Creating Stories

Chef Cathy Pavlos comes full circle at Provenance 

 

As told to Susan Irby

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To meet chef Cathy Pavlos is electrifying. Her smile illuminates the room. Her welcoming enthusiasm draws in guests. Her culinary creations abound with depth derived from her training as an art historian and teacher of architectural history, her knowledge of French, Italian and Latin cooking techniques, and morsels of family memories revealing her Italian roots. Here, chef Cathy on food, family, and the journey to “come home.” 

What does the name Provenance mean to you?

With a degree in art history, I taught Architectural History. Provenance is a term used in art history to trace origins of a piece of art back to its source. When you ask what is the provenance of a valuable object, you are asking who owned this object over time, who created it, and why. In this day and age, guests care about the source of their food; here at Provenance, we can trace the origin of all of our ingredients back to their source. We know our purveyors and our purveyors’ purveyors. 

Your business card reads: “Locally Sourced, Napa Valley Inspired, Chef & Ingredient Driven.” Why Napa Valley?

When I was a kid, Orange County was rural. I could ride my horse to school; I raised sheep, goats, and rabbits, and my grandfather was a commercial farmer in Huntington Beach. The phrase “locally sourced and ingredient driven” may sound trendy today, but that was the way many of us lived in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We weren’t being stylish; we were living off of what the land could provide.  

Napa Valley today reminds me of northern Italy where my family lives and, also of Orange County where I grew up. It is no exaggeration to say that Napa Valley is home to some of the best restaurants in the USA. 

What makes a successful licensed architect quit her job to work at a health emporium washing dishes? 

For the most part of my life, I worked white-collar jobs: architect, project manager, college professor, academic administration. I have four college degrees, including a PhD in Environmental Design and Analysis. By 2001, I wanted to get back to my roots—I was my Italian immigrant grandma’s sous chef at the age of 4, and she was the best cook around. Everyone would come to her house to eat Sunday Suppers. We’d cook for 50 and she’d never break a sweat—all of it locally sourced and ingredient-driven. 

In our conversation, you mentioned that American palates have gotten brighter. Why do you think this is? 

As a population, especially in California, we have been able to taste very ethnically diverse foods; moreover, the last couple of generations have traveled abroad and experienced the rich cultures of the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. At Provenance, we have created many sauces and condiments, based on authentic recipes from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, but we’ve tweaked them for a more contemporary California taste. And, we’re not pulling any punches on the heat; if the sauce is supposed to be hot, it is, and our guests have loved it. 

You’ve said, “I am still an Academic at heart.” How does that translate into your life now and the foods you create at Provenance? 

I spent a lot of years doing research—in art history, in architecture and in the social sciences—and this process gave me an appreciation for history, context, time, and place. I spend a lot of time these days researching recipes and cooking techniques. I love a good backstory; all of our menu items have a great backstory. I also research our suppliers and get their backstory out there too. There are so many small farmers and ranchers doing everything right and they don’t get the credit that they deserve.

As it is now, you make the dish. If a dish were to make you, what would it make?

Interestingly enough, my dishes have made me, I guess. In another life, I used to paint and draw; I was an active architect who created models and built from them. When I first began in culinary, I was pretty conservative, learning as I was doing. I knew that plating was important to me and so was taste. My grandma taught me that you first eat with your eyes. My training as an architect taught me to use the elements of line, form, color, and texture, and put them together using the principles of rhythm, balance, proportion and scale. I was also taught about time and place. In the early years of culinary I struggled because I separated my earlier design training from my culinary training. It was only in the last couple of years here at Provenance that I realized that it has all come together and I could still be an artist, and as a result, my plates have come alive. 

What’s next for Cathy Pavlos?  

I will be spending more time up in Napa Valley in the coming years, and commute back and forth. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has opened their new Graduate School of Business in Copia in downtown Napa. I am going back to teaching—this time in Culinary Arts and Business. Each time that I come back to Orange County from Napa and Sonoma Counties, I bring something back that we integrate into the operations or menu at Provenance. It’s a win-win. I’ve met so many chefs, purveyors, farmers, foragers, and ranchers—and all of them have inspired me. In a way, I have come full circle, and I have come home.

Photo courtesy of Anne Watson

Photo courtesy of Anne Watson

Photo courtesy of Anne Watson

Photo courtesy of Anne Watson

PROVENANCE

2531 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660 ~ 949 718 0477 | ProvenanceOC.com

Cue the Plaza!

Segerstrom Center for the Arts sets an opening celebration for a new public plaza

 

Written by Beth Fhaner

The dazzling, new fountain—with shimmering arches of water—marks the entrance to the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza. Photo courtesy of Michael Maltzan

The dazzling, new fountain—with shimmering arches of water—marks the entrance to the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza. Photo courtesy of Michael Maltzan

Arts enthusiasts who have visited Segerstrom Center for the Arts in the last several months have most likely noticed a major transformation on its 14-acre cultural campus underway. The Center’s much-anticipated plaza, which has been in the planning stages for five years and under construction since January, now has an official opening date of Saturday, October 28. The Grand Opening Celebration of the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza is set to launch with a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m., followed by free performances, concerts, events and tours of the theaters. 

