Los Angeles' Kali Restaurant, a chic, minimalist concept that offers contemporary cuisine and a unique selection of wines, is co-owned by Wine Director Drew Langley and Chef Kevin Meehan. But this casual restaurant with a fine-dining flair didn't begin with elegance — Meehan, born and raised on Long Island, long before he made his way over to the West Coast — started his 23-year culinary career as a teenager in front of a fryer at a fried chicken joint. A far cry from the eloquent dishes he makes today, but that's when he fell in love with food.
After high school, he moved onto the Culinary Arts Program at Johnson & Wales University before interning at the Michelin-starred L'alban Chambon under the guiding wing of French Master Chef Dominique Michou. The next coming years led him to work alongside some of LA's finest chefs and at some of the most esteemed restaurants, including L'Orangerie, Citrine, and Patina.
He fine-tuned his fine-dining skills, which is shown in all of his colorful, rich, artistic plates. Consumers on social media, whether Instagram or YELP, have called his menu "high art."
Still, despite making his name in white tablecloth kitchens, with the opening of Kali Restaurant, he has pushed the boundaries of the usual fine dining experience and brought with his concept the ease and comfort of a local, neighborhood feel. (Not surprising that he prefers the comforts of home, as he is a happy husband and the father of twin girls!)
Want to learn more about Kevin Meehan? Check out what he had to say when we asked him six, quick questions.
The Quick Six
Foodable: What’s the first meal (that you can recall) that changed your life?
Kevin Meehan: Per Se in New York City in 2004, which was the year Thomas Keller opened the restaurant. Every element of the meal was perfectly choreographed. It set the standard for what fine dining should be for me, though my partner, Drew Langley, and I have taken a more casual approach to the service and overall dining experience at Kali.
Foodable: Who is your culinary mentor?
KM: Guy Reuge. He was the first chef I worked for after graduating from Johnson & Wales University. He showed me what it meant to work hard and dedicate myself to my craft.
Foodable: Where is your favorite restaurant to eat at when you aren’t working?
KM: My wife and I love the soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung.
Foodable: Who is one person you would love to cook for (that you haven’t already)?
KM: I would love to cook for Josiah Citrin and Michael Voltaggio. They are local LA chefs who I really respect, and I think their work is stellar. Would love the opportunity to share what we are doing at Kali and, hopefully, impress them in the same way that I'm continually impressed and inspired by the food they are creating at their restaurants.
Foodable: One ingredient you could not live without?
KM: Olive oil. We are sourcing ours locally from Adam's Ranch.
Foodable: What's the most important lesson you learned (good or bad) in your first year of owning a restaurant?
KM: To enjoy the ride.