Los Angeles, The Ultimate Food City

It took a week-long assignment on food culture in Los Angeles for me to finally understand and comprehend why LA is so beloved and cherished by natives and non-natives alike. There is nothing like discovering a city through the lens of food, and Los Angeles is one of the most incredible food cities in the country. The March issue of Saveur Magazine is entirely dedicated to Los Angeles and it’s incredible food history and culture. I can honestly say that working on this issue made me want to move to that city. What an incredible place. So much to experience, learn and taste – and that’s just the food.

I was pretty excited when my editor at the magazine told me that I got the cover for that issue. It was photographed at Pizzeria Mozza – the love child of Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich — and one of the hottest pizzerias in the country.

The stories I could tell you about Los Angeles and the personalities I met are pretty great. When I showed up to photograph Wolfgang Puck, pictured above, what I thought would be a 15 minute shoot turned out to be so much more. He was high energy, fun and gave me as much time as I needed.

Wolf’s signature pizza smoked salmon and caviar

Beet and goat cheese napoleons


I can’t say enough about how lovely and approachable Chef Suzanne Goin was, (pictured above and her food below). She’s a former Alice Water’s Chez Panisse  veteran, and has become one of the most celebrated chef’s in her native Los Angeles.

During my time at  The Original Pantry Cafe in downtown LA I found my best pictures with the kitchen staff on break in the basement. I’ll give you a preview of my stories through these images. Hopefully, these photos will help you understand one the biggest stars of Los Angeles is not its glitz and glamour, but its food.

Impromptu taco stands at night in east Los Angeles

La Abeja, Mexican cafe in Highland Park (notice the knife in the background, securing the door)

Mariachi players in Los Angeles  Boyle Heights neighborhood

Dining among the stars at the famous Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel

One of the many roaming taco trucks in Los Angeles

Hair and makeup artist behind the scenes during a fashion show at the Biltmore Hotel

Line cook eating dinner in the staff lounge at the Original Pantry Cafe


Filed under assignments, Chefs, Domestic Assignments, Favorite Places, food culture, Inspiration, Latinos, Los Angeles, Mexican Food, Restaurants, Suzanne Goin, travel, Wolfgang Puck

31 Responses to Los Angeles, The Ultimate Food City

  1. Everything looks good and your photography is amazing. The food really pops out of my computer screen.

  2. That smoked salmon/caviar flatbread thing? WANT.

    And though we saw some of these at the workshop, it was so cool to see more that we didn’t see. Thanks for sharing your images!

  3. Living in LA you just made me appreciate it more and how lucky I am to be surrounded with all this great food! Love the shots of the backbone of industry the men and women who prep and clean all our food before the chefs put the finishing touches on the plate.

  4. kelly in austin

    Holy Mole..these are so beautiful. The food portraits look like Netherladish paintings..the narrative in the shots of the people with the food. Amazing!

  5. Such energy in each of your posts and pictures – Love :)
    I was only in L.A for a few days last week but quickly became addicted to its colors and energy. Great peeps too :)

  6. What a wonderful photo journal of Los Angeles food. Amazing pictures.

  7. These photos, and the stories they tell, are incredible. Thank you for sharing culture through food.

  8. I’m from L.A. but currently live in Seattle. I’m going home this weekend to see family and friends–and this post reminds me how much I love L.A. food! It’s a big beautiful city, once to start to understand it. Thanks for the gorgeous images.

  9. G.

    stunning! you’ve made L.A. shine so brightly and lively.

  10. I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I really love your photography. Your pictures have a lot of soul.

  11. Emily

    That line cook picture rocks, seriously!

  12. LA definitely loves its food! You really can get absolutely any kind you can think of. Such a great series, thank you for sharing! Love that portrait of Mr Puck, but I think my fave has to be the last one…it tells a great story.

  13. Nice stuff. I like the guy in the red apron with the knife/lock on the door. Great image.

  14. Brilliant pics! Being from Oregon, I have to say that many things intimidate me about LA, but food is not one of them, and it really does seem like a fantastic city to eat in.

  15. Absolutely stunning images, Penny – as always. That salmon/caviar pizza literally took my breath away.

  16. tastyeatsathome

    As always, I love your photography. I did notice you had those photos in the LA issue of Saveur! COngrats!

  17. The last picture is my favorite. Awesome photography.

  18. Great photography. I also was surprisingly impressed by the quality of L.A. food on a recent trip there. Really loved Koi, Mastro’s, Bazaar, Saddle Peak Lodge, XIV, and even the Ivy. Really really loved each and every one of these places….

  19. The pictures were just great, and the smoked salmon and caviar pizza just made my mouth water!

  20. I love this. I love the things you’ve captured. I’m also dying to know what kind of dressing/sauce they put on the beet/goat cheese napoleons.

  21. I love your blog and your work on the Los Angeles Saveur issue. I live in Los Angeles and I can say — having worked in the restaurant business — that L.A. has come a very long way food-wise since I moved here in the early 80s. It has become a food city like San Francisco and New York but with its own identity. Glad you were able to experience it. Thank you for a great write up.

  22. lovely post & photography. i have yet to experience LA but will have to make my way there very soon. :)

  23. Whenever you need an assistant on a shoot, I’m in!

  24. Wow! Was that your shot on Saveur?!?! That was an awesome issue! I think you have my dream job

  25. Great photos. You really capture the moment. I can almost smell the tacos.

  26. anewlookingglass

    I absolutely love the photos. The food looks like it’s there right in front of me. Shame I can’t taste it. And the potraits of the people related to all this great food really tell stories. I have added your blog to my page (that I have only just started…).

  27. Sandra J.

    Ah! I loved all the photos in that issue of Savuer! In particular, thank you for the special attention to the variety of wonderful taco stands in East Los Angeles, they’re so often overlooked. Should you be in town again, you should visit Dino’s Chicken and Burgers on Pico. They have this incredible spicy chicken that they’re constantly grilling up and it’s just such an amazing place that feels so quintessentially LA.

  28. I am loving your blog – the photos are amazing. The last one of the line cook dining by himself in the staff lounge – it’s beautiful.

  29. gabriellemarielopez

    Love your photos as always Penny! You’ve really captured the many parts of L.A. that I miss and love! (One small edit on your captions, the Mexican music group is a Norteña band, not Mariachi)

  30. nathan

    great photos, i would like to ask your permission to make a drawing of one of your photographs for an art assingment. has to be about the los angeles food scene. i would love to draw the pic of the man preparing food, the one with the knife in the door.

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