“Cook locally, eat globally” is chef Jeffrey Saad’s motto. As host of the Cooking Channel’s United Tastes of America for four seasons, Saad has traveled the United States, discovering how cooks put a regional spin on everything from steaks to cupcakes. And when he’s not comparing the flavors of, say, meatloaf in Philadelphia and L.A., he’s traveling and experimenting with ingredients, from Chinese spices to Mexican chiles. It was chiles, in fact, that inspired Saad, upon returning from a trip to Mexico in the mid-1990s, to open the restaurant Sweet Heat, in San Francisco. Saad later launched a dozen Pasta Pomodoro Italian Restaurants in California.
In 2013, Saad and his wife, Nadia, opened another ode to Mexican cooking, with La Ventura, in L.A.’s Studio City, a casual place where classics like carne asada meet a duck confit mole.
A Chicago native from a close Lebanese-American family, Saad says he grew up with his grandmother’s traditional Lebanese foods. “When we went to her home, I felt like we were leaving the country. That was my first real global experience.” It may have been his first, but it wasn’t his last; after studies at the Culinary Institute of America and the Culinary Academy of America, global travel gave Saad more tools, more spices, more curiosity.
After moving to Los Angeles with his wife, Nadia, he auditioned for the Next Food Network Star, and, after taking the First Runner-Up prize, was offered a Web series: The Spice Smuggler. Saad’s infectious love for exploring the new and the well-spiced led not only to his United Tastes, and to appearances on such programs as Chopped All-Stars and Iron Chef Countdown, but to a cookbook in 2012, Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen, a collection of his favorite recipes from around the world.