Profile: Artist Dashiell Manley
Dashiell Manley is a very good cook. When asked if he can pinpoint the beginning of his passion for all things culinary, he mentions his grandmother Grace as the biggest influence.
“Starting when I was about 12, she would take me out to her favorite places,” he says in his quiet and spacious art studio in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
She lived in the Bay Area, close to local, iconic restaurants like Chez Panisse and Zuni. There, while eating oysters and roasted chicken, they would discuss what was on his plate and how it was prepared. Sometimes, Grace would go up to patrons and ask to taste their food. “She was badass. People were so surprised, they would actually let her try.”
Dash’s father, who worked in education setting up study-abroad programs for students, had a big impact as well. He traveled to Italy, Japan, South Africa and South America, bringing his young son with him. “My dad loves fancy things, and we would eat amazing food. Those were great formative experiences, as I learned what’s good and what’s not.”
Dash started cooking when he was 17. He enjoyed the ritual and the whole process. “What also really got me was the social aspect—dinner parties and the drinking that came with it,” he says. He zipped through The French Laundry Cookbook, making things like lobster poached in butter and other elaborate, lavish dishes.
He even attempted a YouTube cooking show with his friend Patrick. “It was a disaster,” he says, laughing. “We spent all this money on food, we filmed it, but we never posted it.”
During art school, he and his buddies made frequent trips to a French-Californian, fine-dining place called Sona on La Cienega Boulevard in L.A. (now closed, sadly) to indulge in nine-course tasting menus with wine pairing, dessert and cognac.
“It was fun but also pretty reckless behavior,” he recalls. “One time, I passed out and didn’t remember anything.”
These days, with his art career in full swing—his abstract, visually striking and meditative impasto oils are sought after by collectors; his work is part of the permanent collections of the Hammer Museum and LACMA in Los Angeles—Dash abstains from alcohol and spends more time cooking at home in his brand-new kitchen in Altadena, California.
“When I stopped drinking, I insisted on using high-quality, best-possible ingredients,” he says. “You use less and get better results.”
He’s often in Cookbook, a modest-size grocery store in Echo Park that sells a tightly edited selection of high-quality organic produce, fresh-cut flowers, meat, cheese, and prepared foods. He likes to modify recipes but doesn’t really follow them. He also enjoys replicating dishes and flavors from when he eats out.
“Last year, I went to Peru and have been making ceviche at least every 10 days since then.”
Age 34 — Hometown Claremont, CA — Where do you live? Altadena, CA — Occupation Artist — Signature dish Fish, oil, citrus, herbs — Who taught you how to cook? My mom and dad, and my grandmother — Favorite kitchen tool For a minute, it was a water immersion machine, but right now it’s a stingray wasabi grater I got in Tokyo. — Always in your pantry Maldon sea salt — Go-to snack Pink Lady apple — Favorite cuisine Japanese — Do you diet? Constantly and never — Food addictions Jelly beans, ice cream, pasta, anything that comes out of the Haribo factory, passion fruit—but I’m not really a dessert person. — Food allergies Not that I’m aware of, but I’m always happy to cut something out, only to add it back in and feel slightly guilty. — Food fad pet peeve Sushi burritos — Who’s your sous chef? [girlfriend] Vanessa! Duh! — Drinking while cooking? It used to be cooking while drinking, but those days are gone. — What’s for dinner tonight? We’re in Mexico! Everything. — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Never — Best meal you ever had Sushi Sawada, Tokyo, Japan. It changed the way I think about life.
Roasted Potatoes With Pesto and Soft-Boiled Eggs
“I never have any leftovers when I serve this,” says Dash of his simple but remarkably flavorful take on potato salad. “I generally start with recipes or things I’ve eaten at restaurants and then try and make them at home. They evolve over time and become slightly different.”
Here, he roasts fingerling potatoes, gives them a good coat of basil-parsley-arugula pesto, and adds runny, soft-boiled eggs, resulting in an earthy, addictive dish that you can maybe serve with roasted chicken or smoked fish. You could also eat it on its own, especially for breakfast—just add some fried, chopped bacon and hot sauce. One bite, and you’re instantly comforted.
- Serves 4
- 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, washed
- ¼ cup shallot or red onion, peeled, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2–3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon tarragon
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup packed basil, leaves only
- 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, stems trimmed
- 1 cup packed arugula
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover them with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and continue cooking for 8 minutes—they won’t be completely cooked. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Mix with the shallot, salt, black pepper, and olive oil, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the skin is crispy and they’re soft in the middle, about 25–30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
- While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the pesto. Dry-toast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a large skillet, stirring frequently over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 3–4 minutes.
- Place the toasted seeds in a food processor. Add basil, parsley, arugula and salt, and pulse a few times, scraping down the sides with a spatula. Keep processing while pouring in the olive oil in a thin stream, until a thick paste forms.
- Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, and cook exactly 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and let sit for 2 minutes. Submerge in a small bowl filled with ice-cold water.
- To assemble, place the potatoes in a medium bowl, add 3–4 tablespoons pesto (or to taste; store the rest in a small container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks), and mix. Peel the eggs, add them to the potatoes, and break with a fork to release the runny yolk. Toss with the potatoes, and sprinkle the tarragon on top.
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