Growing up as a graffiti artist and skateboarder in Orange County, California, a young Jason Neroni “was not interested in food, or in a career path of food in any sort of way.” There are no nostalgic tales of family trips to the farmers’ market in Neroni’s biography; instead, the chef was raised on what he describes as “standard American fare. You know; open a can, overcook a turkey, kill the steak. Burgers on Fridays.”
Neroni stumbled into the kitchen by way of Disneyland, where he’d taken a catering job with the sole intention of gaining free access to the park. After a few months peeling vegetables, he realized cooking satisfied his creative urge. “I was an artist first and foremost, but I couldn’t afford art school. I figured if I had to work, I might as well be doing something that, serendipitously, was an art craft.” After haranguing his bosses, he was promoted to the line at Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33, where he learnt how to make “chateaubriand, vinaigrettes, apple galettes” and other stalwarts of entry-level French cooking.
From there, Neroni’s natural talent, staunch work ethic, and fearless approach helped him rise up the ranks of some of the world’s most respected kitchens. From a stint at Chez Panisse at the age of 20 to an extended spell at Alain Ducasse’s Essex House, Neroni traversed restaurants in New York City, Monaco, Spain, and Paris, before landing back in his native California in 2009.
Last year, Neroni opened Superba Snack Bar with business partner Paul Hibler: a sleek but casual neighborhood restaurant in Venice where he can be seen holding down the open kitchen in a sky-blue snapback. Launching a post-modern pasta spot in this particularly flour-fearing part of California might seem like a bold move, but Neroni’s modern, flavor-packed menu has already earned him a nod as Eater LA’s Chef of the Year.
Neroni acknowledges that he has had to cater to his audience to some extent. For the “intolerants” he offers a gluten-free pasta option every night, and there are special items for vegans, too: the charred cauliflower T-Bone with avocado puree and castelvetrano olives offers all the decadence of a thick cut of steak. Elsewhere, though, the self-described pork provocateur keeps it meaty with globs of bone barrow, crunchy croutons of fried chicken skin, and even a house-cured pig’s head pastrami. As Neroni himself points out: “We sell a lot of bacon.”
Read on to discover the ten dishes that made Jason Neroni’s career, from bone marrow tacos in Mexico to a braised veal gnocchi dinner with Ferris Bueller.
Written by Phoebe Lovatt (@PhoebeLovatt)