Like most 25-year-olds working in L.A.’s hospitality industry, Miles Thompson arrived in town with big, Hollywood-shaped dreams. “I’d had some [acting] success as a kid, so I thought I’d move here to give it a final shot,” he says of a short-lived career that included a role in the offbeat romcom Me and You and Everyone We Know, and a small part in TV show Third Watch. Quickly dispirited by “living alone, auditioning for toothpaste commercials, and waiting for the phone to ring,” the New York native cast aside his silver-screen aspirations and promptly reinvented himself as one of the city’s most promising young chefs.
Currently heading up the kitchen at Echo Park’s Allumette, Thompson is turning out complex, thoughtful dishes that belie both his tender age and diminutive appearance. His tenacity hasn’t gone unnoticed: He was recently honored as one of Zagat’s 30 most exciting young culinary talents in the Los Angeles area, and LA Weekly’s restaurant critic Besha Rodell described his food as a “taste of the future.”
Not bad for a chef with no formal training, who learnt his earliest culinary lessons by watching Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali on public access TV. “Back then, [cooking shows] were for people who were really interested in food,” Thompson says. “They taught you about dimensions, and layers of seasoning, and why and how you do things… It wasn’t just about making TV stars.”
The food here at Allumette is very alive. It’s very musical; it’s improvisational.
After six years working for a catering company in South Salem, NY, Thompson’s skills were finessed under the tutelage of Adam Becker (his mentor and first boss at the LA outpost of Nobu), and later during his time at Fairfax Avenue’s meat-centric restaurant, Animal, where chef-owners Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook introduced him to a fearless, subversive style of cooking that has informed his own approach.
“I think I’ve been really lucky to have worked in restaurants where creative freedom has been perpetuated,” he reflects. “Jon and Vinny really broke the mold with Animal; serving this pork-heavy menu in the middle of a Jewish neighborhood… No sign [over the door], no modifications, No apologies.” He sees Animal as the restaurant that paved the way for Los Angeles’ current dining renaissance. “I don’t know how much delicious, in-your-face, impactful food existed [in L.A.] before that.”
Since April of this year, Thompson has been turning out boldly flavored, hyper-seasonal dishes from his own kitchen on L.A.’s edgy eastside. As a former music student and actor, Thompson’s artistic sensibilities come across in every beautifully plated dish. “The food here at Allumette is very alive. It’s very musical; it’s improvisational,” he says of a tasting menu that features dishes such as branzino with shellfish tapioca, and cavatelli with uni ragu. “We’re striving to make something really special and unique and delicious, and interesting,” he adds. “But delicious first and foremost.”
Read about the ten dishes that shaped Miles Thompson’s career, from Thai pork jerky with ‘the best dipping sauce in the world’, to the truffled scrambled eggs that brought him to tears.