Los Angeles (CNN) — For devout followers of contemporary food culture, chef, restaurateur and author Curtis Stone is a light deity.
The Australian-born, classically trained cook is also a television presenter, first in the United Kingdom, then on "Top Chef Masters" and most recently on "My Kitchen Rules."
He opened his first establishment, the Beverly Hills, California, fine dining restaurant Maude, in early 2014. His latest project is Gwen in Hollywood, Eater and L.A. Weekly's pick for the best Los Angeles restaurant of 2016 and a nominee for best restaurant design by the James Beard Foundation this year.
A must-visit spot, Stone's Gwen (6600 Sunset Blvd.) is also a traditional butcher shop that purveys all manner of meats (grass-fed California beef and Australian bone-in wagyu), cures its own charcuterie and serves coffees and sandwiches during the day.
Then, around 5 p.m. each night, the restaurant starts its engines. The wood-burning oven alights and the open kitchen begins its culinary choreography, while patrons in the dining room watch and revel in the space's airy, modern design flourishes (the light fixtures are the stuff of a Nancy Meyers film).
The food is, well, pretty darn delicious, particularly for the carnivorous, and also provides a vegetarian menu with 48 hours notice.
Stone, who has lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade (along with his wife, Lindsay Price, and their two young children), has a palpable passion for his adopted hometown.
We sat down with the chef before service one night, and let him map out his ideal day for friends and family and other visitors to La La Land. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of food on his list. So launch Open Table to book your table at Gwen (and do it in advance because it books up quite quickly), and get thee to Los Angeles.
A hot hotel
The sleek Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles is housed in a 1927 art deco building.
The past several years have transformed this once-blighted area into a hub of hipster activity. Los Angeles has a fairly short history; downtown was first a residential area in the late 1900s, mutating to a glamorous, star-filled destination in the 1920s through the 1940s (some of the first Academy Awards galas took place in opulent hotels like the Roosevelt and the Biltmore).
The area started to decline in popularity as the freeway system grew, concurrently with its derelict status. Then in the beginning of the 21st century the area began a renaissance, part of which was the opening of the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles in early 2014.
The 1927 art deco building once housed United Artists, and its theater is one of the city's most in-demand for events, concerts, live podcasts and all manner of screenings. There's also a bustling ground floor restaurant that's open all day and on the roof, a bar and lounge area are opposite a tiny pool to cool off while sipping a cocktail.
All this chic is available for rates starting at about $200 a night. But in all honesty, it's not the room you pay for, it's the see-and-be-seen scene that permeates the entire hotel all day, every day.
Convenience without compromise
The Oaks Gourmet serves a mean breakfast burrito.
Stone goes hyper-local for his morning meal -- just down the hill from his home in an area called Franklin Village. In an unassuming building, adjacent to a strip mall (an L.A. hallmark) sits The Oaks Gourmet (1915 North Bronson Ave.), a neighborhood market that eschews classification.
On the one hand, it's a place to grab a great cup of coffee, espresso drinks and smoothies. You can also buy a great bottle of wine or craft beer or booze. Or cheese. Or ice cream sandwiches.
According to the Oaks' owner, Jeremy Frey, Stone dropped in on Christmas Eve day and cleaned them out of ice cream sandwiches. Because, why not?
There's a communal table, some outdoor parking lot-adjacent seating, and finally a tiny kitchen that turns out some fairly incredible fare, including pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, salads, wings and a few dynamite breakfast sandwiches.
Stone's favorite morning choice is their breakfast burrito, the pinnacle of morning noshes: high-quality crisp bacon, over-medium eggs with just the right amount of drippy, but not messy, yolk along with cheddar and scallions. Drip some Cholula hot sauce (or whatever your poison may be) and voila: harmony on a tortilla.
This is the kind of place that people come back to day after day, and for good reason (but also because they can). It's open 7 a.m. to midnight every single day of the year.
A landmark food emporium
Grand Central Market has been selling fine food for 100 years.
Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway), in downtown Los Angeles, has been operating since 1917, and in this part of the world, that's basically forever. The vibrancy of the area, particularly now, mirrors the dynamic collection of vendors in rotation. Wander through the open-air market (there are entrances on two sides, on South Broadway and Hill Street), and you'll get lost in a sea of options: Mexican mixed plates, right-off-the-pig carnitas, sushi, sandwiches, ice cream, a variety of greengrocers, cheese, chiles, currywurst, bread, Belcampo Meat Co. and an Eggslut.
Outside the food scene, the market hosts musical acts, trivia and game nights and film screenings. The building that houses the market also rents apartments, so conceivably, you could stay there forever.
Out and about
Stone loves the outdoors, and enjoys hiking in the hills near the Hollywood sign. Good areas to traverse are Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon. He also enjoys taking long drives to Malibu. If you find yourself there, there's good shopping and star-spotting at Malibu Country Mart (3835 Cross Creek Road, Malibu). Dip your feet in the ocean, grab a bite to eat at the end of the pier at Malibu Farm or try to score a reservation at Nobu (22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu) where the sunset is as delectable as the sushi. Stone also loves people watching in Venice, and with the onslaught of tech money from the Googles and the Snaps, the food scene in that neighborhood is one to behold. Rose Café (220 Rose Ave., Venice) is a standout.
Stone recommends a few other restaurants to visitors.
For the best sushi ever, he suggests omakase at Sushi Park (8539 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood), which is on the second floor of a strip mall located down the hill from the Chateau Marmont Hotel. Also on Sunset is Stone's other favorite breakfast spot, The Griddle Café (7916 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood), where he favors the French toast. For dining at the bar, he recommends Providence (5955 Melrose Ave.), which specializes in seafood and is a short distance from Gwen. For fine dining, he mentions Trois Mec (716 Highland Ave.) run by chef Ludo Lefebvre (who also runs Petit Trois next door) with partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (who also run Animal, Son of a Gun and Jon & Vinny's).
Trois Mec offers a five-course tasting menu and it's a tough reservation, requiring tickets, so plan accordingly. It should come as zero surprise that Trois Mec is also in a strip mall.