By Chelsee Lowe
LOS ANGELES (LA Weekly) — It’s hard to name a fancier food than caviar. When served traditionally, the fish eggs are transported from dish to mouth via a petite mother-of-pearl spoon. It’s also one of the most expensive comestibles around, with tiny cans of select Beluga caviar selling for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars apiece. Such facts can certainly be off-putting for someone new to the caviar world. It’s easy to assume the food is a treat for the crown, not the commoner.
If there was ever a team capable of correcting the above misconception, it’s surely the one behind Petrossian, a nearly 100-year-old family operation with storefronts in Paris, New York, Brussels, Dubai and West Hollywood. Open since 2001, the Robertson Boulevard location has had a loyal following for years. Recently, though, repeat customers might have spotted a few menu alterations — the reasonable result of a kitchen change-up that brought chef Alex Ageneau to the helm last November.
Born and raised in France, Ageneau didn’t taste caviar until he started working in Michelin-starred restaurants, and the road to those positions was neither short nor easy. At 15, Ageneau was a poor student with a mohawk and a propensity for punk rock. He abandoned books in favor of a butcher shop apprenticeship, where his morning routine included breaking down whole pigs for the cold cases. He also helped cater events over the course of his three years at the shop. The catering company’s chef, who worked regularly in Paris restaurants, inspired Ageneau to later attend culinary school.
“He was always making sauces — beurre blancs — and I thought they were amazing,” Ageneau said. “I started to feel more passionate about restaurant life and cooking. Butchering wasn’t delicate enough.”
In 2001, a formally trained Ageneau arrived in the United States. His experience, along with solid recommendations from previous mentors, helped him jump from one acclaimed restaurant to the next — Les Nomades in Chicago, Patina in Los Angeles, Sinatra in Las Vegas, Paris Club in Chicago. No matter where he was or who he answered to, Ageneau learned, watching each chef to see how his or her style shone through their dishes. After his most recent move to Southern California, Ageneau got the same opportunity, acting as opening chef for Santa Monica’s aestus before taking the executive chef role at Petrossian.