The Frittata That Changed Chef Nancy Silverton Forever

Nancy Silverton is a culinary game-changer, and it is safe to say that the Los Angeles dining scene, and indeed American dining as a whole, would be worse off without her influence. The Los Angeles Times credits Silverton with introducing authentic sourdough bread to Southern California when she opened the groundbreaking La Brea Bakery in 1989. As of 2022, the bakery has expanded to six locations across the United States, and every one of them uses Silverton's 30-year-old sourdough starter, fed by wild yeast. But opening one of the most influential bakeries in the country wasn't enough for Silverton, who continued to work in the restaurant industry, most notably at L.A.'s Michelin-starred Osteria Mozza (via Eater).

Silverton draws inspiration from her experiences dining around the world, and she can even pinpoint a specific meal that changed her life. Many famed chefs speak of such experiences — singular dishes that transformed them for good. Some notable examples listed by Insider include Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli, who says the pesto pasta at La Merenda in Nice, France changed her life and brought tears of joy to her eyes. Top Chef alumnus Fabio Viviani says he will never forget the first time he tasted the black cod at Malibu's Nobu. Silverton's transformational experience was, unsurprisingly, an Italian dish, but she discovered it in a totally unexpected part of the world.

Not your typical frittata

If you've ever had a frittata before, it probably looked like a crustless quiche. Oddly enough, the word 'frittata' comes from the Italian word for 'fried,' even though the dish is usually baked in an oven, per The frittata that changed Nancy Silverton's life was probably unlike anything you've tried, but it actually stayed closer to the word's real definition. As she wrote in The Los Angeles Times, the acclaimed chef spent most of her life disliking frittata. She found that the long cooking time rendered the eggs "dry and spongy." Her perceptions changed when she went to the Toe Path Cafe in London and discovered a much different take on the familiar dish.

Silverton explained that she normally wouldn't order a frittata, and she only did so that day because the restaurant had no other egg dishes on the menu. Her expectations were shattered when the frittata arrived. Instead of the familiar thick egg cake, she was served a thin circle of fluffy eggs that resembled an open-face omelet. She began to experiment with her own versions of the dish, and at the Best Dish World Championship 2022, she blew the competition away with her "panicale frittata," topped with ham, artichokes, and cheese. When Michael Krikorian of Hollywood Progressive professed his love of the dish to Silverton, she said "It's just eggs," and indeed, it is sometimes the simplest things that make the biggest impact on our lives.