Chef Josiah Citrin always knows when diners at his restaurant Melisse are happy. “When we serve great food to our guests, we can tell they’re enjoying it,” he says. “Usually the table goes quiet.”
Citrin is pretty vocal about Santa Monica, where he grew up and the home of Melisse, as he shares his love for the city and his cooking style in “Flavors of the USA,” produced by Brand USA and Discover America.
“Santa Monica is a city in itself so it’s not part of Los Angeles,” says Citrin, who has long been charmed by its beauty of blue skies, mountains and beaches that stretch out into the Pacific Ocean. “There’s not much more you could ask for.”
Citrin grew up in Santa Monica surrounded by food with a grandmother who would cook French food—legs of lamb and flageolet beans—and a mother who ran a catering company.
He describes Melisse as “a special occasion restaurant” whose menu focuses on contemporary American cuisine with French influences.
Think wild king salmon with crushed zucchini, hibiscus butter, lemon basil broth and seared California porcini mushrooms. Much of his ingredients come from the local Santa Monica Farmers Market.
Citrin has no plans to leave Santa Monica anytime soon.
“It’s a progressive city,” he says. “It’s always been a little bit avant garde. It’s an out-and-about fun community.”
And then there are the signature palm trees.
“We’ve always had palm trees,” he says. “When you see palm trees you think Santa Monica.”