Death threats. Protests. Litigation. It’s par for the course for Hot’s Kitchen Executive Chef and co-owner Sean “Hot Sauce” Chaney. Recall, if you will, the 2012 decision by California legislators to ban the selling of foie gras. It was Chaney who defied the unconstitutional reach by offering free foie gras on the side at his Hermosa Beach establishment, and, more importantly, by using the courts to have the action overturned. In doing so, he made enemies with PETA and became a champion for freedom foie.
But there’s more to Sean Chaney than food rights activist. The guy is simply a darn good cook. He specializes in the most basic of foods — burgers, tacos, fries — and elevates them into five-star creations. Not bad for a guy who isn’t even a professionally trained chef.
I first met Chaney almost three years and about 50 pounds ago — his, certainly not mine. No, he hasn’t begun serving watercress and cucumber sandwiches; rather, he’s taken up a healthier lifestyle that involves a gut-busting workout regimen. And it’s not a bad idea if you plan to eat regularly at Hot’s, as I do. Not only do I love the exotic tacos — tuna tartare, Cubano, steak and potato, to name but a few — I like what Hot’s is all about. The restaurant takes sustainability seriously, not just giving lip service. The mostly naturally lit joint uses energy-efficient appliances, recyclable paper products and environmentally friendly cleaning agents, while the menu features natural, hormone-free meat and produce.
What’s more, Hot’s Kitchen demonstrates its commitment to the community, partnering with the Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter and supporting local charities such as Walk with Sally, Manhattan Beach Education Fund and even the Special Olympics, among other worthy causes.
Chaney updates the menu on a monthly basis, but the staples are always available. Right now, try the foie gras and mushrooms dish, featuring whatever ‘shrooms local forager Matt Parker can find. Hint: Last week, that included black trumpets, morels, and chanterelles.
The wine selection is fantastic, and Chaney knows his stuff. And while he doesn’t consider himself a beer nerd, he’s got guys who are and who constantly supply the 22 (at last count, I believe) dedicated taps with the latest and greatest of craft brews.
Enjoy one of those beers with the chicharonnes — a dish that really does a fine job of letting the new diner know exactly what sort of place this is. The crispy pig ears are painstakingly developed into a crunchy, spicy snack that is the perfect compliment to a cold pilsner.
Chaney will pair a Cote du Rhone with a grass-fed beef burger that is topped with melty Brie, foie gras and a huckleberry sauce — you know, just a common old French table wine and a burger. It’s blue collar of a most extraordinary variety.
And that’s how this chef rolls. He wants diners to explore his menu, and to that end, has even been known to suggest that if they try a dish and don’t like it, he’ll pay for it. That’s some confidence in his kitchen. But then again, his items are a lot more reasonably priced that most menus around town.
844 Hermosa Ave.
Hermosa Beach, CA
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.