A glass of milk with a side of cookies… what could be better? In this new series, we asked five of California’s most celebrated up-and-coming chefs to find out. The results are as surprising as they are delicious.

This month, Los Angeles-based chef Michael Fiorelli shares a spicy homemade Italian gnocchi, paired with a glass of milk.

A born and bred New Yorker, chef Michael Fiorelli used to think California cuisine philosophy meant that you cooked for three hours and then went surfing all day. But what eventually drew him out west to Los Angeles was the abundance of topnotch produce at “some of the greatest markets in the world.” So it’s only natural that the kitchen crew at his always bustling Manhattan Beach, California, restaurant, Love & Salt, lets the vegetables and local markets lead the Italian-inspired menu.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. In fact, many of the kitchen’s vegetables come in direct from a garden just down the street. The philosophy even carries through to Fiorelli’s several nightly pasta dishes: The noodles and dumplings are made in-house daily.

Case in point: Today's gorgeous mound of from-scratch potato gnocchi with roasted mushrooms and — the key ingredient — pickled Fresno chilies. The earthiness and heat of the dish begs for a sip of good old 100 percent whole milk. Believe it or not, the pairing makes scientific sense: Chilies are chock-full of capsaicin, which builds heat on your tongue. The fat-loving casein in milk binds to the spicy oil to wash it away. “I approached this recipe as if milk was a component of the dish,” explains Fiorelli. “You take a bite and it’s almost all the way there, then you take a sip of milk and it’s perfect.”

Photography by Maren Caruso