ANIMAL and Son Of A Gun are two of LA’s most exciting eateries, so we were over the moon to be introduced to their director of operations and wine director, Helen Johannesen. This East Coast transplant is at the helm of a burgeoning foodie empire, but in her own kitchen she’s all about classic, impeccable ingredients from around the world and her local farmers market. The shelves are lined with pottery from her grandmother’s kiln and some of the finest produce, cheese, oils, and of course wine—after all, she’s responsible for one of the most well-loved wine lists in the city of Angels. Whether she’s cooking up a farm-fresh egg, showing off her inspiring collection of cookbooks, or setting the table in the dining area of her light-filled canyon home, it’s clear that Helen is the ultimate pro when it comes to living tastefully.

Entertaining go-to: I always like to bust out a badass cheese plate with sliced seasonal fruit to start. I enjoy entertaining that entails minimal fuss in the kitchen once your guests arrive: roasted chicken, braised lamb shoulder ragu or simple blackened fish tacos. The most important thing is ingredients; vegetables grown by awesome farmers take any recipe to the moon.

Dinner on a busy night: On a busy night, Zach and I will usually go out to dinner. When I am busy or have all the time in the world, I love restaurants and enjoy being in them. I try and have many different experiences as much as I can, even if it’s on the go. If I need to cook something quick, I’ll roast some cauliflower or make a salad and serve it with popcorn, grilled cheese or something that is easy and delicious.

Quick breakfast: Greek yogurt and fruit.

Changes in diet if you’re gearing up for a big event: I try and eat less salt, cut back on gluten and increase my vegetables.

Usual workout: Pilates with Elizabeth Ordway at Movement Studio and I walk my dog Seamus around the canyon.

Necessary indulgence: Thai food, wine, scotch, fancy shoes.

Favorite recipe: I mostly cook based on memories of watching my mom cook, advice from Vinny and Jon and making it up as I go along. But some things are best cooked from a recipe: the pancakes from Two Dudes, One Pan and my mom’s are some of my favorites.

Favorite cookbook: I love The River Cottage Cookbook. I also admire the Noma cookbook for eye candy and Setting the Table by Danny Meyers for inspiration. The Silver Palate Cookbook always reminds me of my mom, who taught me most of what I know and is dear to me.

Kitchen gadget: I love my mandolin and my microplane.

Pantry essential: Popcorn.

Ingredient that makes everything taste better: Acid and salt.

Your dream meal: Roasting anything and baking with Julia Child. One day eating all around the world with my husband-to-be.

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