Inspired by Chinese banquet meals, Michelin-chef Jon Yao uses melons for shave ice

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Jon Yao uses avara melons in a new shave ice course at Kato. Photo courtesy of Kato.

Market correspondent Gillian Ferguson is back at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and on the lookout for peak summer fruit. Chef/Owner Jon Yao of Kato is doing some research and development for a melon course at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Working on a kakigori, or shave ice, with all components including melon, the dish includes a Straus yogurt, melon syrup, condensed milk, sorbet, and melon gelee. The rare shave ice machine is sourced from the same distributor that restaurant receives their ice from, made with pure mountain water from Japan.

Sous chef Nick Picciotto shares that they are using arava melons from Weiser Family Farms. A green melon with high acid and sugar, the arava has a floral flavor. Yao was inspired by Chinese banquet meals which end by eating cut fruit on ice. Alex Weiser grows around 10 varieties of melon on his family’s farm in Tehachapi including a sweet, dark orange musk melon, French cantaloupes, and green-fleshed ogen melons. Weiser shares that the arava that Kato uses is a desert melon that originates from Israel. Related to the smooth-skinned ogen, it differs with its nice netting and sweeter taste.

Alex Weiser says that good soil is the key to growing delicious melons, and  that California’s climate extends the season into September. Photo by Gillian Ferguson.




Evan Kleiman