When Los Angelenos stumble upon something creative and wonderful in the culinary world, they clutch it tight in their grip and don’t let it go. What ensues is a “foodie buzz” which begins to rapidly circulate among the community in which you simply cannot escape no matter how hard you try. Actually, the sound resembles more of a war cry. Within a blink of an eye, social media starts to spiral out of control, urban legends begin to take shape and the desire to snag a table at the hottest restaurant becomes borderline obsessive. This is exactly what happens when one of Los Angeles’s best chefs launches a new menu or first opens their doors: it leaves every epicure from the Valley to the Westside vying for a reservation. Thanks to these talented men and women, L.A. is considered one of the greatest culinary cities in America. Here are our picks for LA’s top 8 chefs:
Executive Chef Kuniko Yagi
Hinoki & The Bird
10 W Century Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Although Kuniko Yagi started off her career with no formal training in the culinary arts, hard work and her affinity for food and the industry drove this Japanese native to one of the world’s leading chefs. Leaving her world behind, Yagi left Japan for the U.S. and began her career working as a server at a Japanese noodle house where she discovered customer and renowned chef David Myers. Under the guidance of Myers, who let her stage in the now shuttered Sona kitchen, and with her innate culinary skills, determination and passion for the field, Yagi eventually earned a full time position on the team at Sona, and later on in a spot as Executive Chef at Myers’ flagship Comme Ca in West Hollywood. Today, Yagi is Executive Chef of the wildly popular and top rated Hinoki & The Bird restaurant in Century City. With elements borrowed from Japanese traditions of omakase and izakaya along with California cusine, Yagi stands at the helm delivering a culinary experience unlike any other.
Must-try: Fun bites of Summer Pepper Toast served with coconut miso jam and goat cheese; Lobster roll with green curry and thai basil; and Coconut-curried mussels, sausage and cauliflower. Also, make sure not to miss out on their signature dish, a hinoki-scented black cod.
Chef Micah Wexler
317 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
The best part about Grand Central Market DTLA is Chef Micah Wexler’s vision of an old school, yet modernized Jewish deli that he recently made a reality. Formally of Mezze, Wexler gives new meaning to the idea of hand-sliced, housemade and in-house. The difference between this delicious deli and others is its focus on quality meats, including corned beef, pastrami, and salmon, which are all smoked in-house and are served up along with freshly baked breads and bagels. Wexler knew what he wanted to do very early on. After receiving a degree from Cornell’s esteemed School of Hotel Administration, Wexler found himself as a chef de partie at world renowned Le Atelier Joel Robuchon in New York City, and eventually as Executive Chef of his very own Mediterranean eatery, Mezze. Moving on from Mezze in 2012, Wexler joined the kitchen team at downtown Los Angeles’ UMAMIcatessen. As a James Beard Award semifinalist, Wexler brings his years of culinary knowledge and experience to Wexler’s Deli and outshines even the most popular deli’s out there.
Must-try: The Macarthur Park served with pastrami, coleslaw, swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye; or a classic bagel with smoked sturgeon and cream cheese. YUM.
Executive Chef J. Scot Jones
Crossroads by Chef Tal Ronnen
8284 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
There is a reason why Crossroads by Chef Tal Ronnen exploded on the scene and is considered L.A.’s best vegan restaurant. Diners have Executive Chef J. Scot Jones to thank. Responsible for the day-to-day operations and bringing over 20 years of Mediterranean and vegan culinary experience, J. Scot Jones’ brings together a menu at Crossroads that is both inspiring as it is delicious. Prior to Crossroads, Scot was the Executive Chef of Vegiterranean, a vegan restaurant in Akron, Ohio. Having been classically trained as both an Italian and French chef, Jones understands the importance of seasoning, which he uses to make up for his replacement of animal proteins with plant-based proteins.
Must-try: Plant-based artichoke oysters with artichoke puree, crispy oyster mushrooms, yellow tomato bearnaise and kelp caviar (which also happens to be gluten-free).
