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Chef Michael Fiorelli of Love & Salt Talks Food, Family

Oct 15, 2014 01:03PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Chef Michael Fiorelli at the Manhattan Beach Pier; photo credit - Andrea Bricco

The highly anticipated restaurant Love & Salt restaurant, opening this fall in Manhattan Beach, promises a stellar dining experience with an all-star cooking and management team. The Italian-style restaurant brings together Chef/Partner Michael Fiorelli and Chef de Cuisine/Pastry Chef Rebecca Merhej (see more on Merhej's recent honor here) both alums of the critically revered mar'sel at Terranea Resort, with industry veterans and father and daughter team, Guy & Sylvie Gabriele (Cafe Pierre, Zazou, Farm Stand). The team will be rounded out with Stephane le Garrec, formerly the manager for Café Pierre, who will be overseeing front-of-house operations as the General Manager.

The restaurant, named for the team's shared philosophy that great food needs only love and salt, will feature housemade breads and pastas, wood oven pizzas, produce-driven small plates, "nose-to-tail" bites for adventurous palates, and larger shareable entrees that blend accessibility with the chefs' dynamic culinary style. A full bar will be a draw for solo diners and locals dropping by for a quick bite, classic cocktail or apertif.

DigMB had a chance to talk with Chef/Partner Michael Fiorelli about the restaurant opening and what diners can expect from the Love & Salt experience.

DigMB: What were the factors that led you to choose Manhattan Beach as the location for your new endeavor?  

Michael Fiorelli: First and foremost, I wanted to create a partnership with people who shared the same values as I did: passion, integrity and a love for making people happy. When I met Guy and Sylvie Gabriele, who were currently operating MB icon, Café Pierre, it was a no-brainer for me.  All of our philosophies were right in line, and the timing made sense for all of us.  The fact that they happened to be in Manhattan Beach was like the icing on the cake. It's really a dream come true. There's some days when I'm down here and I look around and I still just can't believe this is all happening. I'm excited to set down roots in this community.

DigMB: Farm-to-table has been a strong emphasis of yours - Will the ingredients you use will be sourced locally? Will anything be grown on site? 

MF: While we don't have the space to grow anything on site, we do source as consciously and as close to home as possible. That's just one of the philosophies that Guy and Sylvie have practiced for years that immediately attracted me to their style of doing business. 

One of the most exciting things for the entire team at Love & Salt is creating partnerships with small local businesses and working together to find the best available products. In L.A. working with local farmers is our culture, but for us it doesn't end there. We do it in all of our practices. You have to remember, Guy has been a part of this community for over 35 years. The relationships he has built are irreplaceable. 

DigMB: What kind of feel are you trying to create in the restaurant?

MF: The most important thing with restaurant design is creating a space that makes the diner feel welcome - the kind of place they can imagine celebrating every occasion both big and small.  You'll see that ethos reflected in the design... an open kitchen, a long communal table, tons of natural light. 

DigMB: What kind of influences from Guy and Sylvie will diners see on the menu?

MF: Everything we do at the restaurant is a team effort. We all discuss our thoughts and ideas from the menu items down to the paper that it's printed on. That's one of the most gratifying things about working with this team. One of us will start out with a great idea and after processing it through everyone's different experiences and creativity we might end up with something completely different altogether, but you can be sure the end result is the best result. Until, of course, we come up with something even better! But that's where the fun happens. 

DigMB: What are some of the menu items that you are most excited about?

MF: That's like asking me to pick my favorite kid! I'm excited about the entire thing! Mostly I'm excited about how excited everyone around me is. It's great when we're cooking things and tasting through a bunch of different dishes and we're all just like, "Yeah. This is it. We're really onto something here."

DigMB: Will the restaurant be appropriate for families/children?

MF: We are a neighborhood restaurant. We're here to serve the community. So absolutely - we are all about family. We're a family. Our goal is to put out a great product , have a great time doing it and get to know everyone who walks through the door. 

Love & Salt is slated to open this fall at the former Cafe Pierre location, 317 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266.

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