The renovated 54,750-square-foot space offers much for patrons to explore, including an outdoor cafe, two green zones, a stage for complimentary year-round performances, a circular grand staircase leading from the plaza to the mezzanine level of Segerstrom Hall, and a new entrance to the Judy Morr Theater. Additionally, the space will include shaded seating and picnic areas with Wi-Fi, plus an observation deck atop the full-service cafe. A 24-foot-high-fountain will occupy the center of the traffic circle in front of Segerstrom Hall and will serve as a welcoming centerpiece to visitors. Designed by Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza is a stunning addition to the dynamic arts campus, which also includes the Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory and a site dedicated to the future home of the Orange County Museum of Art. SCFTA.org

 

A rendering of the new public plaza at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Michael Maltzan

A rendering of the new public plaza at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Michael Maltzan

Posh Pages

A bibliophile's lit picks for your library

Curated by Jenn Thornton

Photo courtesy of Europa Editions

Photo courtesy of Europa Editions

A Catalog of Birds by Laura Harrington

With its latest title, a tender, empathetic and soul-haunting sweep of American life, Europa Editions continues its reign as the darling of the publishing world. Charting the recovery of a family, specifically a brother and sister whose plans are upended by the Vietnam War, this new release reckons with forgiveness. Propelled by penetrating wisdom and prose that flows as easy as a stream, author Laura Harrington’s beautifully told tale is urgent and explorative, offering rich, nuanced sympathy for the frailties of the human soul. $16.00, EuropaEditions.com

 

Simply Brilliant

Since the early years of its long illustrious run, Tiffany & Co.’s annual Blue Book has been a jewel in its glittering crown

 

Written by Jenn Thornton

Tiffany’s New York City flagship. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany’s New York City flagship. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

If the iconic Tiffany & Co. Blue Box is an emblem of aspiration recognized throughout the world, then the brand’s Blue Book—a curated compendium of couture, one-of-a-kind jewels—is entirely of it. Brimming with bijoux, the annual publication is, like the iconic Tiffany Setting, truly timeless. Synonymous with uncompromising quality and craftsmanship, Blue Book collections are so pristine, so impeccably inspired, they never fail to cause a clamor among discerning jewelry connoisseurs across the globe. The precious, for the few.

The Blue Book emerged from the grander vision of Tiffany & Co. founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, whose decision to establish a small “fancy goods” store in New York City in 1837, bankrolled with $1,000 from his father, proved an incredibly prosperous move. The store attracted the supreme of high society—the Vanderbilts, the Astors—eager to ornament themselves in the opulence of the Victorian era. Even Abraham Lincoln was a customer. The emporium grew in stature with a series of dazzling acquisitions, including the French crown jewels, their remarkable attainment helping crystallize Tiffany & Co.’s reputation as purveyor of the world’s finest diamonds, while Mr. Tiffany himself—undisputed ruler of his realm—was anointed the “King of Diamonds” by the New York Times.

To parade the house’s pieces de resistance to the public, Tiffany & Co. published its first Blue Book in 1845. The mail-order catalogue—the nation’s first—caused a sensation, its rarities, which included the diamonds of landed gentry, radiated an unmistakable air of exclusivity. From the 19th century, Tiffany gemologists searched far and wide for the best stones, procuring such talismans as the North Carolina emerald, Russia amethyst and African blue-violet tanzanite—gems that inspired many a Tiffany treasure, including a glittering homage to the jewelry of the Mughal Court in India in the 1920s. 

“The most wonderful thing about the evolution of the Blue Book is that from 1845 till now, it’s really a time capsule that shows what the styles and trends are at the time,” says Melvyn Kirtley, chief gemologist and vice president of High Jewelry, Tiffany & Co. “Tiffany Blue Book designs are…embedded in the company’s DNA.” 

Jessica Biel wearing the Whispers of the Rain Forest necklace. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

Jessica Biel wearing the Whispers of the Rain Forest necklace. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

Themed The Art of the Wild, the 2017 Blue Book takes its cues from exotica of the natural world. Each adornment in the 100-piece collection is of the utmost quality, with its centerpiece the 18k yellow gold with diamonds Whispers of the Rain Forest necklace. Worn to red-carpet glory by actress Jessica Biel at this year’s Oscars, this cascading bit of fantasia is a tribal-inspired neckpiece made modern. 

Tiffany & Co.’s heritage has only richened, but its approach to jewelry remains the same. “We search in every corner of the world to find the most exquisite diamonds and gemstones…we’re not just looking for any species,” explains Kirtley. “We are always pushing the boundaries of innovation, and doing things we’ve never done before, working with different types of materials, finished and stone settings. We’re constantly pushing ourselves to create—and that is the masterful thing about Blue Book, all of these pieces are works of art.” 

Pendant drawing, Tiffany & Co. 2017 Blue Book Collection, The Art of the Wild. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.  

Pendant drawing, Tiffany & Co. 2017 Blue Book Collection, The Art of the Wild. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.