Elka Gilmore, Chef Who Blended the Old and the New, Dies at 59
Elka Gilmore, an revolutionary West Coast chef who helped redefine fusion delicacies within the 1990s, died on July 6 in San Francisco. She was 59.
Her loss of life, at a hospital, was confirmed by Jennie Ok. Curtis, her former companion. She stated Ms. Gilmore had been in failing well being for years after work accidents (certainly one of which required spinal fusion), breast most cancers and problems of surgical procedure.
In 1993, Ms. Gilmore was described as “the enfant horrible of the trendy California kitchen” by The New York Times Magazine. That was two years after the opening of Elka’s, her extremely praised restaurant on the Miyako Hotel within the Japantown neighborhood of San Francisco.
Ms. Gilmore, who usually wore a baseball cap within the kitchen, welcomed new strategies whereas holding on tightly to conventional ones. “I don’t assume roux is a grimy phrase,” she as soon as stated, referring to the traditional French mixture of flour and fats.
What she realized from each French and Japanese cooks and dishes, she informed The Times two years later, was an appreciation of uncooked substances and taste relationships. Adding a supposedly unique ingredient only for impact made no sense to her.
“I don’t actually know what ‘fusion’ means,” she stated, “however I do know which you can’t simply throw some ginger or seaweed right into a dish with no good cause by way of how the flavors and textures work.”
Articles about her have been usually accompanied by recipes — for the likes of soba noodles tossed with ginger and caviar; striped bass with roasted shallot and garlic purée; or sturgeon and calamari roasted with fava beans, ginger butter and a preserved plum French dressing.
A founding father of the group Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, she by no means attended culinary faculty.
Elka Ruth Gilmore was born on March 17, 1960, in San Antonio, the one youngster of Russell Stanley Gilmore, a school professor, and Linda (Prinz) Gilmore.
Ms. Gilmore together with her fellow chef Traci Des Jardins. She welcomed new strategies whereas holding on tightly to conventional ones.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times
When Elka was round 12, she took her first restaurant job, as a dishwasher, at Café Camille in Austin. At 16, she ran away from residence, transferring in together with her grandmother in Wisconsin and cooking wherever she may.
She was employed as a prep cook dinner at L’Étoile in Madison when the chef give up; Ms. Gilmore, nonetheless a youngster, was promptly promoted to chef.
At 18, she determined it was time to journey and study. So she headed for Boston, New York and finally the South of France, the place she labored on the world-famous La Colombe d’Or. Returning to the United States in 1982, she settled in Los Angeles, the place she hung out on the eating places Tumbleweed and Checkers. As an proprietor of one other one, Camelion’s, she discovered she had a lot much less time to cook dinner.
Running a restaurant required innovation. “In my case, I used to be simply form of naïve,” she stated in a 1990 interview that appeared in The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “But now I do know what it’s prefer to must promote your automotive to make payroll.”
Ms. Gilmore developed robust emotions about her chosen occupation, and concerning the restaurant business. “I understand that I didn’t need to cook dinner what I didn’t need to cook dinner,” she informed the meals critic Ruth Reichl in an interview for The Los Angeles Times in 1989, when she was working at Palette in West Hollywood. “That I didn’t need to must be good to individuals I didn’t like.”
And she didn’t must. After the success of Elka’s, her subsequent San Francisco undertaking — Liberté, a French-American restaurant — lasted just a few months in 1995. But that very same 12 months she gained the James Beard Foundation’s award for greatest California chef, and the East Coast known as.
The Omni Berkshire Place Hotel lured her to New York to create and run Kokachin, a lobby-level seafood restaurant. Every go to, Ms. Reichl wrote in a evaluate in The New York Times, was “just a little journey of discovery.”
Ms. Gilmore quickly returned to San Francisco, the place in 1998 she opened her final restaurant, Oodles, a bistro on Mission Street. It closed the identical 12 months.
She is survived by her father and a half brother, Joseph Gabriel.
Ms. Gilmore was identified for creating rigorously assembled, time-consuming dishes, and for her meals’s interaction of style and texture. But she maintained a sure humility. Shortly after her arrival in Manhattan, she informed The Times that she was “shocked to find how hip my meals was.”