Harvesting Change with Preux & Proper’s Sammy Monsour
9.4.18 — As part of Food Forward’s 2nd Annual #HarvestChange initiative, Preux & Proper will contribute $1 for each Grilled Yellow Sweet Corn Salad. We chatted with activist, author, and Preux & Proper chef/partner Sammy Monsour about what inspires him to Harvest Change.
Preux & Proper’s Sammy Monsour.
Food Forward chose to highlight corn for this year’s Harvest Change because it’s so emblematic of this time of year. It’s also a staple in your cuisine. What makes your Grilled Yellow Sweet Corn Salad such a perfect way to enjoy corn?
Nothing feels more like end of Summer / early Autumn to me than corn on the cob, especially off the grill. Growing up, my Lebanese grandmother grew corn—amongst other delicious veggies—in our backyard garden, so I’ve been in love with corn harvest season since childhood. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with many cuisines and cultures, Mexican being one of them, and our grilled yellow sweet corn is a reflection of that. It’s a riff off LA street corn, made with smoky miso aioli, queso fresco, scallion, aleppo chile and our crispy pork cracklins.
In many ways, this dish represent the food I Iove to eat, cook and serve. Simple and rustic plates that are served family style and loaded with flavor. My cuisine mixes my fondest memories of life and eating while encompassing the many cultures and peoples I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from. Sourcing sustainably and cooking from scratch with love, care and integrity are the foundation of what we do at both Preux & Proper and South City Fried Chicken.
We benefit from a year-round growing season here in Southern California, but there’s something really special about produce this time of year, too. What’s your favorite thing going on at the market right now?
Corn, tomatoes, peaches and figs! We’re in a 6-8 week period of perfection for these tasty treats! There’s nothing more perfect to me than a perfectly ripe and sweet ear of corn, heirloom tomato, yellow peach or brown turkey fig. They can be enjoyed in simple preparation or featured in the most elegant of preparations, and in both sweet and savory applications. The sky’s the limit!
Supporting Food Forward is just one part of your larger efforts to to build a better world — to harvest change — through the food you serve. What role do you believe that you, and your partner Joshua, have in sharing that ethos with the public?
For starters, whether our guests are aware of our sustainable practices or not, everyone that dines with us is supporting our mission, and ultimately supporting a better food system and a healthier community. I think that’s really cool!
We also take the responsibility of community work very seriously and join forces with many outstanding and inspiring organizations year round, including Chefs Collaborative, Seafood Watch, LA Kitchen, LA Food Council Policy, Share Our Strength, Slow Food, and of course, Food Forward.
We host annual fundraisers at Preux & Proper, organize and plan symposiums on the topics of community, sustainability and the advancement of our food system, and partner with several organizations to utilize Preux & Proper as an intern site for folks both young and old who are looking to gain a skill-set and start a new, more positive life. As just a couple of guys working hard and living our dreams, we the “ah ha” moment together and realized that “we made it,” and that even though we still have so much more we want to achieve together, we’re in a position where its officially our responsibility to be a part of the greater good.
Preux & Proper’s best-selling Grilled Yellow Sweet Corn Salad helps Food Forward
donate 11 pounds of produce to those in need. (Credit: Top Foodie Faves)
Sourcing all this good stuff is seriously hard work. What advice would you share with a young chef or restaurateur who’s still starting out, but wants to make responsible choices in their work?
Start with one thing that you’re passionate about and let yourself go down that rabbit hole. Ask questions. Do thorough research. Donate your time at food based charity events and network with folks you admire and want to learn from. It’s very overwhelming at times, because the subject of sustainability is so vast, but don’t let that discourage you.
As we rapidly approach a massive population increase, and the effects of global warming are evident through climate change, we’re heading into a future that is either very bright or very dim. Stay positive. There’s a LOT of people working toward making tomorrow better and they need your help. The world is changing “over night” and there’s great demand for innovation. It all starts with understanding simple concepts like seed saving, regenerative farming, sustainable aquaculture, waste reduction and energy efficiency, to name a few. I hope that makes sense.
I also try to source at least one really cool and new sustainable ingredient a week. It makes me feel like I’m moving forward no matter what else is going on around me. I’m no expert and am constantly challenging myself to learn more daily. I was fortunate enough to learn that mentality from my many mentors, and if anything, that is what I would pass along.
Fresh sweet corn, about to be recovered by Food Forward volunteers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.