was a soul-warming appetizer that he made with mussels or clams.
“It’s evolved into more of a large-format fish dish,” says Fox, who’s now cooking down the liquid in the pozole more. “And this time, we’re getting the corn from Tehachapi Grain Project and nixtimalizing it ourselves. We’re getting the tortillas from them, too. So there’s a provenance of those things where there didn’t use to be.”
Fox has been glazing local black cod in masa miso (created by one of his sous chefs) for his pozole, but he’s also recently served pozole with California trout and obviously reserves the right to continue evolving the dish.
“The plan wasn’t that this is now our new signature dish,” Fox says. “We change our menu all the time. So we might do this for a month or so and change it, and then the pozole might go away again. We’ll see. … It would be great with pork belly.”
The pozole takes Fox back to his start at Rustic Canyon in 2013. He remembers making a sample menu for owner Josh Loeb.
“I was actually pretty new to LA, so I was trying to make an LA dish,” Fox says. “I wrote on the sample menu a pozole verde of clams, not knowing now I was going to do it. But it seemed to be the dish that piqued Josh’s interest the most. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make it. It was just something that sounded good”
Then one of Rustic Canyon’s sous chefs made a green sauce for family meal. Fox, who was testing out pozole at the time, put some of the green sauce in the broth. It transformed the pozole. Rustic Canyon reverse-engineered the sauce (which was originally made without a recipe) with a raw puree of poblano and jalapeno, garlic, water and distilled white vinegar.
“We’ve since tweaked it and standardized it and made it so many times that we have the recipe down to the gram,” Fox says.
Rustic Canyon’s mantra is “Simple Ain’t Easy.” At heart, this is a neighborhood restaurant that makes craveable food. But Fox, who previously cooked at iconic Los Gatos fine-dining restaurant Manresa and then revolutionized vegetable-forward cooking at Napa’s Ubuntu, good-naturedly complicates the process at Rustic Canyon.
“I love wasting my time on things,” he says. “We make salt, we make our ketchup, our mustard, our ricotta.”
For a massive Peads & Barnetts bone-in pork chop, Fox makes an intense XO sauce with the shells and heads from the TransparentSea Farm shrimp he’s used on Rustic Canyon’s shrimp toast.
So while Fox moved away from fine dining after Manresa, he never skimps on time and technique. This is also true at his other Santa Monica restaurant, Birdie G’s, where he’s overseeing an eight-night Hanukkah-ish pop-up dinner series in December. He’ll be reuniting with his Manresa boss and mentor, legendary chef David Kinch, for a December 13 dinner that might involve a gumbo z’herbes collaboration. Fox will also have another meaningful reunion when he cook alongside his longtime friends Kim Alter, James Syhabout and Mourad Lahlou on December 6. Alter and Syhabout were colleagues of Fox at Manresa.
“The thing I miss the most about the Bay Area is that we got to do these events,” Fox says. “It seems like anytime one of us had an event, we’d try to get the others involved.”
But these chefs are still very much a part of one another’s lives. Alter, who runs Nightbird in San Francisco, recently turned Fox onto Moveable Feast, which offers nationwide delivery of dinner-party feasts created by top-tier chefs. So Fox, who made weekly heat-and-serve meals at Birdie G’s during the pandemic, is creating Moveable Feast’s December box with corned tri-tip, matzo ball soup, Southern kugel, apple-and-sunchoke cake and more. Alter (who has a November box) and Fox are also part of Moveable Feast’s holiday caviar party box.
“There are a few people in my life like Kim and James Syhabout, where if they vouch for someone or something, then that’s all I need,” Fox says. “There’s not recipes that I necessarily rely on from Manresa, but what I did pick up on there was collaboration and how David built teams and involved us. It made us feel like we were really part of the creative process: the way we would talk about dishes and conceive dishes and figure them out and switch certain things and put a little spin on something that was recognizable. That’s what I took from there.”