Keith Previte Of “The 4 Martini Lunch” Cookbook: “Experiment with change”

Experiment with change. Don’t just slag off an idea. Be creative and go down roads not heavily traveled. You never know what you might discover. The world of food and taste is endless, why not explore to see how far you can go. Somebody probably said fried chicken and chocolate could never come together. I […]

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Experiment with change. Don’t just slag off an idea. Be creative and go down roads not heavily traveled. You never know what you might discover. The world of food and taste is endless, why not explore to see how far you can go. Somebody probably said fried chicken and chocolate could never come together. I proved them wrong.

As part of our series about lessons from influential ‘TasteMakers’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing chef and author Keith Previte. Previte, the creator and former chef of ChocoChicken (a restaurant in Los Angeles that served chocolate fried chicken among its specialties), is set on bringing back iconic power dining with his new cookbook The 4 Martini Lunch.

The 4-Martini Lunch is billed as the antidote to cheesy man cave entertaining. It vows to bring back the old-world gentleman’s club nestled within the confines of your own home with robust recipes and martini making tips. Previte reveals his most flavorful dishes to pair with the perfect martini like “Wiki Tiki Rack of Lamb”, “Calamari Stuffed with Italian Sausage”, that will charm even the most jaded guests.

Previte is also the host of The 4 Martini Lunch Podcast, where he talks about cocktails, cars, cinema, and cuisine with expert guests from around the world.

For more information visit: the4martinilunch.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

I grew up in an Italian household where you either learn to cook or get whooped. There is something about feeding people and seeing them really enjoy themselves, and for that one moment they are totally engulfed in the deliciousness you have served them. That is the main motivation behind wanting to open a restaurant.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

I would say two, steak and Italian. Italian is easy because it is what I grew up learning from my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I really began to get into steak in my 20’s. Especially when I started working out heavily. Then I became obsessed with finding the ultimate steak and how to cook it. As time went on, I began to get into not only the different cuts but what makes the final product from cow to table taste so good. I love finding new sources of ultimate beef and trying them.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef or restaurateur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I’ll tell you a business one, and it’s funny and it isn’t. When we were about to open ChocoChicken (in Los Angeles) we had a ton of buzz. In the press, we had said we were trying to open by a certain date. We were finalizing permits etc., which the city makes difficult to obtain, so the opening date was fluid. We kept that known on our social media. However, some people, we found out, weren’t fond of reading and they showed up at the door while there was still construction going on and you could tell it wasn’t close to opening yet. If I or one of the other owners were there, we would give them a ticket for a free drink for when we opened. However, it did not prevent some of these people from going on Yelp and giving us one star because “their doors weren’t open”. Laughable yes, but a restaurant’s Yelp reviews matter and those one stars bring your average down. It makes a difference in sales when people are looking you up. The lesson here is, it’s a constant battle in the restaurant business at every turn.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

The biggest battle, unless you are self-financed, is getting someone to believe in you and your product. By product, I mean your cooking, type of food you cook or concept. You need dollars behind you to get up and running. It takes time, persistence, and a good-sized checkbook.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

You have to know taste. It’s almost like art, you either have it or you don’t. You need to know what flavor melds with what flavor. When my business partner asked me to combine chocolate and fried chicken, I had to think way outside the box. But there was a method to my madness and that was the combination of flavors. There are a lot of chefs out there that can cook amazingly well, follow the recipe and turn out a great meal. Creating something new from scratch. Not so easy.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

A 32-ounce sixty-day dry-aged ribeye steak, creamed spinach, and a baked potato with French butter, sour cream and aged cheddar cheese. Served with an ice-cold, Bombay Sapphire martini and a triple crème blue cheese stuffed olive.

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

I’m spontaneous when it comes to creativity. I go with what I’m in the mood for that day. I will say I’m very seasonal. I like to cook dishes that are traditional for that season.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

I’m really excited about my new cookbook The 4 Martini Lunch which was just released on Amazon. The inspiration for the book was to offer an alternative to the cheesy man cave which has replaced the once-coveted study. The cave is usually a room with an old sofa, neon beer signs tacked to the wall, and filled with bags of potato chips and delivery pizza boxes scattered about the table.

This wasn’t always the case when a man sought private consultation from a gathering of close confidants. I wanted to bring back the lost era of gentlemen gathering in the study for strong drinks and bold food.

It’s primary purpose is to help readers create an atmospheric haven for gentlemen to sit back with a drink, smoke a cigar, and shoot the breeze with their peers.

There is also my signature steak and meat seasoning coming out, also available on Amazon as well as a couple of TV and film projects that are about to be announced. I like to keep busy!

What advice would you give to other chefs or restaurateurs to thrive and avoid burnout?

You might laugh, but don’t live at or near your restaurant. I lived in a high rise where my restaurant was downstairs. Bad idea. It’s super convenient at first but that goes away quickly. There is no getting away, no downtime and no privacy. Everyone has access to you all the time and you can’t escape. Horrible idea.

Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Don’t have thick skin, have armor: There is so much coming at you on a daily basis you are constantly in a battle of something or with someone. Your ego will want to intervene, don’t let it. Let stuff bounce off you, adjust and maneuver.

2. Don’t have business partners: You will inevitably disagree and that will lead to a breakup and breakups are messy and expensive.

3. Preparation, preparation, preparation. You cannot prepare enough. There are so many variables that go on, having a game plan that has multiple scenarios diagramed out helps immensely. Hire an amazing consultant to help with this. Look from the outside in. I can’t stress enough that things come at you fast, the more you are prepared the easier the problems will be to solve.

4. You will be taken advantage of. You’ll be known as “the chef”, “the guy that can cook”. So, when at parties the grill is up in flames, you will be asked to cook. This goes for any party gone wrong. Be prepared.

5. Experiment with change. Don’t just slag off an idea. Be creative and go down roads not heavily traveled. You never know what you might discover. The world of food and taste is endless, why not explore to see how far you can go. Somebody probably said fried chicken and chocolate could never come together. I proved them wrong.

What recipes would you say people have to try from your cookbook?

The Sicilian Chicken and Peppers and the 32-oz bone in ribeye steak. The steak because I think it’s the quintessential real man meal and to me the most delicious. The Sicilian Chicken and Peppers because this old school Italian dish is so damn good you will want to eat it all the time. Your friends will demand you make it for them, trust me!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Easy, I can’t stand that there are people who are starving and hungry in this country. That has to end. There is far too much food waste for people to be starving. There are so many solutions. It starts with the big food companies becoming more involved. Then it has to trickle down to the sources as well. Just an example, wild pigs are treated as “pests” in some southern states, and killed in the thousands. This is great lean protein meat that should be harvested and made available. The food waste in this country is enormous and it has to end.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

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