The Chili Philosopher | Los Angeles Food Truck
One of the things we love about food trucks is the often-found emphasis on doing one thing and doing it well. With a smaller kitchen and limited tools, a food truck is almost a distillation of a restaurant. They’re able to focus on their pared-down menu with more clarity than a restaurant chef could afford to give to a larger, more varied menu.
Alex Kavallierou of Chili Philosopher came to this same conclusion when considering opening up his own food truck in Los Angeles. “You can have one item, serve one thing, from a food truck, and that’s okay. I saw a food truck as a chance to do something different, something new.” Alex’s one item was chili; that spicy, simmering, meat and (sometimes) bean stew that immediately calls to mind the image of cowboys circling a campfire on the Wild West frontier.
Alex with his wife Needah
Chili has such a strong, American history, the England-born Alex was surprised he couldn’t find more of it when moving to the States. “We expected to just go to a chili restaurant and eat chili, but they don’t exist,” he recalls. “Chili has all these cookbooks, and cook-offs, and such a vibrant history, but the best thing you can get is a hamburger from a fast food place where they throw a bunch of chili on there. It was a food we felt wasn’t getting its due respect.”
He set about rectifying the situation. Drawing on a literal lifetime of culinary experience (his parents have owned restaurants since he was born; he knows his way around a kitchen), Alex experimented until he could turn out a mean bowl of chili. “There’s a lot of different components that make a good chili,” he explains. “First thing is getting as much of that meaty flavor in as possible. Oxtail is a tasty and flavorful meat. It makes a great broth and good base for us. We use different types of meat for all different reasons: the chunks give you that feeling of abundance and texture, and the ground beef is that hallmark that reminds you of chili.” Equally important are the chili peppers. Alex uses eight different kinds. (He’s got a chili-guy at Grand Central Market). He buys them whole, toasts them, and grinds them into a paste for a smoother, more complex flavor than can be found with your standard chili powder.
Chili Infused Burger
But as much attention as Alex pays to the every ingredient that goes into the chili, the true secret, he believes, is the technique. “It’s not just putting it all in a pot and hope it cooks, but really making sure you perform every stage to its fullest,” says Alex. “When I looked at what was out there, I thought ‘I’m going to do something that I can say is the best in the whole of L.A., maybe even America. We’re going to target this one dish and keep working on it until we get it the best we can.’ That was our philosophy, and how we came up with the name. Even though we may not be there yet, we want to be there.”
Decide for yourself whether Chili Philosophy has achieved the height of chili mastery by visiting their food truck. You can’t miss it. Just look for the pipe-smoking cowboy described by Alex as a mix of “Charles Darwin, a True Grit-style cowboy, and the most interesting man in the world.”
Words by Terri Phillips
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