First of three parts. To continue to next part, click hyperlink below
The following brief manifesto evolves, in part, from a recent hour long dialogue with Chef Kevin Meehan of Kali Dining, the subject of this profile which will segue back to Kevin shortly.
When discussions of top restaurant cities occur, Los Angeles never seems to be part of this dialogue. Such talk here in the states typically revolves around San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and even Seattle while abroad, Tokyo, Paris and Copenhagen lead many lists. Why is this? Well the reasons are many starting with the nature of the institutions that have produced many of this area’s chefs as well as burdensome permitting processes requiring multiple clearances from departments each with their own hierarchies that ultimately drive up start-up costs.
These processes also seem more interested in extracting permit fees for every project facet as well as every little change rather than being concerned about getting new locations opened quickly which, if opened faster, would instead generate more sales and business tax revenues as well as jobs. (This will be the subject of a more detailed rant in the not too distant future).
Recent service trends that were born in part out of and in reaction to these latter constraints, especially of high start-up costs, like food trucks, pop-ups and supper clubs spearheaded by the likes of Los Angeles area chefs Roy Choi, Ludo Lefebvre and Craig Thorton are slowly changing perceptions of the Los Angeles’ dining scene for the better.
With its climate, proximity to produce, rich ethnic diversity and creative communities, Los Angeles really should be ground zero for creative cuisine attracting chefs to this region from all over the world. To be bluntly honest, it isn’t. Possibly the next service trend emerging in this region will help put Los Angeles on the map for aspiring chefs as well as on the lips of national critics and bloggers when “best of” lists are generated in consumer and food industry journals.
According to Chef Kevin Meehan, this next trend evolving from food trucks, pop-ups and supper clubs is the small hole in the wall, no frills restaurant providing Michelin star quality cuisine at bistro prices. Los Angeles already has seen a couple new restaurants (e.g. Animal, Alma) in this category with a few more on the immediate horizon by the likes of Ludo and Thorton. In 2013, Chef Kevin also intends to add a permanent location for Kali Dining to this growing list of these small chef driven concepts. Concepts that once again are allowing for a creative insurgence against the corporate- tightly run by the number and passionless- restaurant groups (e.g. Patina and Wolfgang Puck) that have long defined Los Angeles’ position in the fine dining culinary sector.
Breaking free from this run by the number dining world, without its chef’s straight jacket, again is allowing for more experimentation and the risk taking essential for putting Los Angeles back on culinary’s cutting edge. Chef Kevin Meehan’s career has had a foot in both the corporate and insurgent’s worlds.
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