“Basically, its about meeting people, creating an experience, making something special, the memory, time, that’s what it starts with” – Josiah Citrin at Mélisse and Citrin, Santa Monica, California
Those simple words framed a day of exceptional generosity of spirit as we enjoyed beautiful roads and rides through the Angeles Crest Highway courtesy of the Porsche Club of America Los Angeles (PCALA), culminating in a signature Californian fine dining experience courtesy of Chef Josiah Citrin in his Santa Monica restaurant.
The alchemy consisted of our shared love of the drive and food, but most importantly the unpretentious curiosity of meeting kindred spirits looking for inspiration, a little adventure and human connection and learning.
We had set out three days earlier on a road trip from Vancouver, Canada to LA – we were seeking the quintessential west coast experience, which I will share the details in the next Fueler fall issue. Battling our way through historically treacherous conditions ranging from rain, sleet, hail and snow, and my 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce dying below Mount Shasta – we finally hit LA and the warm glow of a setting sun on a late Thursday evening.
The following day we had organized to meet up with Steve Nguyen, president of the LA chapter of the Porsche Club of America who had kindly offered to give us a taste of Southern California life. We were to accompany Steve and PCA members on a drive on the iconic Angeles Crest Highway from La Canada to Newcomb’s Ranch high up in the twisty highlands above LA. Later some sightseeing, and then dinner at Citrin.
We immediately hit it off; It wasn’t just the covid effect, after 2 years of isolation we’ve become hungry for experiences, to meet new people and engage our senses more fully as we realize that life is but a collection of fleeting moments in time. In a parking lot in La Canada a bunch of Porsches arrived, with friendly smiles. Soon to become friends strolled up and asked ‘Hey, are you the Fueler guys from Canada?’
It’s been said that people are attracted to individuals with kindred visions of life, and in that moment, we were all excited to hit the roads above LA. After some brief introductions Steve threw me his keys – ‘would you like to drive my car?’. In this case it was a Porsche 911 GTS, a far cry from my vintage Alfa. I gladly accepted, fell into the seat and we were soon navigating the twisty canyon roads.
Steve is a generous host and proved to be an incredible ambassador for the Porsche marque, providing pointers and encouraging me to push ahead. We connected as we drove further up into the mountains. Originally a Ducati rider, his passion for Porsche was ignited by a chance encounter with a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster in Rimini, Italy during the Mille Miglia. The car was, “stunning but being driven, it was covered in dirt – and I spotted a PCA badge on it, what was it doing here? it was originally a California car, now in Europe – and it sparked a desire to again consider a 911, my childhood poster car!”. Steve further elaborated, “I love things that are made for a purpose and are used, not hidden away but used by people”. The scene was set and on his return to the States he specified a unique 911 GTS (991.2) in graphite blue metallic which has since been used extensively on tours, track days and events…and which I had the fortune to borrow. Conversation flowed with Steve and other members as we compared notes on everything from contemporary cars to a Bugatti Type 35 being built by Pur Sang for one of the members on our drive.
As we parked at Newcombe’s Ranch, I was bathed in the fresh smell of California pine and then suddenly ‘new wave’ sounds washed over me – it was Robert Smith/ The Cure coming from a more vintage 993 cabriolet, an older generation 911 Porsche – it was Josiah’s car! Somehow it made this English mongrel in me feel at home, nostalgic and simultaneously happy in Southern California. We talked music and hit it off. Josiah’s Porsche exudes that patina of a well used honest car that just had the right ingredients to create great experiences.
And some cars are just that, magical ingredients imbued with ideas, imaginative possibilities, stories and memories which speak to that uniquely human desire for sensuality and feeling which brings us to food.
It transpired that Josiah was that unique blend of laid-back unpretentiousness, shaped by Santa Monica sun, sea and surf and love of honest ingredients driven by a devotion to local farmers and their produce. An LA native, he’s a Michelin-starred, Paris trained, Chef with multiple restaurants and one of the biggest names in the LA food world. His range encompasses fine dining at its highest levels at Mélisse to exceptional backyard cook outs for close family and friends expressed at his new destination restaurant, Charcoal in Venice, which all speak to seasonal ingredients making unforgettable experiences.
I will dive more deeply in a future interview with Josiah but needless to say that his love of colour, texture and flavours elevate the gourmet experience to new heights.
Which all brings us back to the drive in the Angeles Crest Highway – its not about the cars as such but about the universal human desire to connect, gather together and to celebrate creativity – be it automotive engineering, gourmet food and to share stories.