When we lived at the Avenel Housing Cooperative by architect Gregory Ain in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, we were fortunate enough to meet and become friends with Ilana Gafni, an architectural preservationist and realtor with Crosby Doe Associates, which specializes in working with preservation-minded clients.
Photo Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times
Through Ilana, we met her partner, Mori Onodera. Mori is a Michelin-starred sushi chef who owned famed sushi restaurant Mori Sushi in West Los Angeles. Not only is he an incredible chef, but he is also a rice maker and ceramicist. Checkout Mori’s Rice, this Los Angeles Times writeup and his ceramics story, too.
Photo Credit: Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times
When we were planning our Made in Japan show, we asked Mori if he had any pieces we might include. Fortunately, he did, and the ceramic pieces featured in that show were a highlight - each were prototype pieces developed for restaurants such as Providence, Melisse, and The Restaurant at Meadowood. The response was terrific (we have a few pieces still in the shop).
We were also longtime fans of Mori’s rice, which we’d tasted in restaurants and in Mori and Ilana’s kitchen. We became so enamored of the rice that we committed to buying a rice cooker - with Mori’s advice on which one worked best (It’s a Zujiroshi). One of our favorite things to do with it is to serve it alongside a meal with only Entube’s Spicy Salted Umeboshi Plum Paste topping it. The flavors together are incredible.
Then, later in October, we were having dinner with Mori and Ilana when we spied a group of pieces stacked in a corner of their loft. They were traditional Japanese spice vessels imbued with Mori’s singular aesthetic and the result of an abandoned project which was to see 500 of them being made. Having decided to stop at 64, he was contemplating what to do with them.
“We’ll take them!” we said (actually, “shouted” is probably the more appropriate word). Because they can be used for much more than storing spices (we served our Thanksgiving gravy and our Christmas Eve, Balthazar, French onion soup from them, and one sits cooktop-side as a salt cellar at our Sea Ranch home), we have called them Vessel by Mori Onodera, and they are sublime and beautiful.
It is our hope to mount a full show of Mori’s ceramics in the coming year, so stay tuned for what’s next!
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