Interview with 'Take a Bao's' Executive Chef Gavin Portsmouth

If you’ve been to the food court in Century City then you’ve more than likely seen the original Take a Bao, an Asian inspired, quick casual, bun centered eatery. With the opening of their big brother in Studio City, Take a Bao brings their buns into a finer dining arena.

We had a chat with Executive Chef Gavin Portsmouth about the new venture, his childhood, and sleep deprivation.

Bow to the bao

Chef Gavin was brought to Take a Bao to take control of the menu and kitchen. With a background in Asian kitchens, Gavin’s bao’s feature the Duck Confit, Banh Mi, the Crispy Panko Covered Fish, and more. Additional items include the Short Rib “Bi Bim Bop,” Tofu Popcorn, and Yellow Curry, Shrimp Tofu noodles to name a few.

He notes that the bao as a food item is versatile, allowing for a lot of room in creating taste and flavor combinations.

Childhood culinary ambitions

When asked the question venerable question, “what did you want to be when you were a kid,” chef Gavin acknowledged his cliche but true answer, “I was always the little kid sitting in the counter eating the raw cookie dough.”

Starting kitchen work at 15, attending culinary school, then training in a hotel in London for five years, Gavin’s career started taking off in New York.

Prior to Take a Bao, he was chef de cuisine at Brentwood’s Zax. He has been in L.A. for about two years and says “the produce over here is second to none.”

Sleepless in Studio City

The idea of something and the reality of it are often two very different things. Chef Gavin tells us, “wanting to be a chef and actually being a chef, you open your eyes when your stuck into a real world kitchen.”

As with most reality checks, his idea of the kitchen was more romanticized. But with seven restaurants opened, he seems to have gotten over the initial shock from way back.

Chef Gavin is tired. From training the new staff to developing the menu and overseeing the kitchen, he has been busy with the new restaurant. But, he says “everyday it gets a little easier.”

While it will settle down eventually, chef Gavin knows that he will need to keep on top of his menu, “when you’re making this dish over and over again you kinda get a little tunnel vision.” Which is why he utilizes his staff’s opinion, “it’s a big team effort here.”

Strong reception

From what chef Gavin tells us, Take a Bao has been doing well their opening week. They’ve had positive feedback with a packed house and were basically “slammed.” So it will be a while until chef Gavin can get some of that sleep.

Photography provided by Laura Izumikawa