The Scoop on Jean-Georges Vongerichten's First L.A. Restaurants
The Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, opening June 1, is where the superchef will make his West Coast debut.
The Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, opening June 1 beside the Hilton, is proving to be quite the star-studded affair. Not only is the design by a world-renowned firm, Pierre-Yves Rochon LLC, but the spa is La Prairie and the salon is by Hollywood's go-to color maven Tracey Cunningham. But perhaps the most exciting element is the West Coast presence of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the most acclaimed and beloved chefs working on the planet, who has never before had an L.A. restaurant.
At the crossroads of Beverly Hills, he'll helm not just Jean-Georges Beverly Hills, a fine dining eatery drenched in natural light thanks to monumentally high ceilings and windows, but also the Rooftop Lounge by Jean-Georges, and the in-room dining — which includes menus from both restaurant concepts and items like a vegetable pizza cooked in a dedicated pizza oven, and sushi.
When first approached about the project, Vongerichten says, "I said I'd love to be involved, I'd love to come to L.A. Most of the ingredients eight months during the year come from L.A. — this is our garden, and I'm coming to the source." Beyond being where the freshest produce and plants are available, the Michelin-decorated chef says "the ethnicity of the food here is fantastic. The best Korean, the best Mexican, the best everything." He's perhaps tried the best of everything thanks to his local chef buddies including Ludo Lefebvre, Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton and Nobu Matsuhisa who have taken him to their top spots. "They show me around, from food trucks to markets to everything," says Vongerichten.
The chef has also spent extra time in L.A. in recent years researching for his vegetarian restaurant, AbcV, which opened in New York this spring. For that he ate at L.A. staples including Gjelina and Cafe Gratitude, and incorporated West Coast–inspired vegan dishes into his menu planning. That recent effort makes him perhaps even more prepared to face the challenges of the L.A. diner — modifications, gluten intolerances, vegan and vegetarian diets. His menu in Beverly Hills will thusly be composed of the best of what he does in his New York restaurants and is about a third vegetarian, using almost all California fruits, vegetables and plants (95 percent, he estimates) along with Santa Barbara uni and shrimp from L.A. A total of 80 to 90 percent of his ingredients are organic, sustainable and GMO-free, he says, which speaks to traceability and honesty, current trends he says are important to him.
The menu also features crudos ("I think sushi and sashimi are a big staple here in L.A."), many salads and a "simply cooked" section of grilled vegetables, fish and meat with what he says is "no fuss." He believes there's something on the menu for everyone, especially the power lunchers he envisions will adopt the dining room and vast terrace, where trellises will hold passion fruit plants. "We're in the middle of it, so we've been visiting all the restaurants around here and I think we fit. There's room for us for sure," says Vongerichten.
Meanwhile, the rooftop has a juice bar (along with a menu of vibrant, multicultural-inspired bites influenced by L.A., think South American chicken and rice, Korean barbecue tacos), with well-being juices, concoctions and infusions, he says. This idea was one he installed in AbcV. "It was inspired by L.A., it came to New York, and now it's coming back." And one can't accuse the chef of simply jumping on the bandwagon of Angelenos' famously health-conscious lifestyles. He's a self-proclaimed "big outdoor guy," who's looking forward to spending more time in the City of Angels and getting out on hikes. Also, he says, "That's the way I like to eat, too. I'm 60 and I need to live another 30 years."