I met Ria Dolly Barbosa Wilson in the Summer of 2013 when we both worked at SQIRL in Virgil Village, Los Angeles. This was pre-remodel, when the place was truly a hole-in-the-wall. I was immediately impressed with Ria and her husband Matt, as they were leading the tiny kitchen with big flavors. Ria's dedication to creating - dare I say *perfect* dishes - was obvious, as the line around the block of anxious diners waited to try her fresh, unique yet timeless fare. Now, Ria and Matt have their own project: WILD at Canele, where they create the lunch menu at the Atwater Village restaurant. I feel honored to feature this exceptional chef!
What inspires you?
It began when I came across the television show Great Chef's of The World when I was in the third grade. I'd never seen food like that before! It was new and intriguing and so delicious looking. The only thing I knew how to cook fairly well at the time was rice (via rice cooker) and scrambled eggs, and I would prepare myself a bowl of rice and eggs before the show would air. Every time each Chef would finish their dish, I would take a bite of my rice bowl and pretend I was tasting their dish. Thinking about it now still gets me excited. That was the spark, my first inspiration. From then on, my parents continued to inspire me with all the delicious dishes they would prepare be it a quiet dinner at home or large family party. I'll never forget the first time my dad prepared hummus. He worked in Saudi Arabia for years before I was born and fell in love with the richly spiced food. That hummus and pita introduction became another branch of food to explore. I guess when it comes down to it, the resonating inspirations are my parents and exciting/foreign ingredients. If it hadn't been for them and our bootleg cable, I would not have been exposed to the start of all the delicious things to come.
What are you passionate about?
FOOD! Not only is it my passion, it is my life. I love to recreate comfort and share it with loved ones and strangers alike. Working in an open kitchen is great because you get to see your food go out and then instantly see your diner's reactions. Every smile, nodding head, brief closing of the eyes, and this always gets to me - when children are so into it, it is such a reward.
What project are you working on right now?
Right now the focus is all on WILD at Canele. It is yet another step towards our goal of having our own restaurant. We are lucky to have a great Chef and mentor, Corina Weibel, have so much faith and trust in us that she allowed us to create our own menu to begin her lunch program.
What keeps you going when you're "stuck"?
I think this is a very important question -- often times in this industry you are expected to put up a wall and just keep pushing through. And for the most part that is all that outsiders see. When I think of stuck, the culinary version of writer's block, doubting one's self, not finding inspiration in anything and the ebbs and flows of how busy you are or aren't (and how scary continuous slow days are) first come to mind, and are things that I've gone through personally over the years. My end goal is usually enough to keep my "eyes on the prize" so to speak. But when I'm really stuck, my husband and partner, Matt Wilson is the Goo Be Gone to my price sticker remnants. He is my voice of strength and support when the going gets tough. I think maybe it's a little easier when you have someone with you who has the same goal to keep you focused and can relate to whatever is troubling you.
How do you take care of yourself?
With the stresses the industry comes with, it's easy to forget to take care of yourself. With that in mind, I tend to try to eat better when making meals at home, walking to and from work and the occasional massage never hurts! It helps me clear my mind and relaxes my muscles.
What is your favorite place on earth?
As much as I love the beach and water elements, I've always been drawn to the dessert. I can sometimes feel the electricity in the air all the way to my bones. It's a very energizing feeling.
What is your favorite food or recipe?
This is a funny question to me especially since it's the root of who I am and in a way it's like asking a parent who their favorite child is. And it's also similar to when people ask me what my "specialty" is. We are in a day and age where one can be influenced by the cuisines of their childhood, a recent trip to somewhere exotic, a vivid dream they've had, or their neighborhood hole in the wall all at the same time. I don't think you should limit yourself, to any single genre. Follow your heart and your tastebuds!
What is your astrological sign?
I am a Virgo through and through!