Profile: Acupuncturist Noel Busby
Noel Busby is a very good cook. At his tranquil, light-filled acupuncture clinic located in a modest bungalow in Hollywood, we met on a quiet Saturday afternoon to talk about how he came to cooking.
Long before he started sticking needles into patients, at age 14 in his hometown of Colorado Springs, Noel needed to make some cash.
“I really wanted a car,” says Noel, laughing. “So I started working in restaurants—at Taco Bell, at this random French place—washing dishes, doing this and that.” He got what he coveted—a used, baby blue VW bug, purchased for $400—but it also sparked a serious interest in the culinary world. After graduating from high school, he took an entry-level kitchen job at the Rattlesnake Club, a Denver restaurant co-owned by the trailblazing chef Michael McCarty (Michael’s Santa Monica and New York).
“I was just peeling potatoes and de-stemming spinach, bucket after bucket,” Noel recalls of his first few weeks. But he executed these small tasks well, which eventually paid off and led to positions as a line-cook and then head chef. Other gigs followed at renowned restaurants: Strings in Denver and Dallas’ Stephan Pyles and Parigi.
In his mid-20s and burned out, Noel decided to take a break from food and go travel. His life took an interesting new turn in Europe, when a casting agent suggested he model. Giorgio Armani booked him for a runway show; Dolce & Gabbana, Romeo Gigli and other brands called next. Soon, he was doing editorial and advertising jobs, jetting between Italy, Spain and Greece. “I loved it,” says Noel. “It allowed me to travel and have lots of fun for three years.”
Back in the States, he landed in Miami, where a party promoter friend suggested they open a restaurant, with Noel running the kitchen. They called it Tita’s—after a character from Noel’s favorite movie, Like Water for Chocolate—and it was successful right off the bat. “I cooked Southwestern food,” says Noel. “Things like ceviche, mole, pozole, chile relleno, grilled fish and meats—all very fresh, flavorful and affordable.”
Three years later, looking for a change, Noel sold his stake in the restaurant and headed to the West Coast. “I decided to go to acupuncture school because I wanted to directly help people,” he explains. “Plus, I saw the positive effects on myself when it cured my migraines.”
That was 15 years ago. Noel no longer cooks professionally, but he does it regularly at home and loves to eat out. “I like ethnic, inexpensive, unpretentious places with character,” he says.
Age 45 — Hometown Colorado Springs, CO — Where do you live? West Hollywood, CA — Occupation Acupuncturist — Signature dish I don't really have just one — Who taught you how to cook? So many people — Favorite kitchen tool 10" chef knife — Always in your pantry Sun-dried tomatoes — Go-to snack Sharp cheddar cheese — Favorite cuisine Mexican — Do you diet? No — Food addictions Sugar — Food allergies None — Food fad pet peeve Foam — Who’s your sous chef? It's just me — Drinking while cooking? Sometimes — What’s for dinner tonight? Not sure yet, I'm still thinking about lunch right now — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Nope — Best meal you ever had Las Mananitas in Cuernavaca, Mexico — Contact mendhollywood.com
Fusilli with Cauliflower, Capers, Raisins and Pine Nuts
In this easy dish made mostly from pantry staples, the versatile cauliflower moves to the background and becomes a perfect canvas for bold flavors: sweet and sour raisins, brackish capers, earthy pine nuts, and umami anchovy paste.
- Serves 4–6
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
- 1 pound fusilli or similarly shaped pasta
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Soak the raisins in the white wine for 20 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and boil until partially tender, about 5 minutes. Scoop the cauliflower into a bowl and add the pasta to the water. Cook until al dente and drain.
- Carefully dry-toast the pine nuts in a large sauté pan over medium heat until golden in spots, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the sauté pan and heat. Add the cauliflower and lightly brown, stirring frequently. Add the raisins with the wine, pine nuts, capers, anchovy paste and pepper flakes to the pan and mix with the cauliflower. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- In a bowl, combine the pasta with the cauliflower, Parmesan cheese and basil. Add the rest of the olive oil and toss well. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
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