Chefs find their culinary inspiration from a number of places; some look to family traditions, others to cultural heritage. For Chef Anne Conness of the newly opened Sausal, she finds her inspiration in the past.
Looking back at the rich history of the California rancheros, Conness opened Sausal in El Segundo this summer with the intention of highlighting both the local produce and meats that were once grown throughout the region as well as the dishes enjoyed by the rancheros that once lived on the Rancho Sausal Redondo, the ranch that made up the very area where the restaurant is now located.
Nuevo Rancho Cuisine
Named for farmstead that once encompassed nearly all of the South Bay area, dining at Sausal is like taking a trip back in time. Inspired by the time period when California was a part of Mexico and the state, known as Alta California, was dominated by ranchers, Sausal’s menu features traditional elements of rancho style cooking such as wood fire, smoke and slow roasting
Tenets of cooking at the time were open fire grilling of meals that would be enjoyed outdoors under the stars and Sausal’s menu looks to capture that same rustic freedom by offering authentic ingredients, cooking styles and traditional flavors of the period that work to craft an entirely unique style of cuisine Conness terms ‘nuevo comfort food.’
As Chef Conness states, “We are attempting to bring forward the rich history of the lush ranchos that once encompassed the South Bay through my favorite medium: food. I hope that our vision of marrying traditional Hispanic ingredients with the incredibly farmers’ market fare at our fingertips will offer an original and unforgettable dining experience to our guests.”
In addition to traditional cooking techniques, Sausal also incorporates both traditional Mexican ingredients mixed with influences of the Spanish missionaries, such as citrus fruits, olives and figs. This blend of traditional Hispanic flavors presented alongside an abundance of local California produce and farm raised meat serve to further shape Sausal’s multicultural menu.
Dishes such as achiote-marinated chicken thighs, slow simmered beef and goat birria, and a pork chili verde served with sweet corn elote may not be dishes diners are entirely familiar with, but their honest and delicious flavors have won over South Bay locals and visitors alike.
Creating an Authentic Ranchero Atmosphere
Complementing the traditional ranchero flavors and dishes found on the menu, Conness also sought to recreate the ranchero atmosphere throughout the entire restaurant by incorporating elements of their rich heritage into the beverage program, dessert menu and in design elements throughout the restaurant space.
Chef Conness has been instrumental in curating a beverage program inspired by similar flavors found on the menu. A Certified Cicerone herself, Conness selected a number of unique craft beers and partner Sorin Costach crafted a wine list made up of varieties found throughout Spain, Latin America and California. The cocktail program is just as thoughtful as the culinary one with unique, scratch cocktails made specifically to pair with the food, utilizing many of the flavors and ingredients found on the menu. While cocktails may not have been found in the Alta California period the chef is focusing on, the flavors and overall spirit they exude serve to complement the restaurant’s ranchero theme.
Restaurant design was also an element that was given much attention when opening Sausal. Much like the cuisine, the restaurant design incorporates both modern and rustic elements meant to convey a comfortable yet contemporary atmosphere. The idea of communal, outdoor dining was the primary goal when designing the space and the dining room features a large, two-sided fireplace in the center of the restaurant meant to represent the gatherings once held around open flames.
An open front, alongside large skylights, were also installed to harness an abundance of natural light and a large open patio allows guests to still enjoy dining under the stars. Handcrafted wood and hand-blown glass are also featured prominently throughout the space as a reference to the vibrant artistry found in the period.
Yet despite the numerous multicultural and historical references, above all Sausal maintains its status as a neighborhood restaurant that offers local South Bay residents a place to gather and enjoy an incredibly unique culinary experience.
“We’re beyond excited to join the El Segundo community and introduce our friends and neighbors to Sausal,” said Conness.
While the restaurant has already received much critical acclaim, and has been attracting diners from the greater Los Angeles area, and beyond, Conness still maintains her down-to-earth, welcoming vibe that makes Sausal an unassuming, yet delightful new dining option to the beach town community. Through her quest to preserve authenticity, Chef Conness ensures that Sausal offers guests not just delicious dishes but a chance to dive back into history and experience the past through all five senses.