Like many chefs, Michael Reed’s passion for cooking stems from eating home-cooked meals nightly with his family. Considering he spent his formative years in a farming community in Ventura County, California, it’s fitting he now channels his appreciation for local produce into his dishes at his restaurant, Viviane, at The Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills. “As a teenager I learned to cook, which lead to big pasta dinners for my high school track team and baking cookies at Christmas for my family, friends, and schoolmates,” Reed says. “While attending college, I decided to enroll in culinary school, and the rest is history!”
An awareness of the blood, sweat, and tears required to yield a successful crop became ingrained in Reed from a young age, prompting him to challenge his creativity with each dish he prepared.
After culinary school, he laid the foundation for his restaurant career with stints at The Modern in New York, which he says “influenced his love for fine dining,” and the now-closed Sona in Los Angeles, where he learned “how to create things in a short time frame and execute them well.”
It was his next restaurant job at famed Italian restaurant Osteria Mozza that helped solidify Reed’s cooking style, which he defines as Italian/French with seasonal California ingredients incorporated wherever possible. After he left seeking his next culinary pursuit, he heard from the general manager of Viviane who reached out to Reed and offered him a position. He says it immediately “made sense” for him to make the transition, as Viviane aligned with his own approach in the kitchen while allowing him to “highlight [his] creativity through its decorum and clientele.”
From his first day at Viviane, Reed began putting his own twists on the menu with an emphasis on scratch-made cuisine that bursts with complex and bright flavors. Butchering is also now performed in-house, while all produce is sourced locally from farmers markets, typically in Santa Monica and Hollywood, as well as area farms.
This sourcing of local ingredients inspires Viviane’s menu, which changes four to five times a year, to constantly evolve. “I’m able to talk to the person or people who supply [the produce] and learn how they would prepare to help me create a new dish,” Reed says, adding that some of his favorite dishes to serve to diners include his risottos and fresh pastas. (Steak is another crowd-pleaser at the restaurant.)
Balancing Viviane with his other restaurant, Poppy & Rose, as well his catering company, Root of All Food, means Reed has little time to cook at home: “Anything I can cook on a woodfire grill is my go-to!” Reed says. His unwavering dedication to his craft, however, fuels Reed through his busy schedule. “I love the creativity my job provides me,” he says. “A highlight of being a chef is getting through a busy service and having it run perfectly. The instant gratification from seeing someone enjoy my dish and rave about it never gets old.”