Fun eats on the cheap, LA’s own “The 99 Cent Chef”

awardtaco.jpgWe all need to eat.  We all need a lot more fun in our life.  A local man combined the two with his love of the 99 Cent stores and voila “The 99 Cent Chef”  blog was born.  He’s been called by commenters on his blog “Rachael Ray on crack”  and “The Don Calamari of 99 cent chefs.”

In a very  informal interview I had to ask, “How did you come up with the idea for this blog?”  He answered back “It officially started in an art gallery group show; I made “The 99 Cent Chef Goes Shopping” video, in November of 2006.  I also did a cooking demo of hors douevres for the opening night show,  made of all 99 Cent Store ingredients.”

“I’ve been a habitue of the 99 Cent Store for over a dozen years – before they had a refrigerator case and fresh vegetables.  I would alway get a kick preparing meals with 99 cent ingredients and announce this at the end of the meal to see my guest’s astonished and appalled _expressions.  I’ve been calling myself a 99 Cent Chef for a few years as a joke, but finally decided to go legit!

foodstriker.jpg“The Writers strike was the launching pad for my blog. I had another video idea of feeding the Writers, my wife is a journalist/screenwriter, so I felt sympathy for the cause and wanted to do something.”
“With the recent ease of uploading video to Blogspot, I was smitten. I work in the Biz as a D.P. and post production Compositor. With camera experience and inexpensive digital still cameras with video, it’s all so easy and mainly, cheap. My interest in photography, film, art and food fuels the blog. I’m an LA resident for 30 years, so I know the lay of the land.”

Anyone who cooks knows it is not always to come up with recipe ideas.  We all have our sources we like to look at and I had to know what where is inspirations.  “I am always amazed by what they have at the store, like sun dried tomatoes, organic canned tomato sauce and fresh pasta, so it is quite easy to come up with recipes. I have no training as a chef but I enjoyed watching Julia Child on public tv as a teen. I can’t help experiencing LA through food.  With the internet any dish I fancy has a recipe a few clicks away; then I can transpose it with 99 cent ingredients. As an example, Googling “Carnitas Tacos” reveals the lunch truck staple is first boiled in “Mexican” Coca Cola and orange juice, then deep fried. Pork butt costs less than 99 cents a pound at my local ethnic market and “Mexican Coke” was at the 99 Cent Store, two for a dollar, last month and oranges cost less. Simple.”

Near and dear to my heart is businesses who don’t like photos done in their store.  So how does he get away with it? “When I’m caught shooting video or stills a clerk or guard says “No photography allowed sir.” I always get off with a warning. I was told not to breakdance in the aisles once, while shooting the first 99 Cent Chef video: .  I’ve shopped in most of the 99 Cent Stores throughout LA, so I can shoot freely by being discreet and shooting at different locations. My camera of choice is a cheap generic digital still camera; when shooting video I use the “movie” setting, this makes for shooting stealth and the quality is fine for the internet. I know what I shoot is “outlawed” but I think of the blog as an “Art” project. So anything goes, right?”

Now go read and enjoy his blog.  Am adding it to my regular reads.  Not only for the entertainment value but for the recipe ideas too!

This story is the result of a reader submission. Thanks for your input. All photo’s from “The 99 Cent Chef” and used with permission.