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Art & Life with Jonathan Portela

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Portela.

Jonathan, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in Newark, New Jersey – a first generation Portuguese-American. I’ve been blessed to have been exposed to various high caliber cuisine influences in my personal and professional life that have molded my food. Having understood that cooking is not just an act of passion, but a trade, I began apprenticing for no pay and engulfed myself in the in & outs of the kitchen with its long demanding days. The multi-faceted culture (that is the culinary industry) absolutely commandeered my every thought, desire and life goal.

Soon I would trade completely unproductive time spent with acquaintances for anxiety filled 16 hour shifts in an environment (although sometimes potentially hostile) that became my safe zone with an almost convoluted sense of comfort. It became my second home that I spent more time at than my primary one. I’m not saying that this was healthy at all, in fact I currently insist that my cooks take in strong consideration mental health and experience moments of reprieve from the kitchen.

As I immersed myself deeper and deeper into various cuisines, I had opportunities to be a part of, stage at, and even lead Michelin establishments around the world. This would be some of best and worst times in my career, it was hard as hell, but it was fulfilling.

I can recall that as early as 8 years old, I wanted to transplant to L.A. I saw the culture, the diversity, the overall landscape and it completely appealed to me and the person I was molding myself into. It wouldn’t be until 20 years later I would take that leap and relocate to L.A. It has become my home that has captured my complete adoration.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Food is my primary art of choice. It tends to vary from each dish t0 the next, the level of complexity (or lack thereof) in its’ steps to “completion.” I grasp inspiration from various sources. It can be inspiration from any of the 5 senses really. It can be an all-encompassed view while walking in an urban setting, a forest, or even some desolate land I’ll venture to. It can be from tasting something so traditional, it feels like I have a grandma from that cuisines’ heritage cooking for me. It can be from street food, or even a more formal dining establishment. It can be an interesting texture not only in the mouth but on the hands. It can be from a fragrance that quickly wafts passed you in the woods, or a more musky urban setting. It can derive from a song that inspires a vision, feel, or understanding. The overall goal of each end result is to be utterly delicious. It can very well be that an item on the dish takes hours, days or weeks to complete- which really doesn’t fucking matter. What matters is that your guest has complete enjoyment, as they have decided to share such a special moment with you.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
I would say complacency. Not just in the “lazy” sense of it, but in the willingness to learn something (or re-learn something). You might have never heard of, or at one point (in your close-mindedness), were reluctant to give a proper attempt at a different approach. Before a resounding “no”- I’m a firm believer that you should try a new or different technique at 100%. Then after trial and error -make a (now informed) deduction of if something is worthless or beneficial for you. I think 96% of time you’ll find that even just a small facet of the process is either helpful to you, or at least sparks a new jumping point to create (or compound) a technique.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I’m currently doing pop-ups across L.A. Instagram is a really good a medium. My wife recently put me on to Instagram Stories and I like to have fun with it. One of the projects I’m working on is going to completely revolutionize Indian cuisine from preparation to format. We will be opening up various locations late 2018 – to mid-2019.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Sherri Anne Portela
IG: @sherriaustria

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