Chef Suzanne Goin
8474 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Additional Restaurants: AOC & Tavern
It would be nearly impossible to stumble upon a foodie’s “Best of L.A.” list that does not feature one, if not all, of chef Suzanne Goin’s restaurants. Beginning her culinary journey in some of the world’s top kitchens including Alice Water’s Chez Panisse, Todd English’s Olives, Alain Passard’s Arpege, Didier Oudill’s Pain and Patisserie Christian Pottier, as well as an Executive Chef at LA’s Camapnile, Suzanne Goin eventually opened Lucques in 1998 to world-wide acclaim. Goin eventually opened up more of the country’s most prestigious restaurants with A.O.C. in 2002. The Hungry Cat in Hollywood followed in 2005 along with Tavern in 2009 which brought a full service dining room, marketplace and bar to the Westside of L.A. Responsible for catapulting Los Angeles in the middle of one of the best culinary cities with her famed restaurants, Goin is a James Beard winner as ‘Best Chef’ and has gained worldwide recognition through the likes of Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, Gourmet Magazine and more.
Must-try: The Bone-in Monkfish Tail at A.O.C. with sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes and charmoula is understandably a crowd pleaser. Or, the Devil’s Chicken served with potatoes, braised leeks and mustard breadcrumbs at Tavern. At Lucques, pan-roasted gulf prawns with grilled toast, charmoula and cherry tomato brown butter is the latest rage.
Chef Curtis Stone
212 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Superstar celebrity chef Curtis Stone is onto something wonderful. With a kind and warm disposition that is reflected all over his newly opened restaurant, Maude. Stone, who grew up in Australia found his ropes growing up around his mother and grandmother and eventually headed to London to work for Britain’s celebrated chef, Marco Pierre White. Made Chef de Partie and eventually Sous Chef at White’s newly opened Mirabelle restaurant, Curtis Stone eventually was appointed Head Chef of another of White’s top restaurants in London. With a philosophy to work with the best local and seasonal ingredients, today Stone heads up Beverly Hills’ Maude, which will without a doubt be one of the best dining experiences you’ll ever have. Complete with a sophisticated wine list and intimate setting, each month, one seasonal key ingredient is chosen as guests are treated to an exceptional nine-course tasting menu.
What to expect? The seasonal ingredients for the next few months are: October: pear; November: truffles; December: winter squash.
Chef John Keenan
The Roost at LA Farm
3000 Olympic Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Once you’ve experienced chef John Keenan’s culinary masterpieces at his new venture with GM Tony Trincanello, The Roost at LA Farm, you will immediately understand exactly why the five and seven course tasting menus are aptly named “Trust Johnny.” Having originally launched his career on the east coast, Keenan eventually moved West to work for famed celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, who named him Chef de cuisine of Los Angeles’ hugely popular Craft restaurant in 2011. Keenan would later go on to be named Executive chef of Soho House West Hollywood.
Must-try: The Bone Marrow with smoked peppers, crispy shallots and toast; Diver Scallops with sweet corn and black truffle; and the Duck Breast with bulgar, figs and shallots.
Chef Ludo Lefebvre
716 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
If you haven’t heard of Chef Ludo Lefebvre or simply Chef Ludo, then you definitely should keep reading. Known worldwide for his culinary exploits, he has been the mind behind popular food offerings like Ludobites which launched a new phenomenon in the dining experience. The pop-up restaurant was all the rave and every few months, Levebvre set up shop at a new restaurant to transform it into a truely gourmet experience. His first brick and mortar, Trois Mec, is so white hot right now, but then again, so is everything Lefebvre is ever associated with. One of the most influential chefs of our generation, there is no denying he has revolutionized the culinary scene in L.A. Having wrapped up the hit primetime TV show on ABC, “The Taste”, starring worldwide food celeb and chef Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Marcus Samuelsson, Lefebvre continues to deliver his culinary knowledge and treats.
Want to dine at Trois Mec? Open Monday through Friday, the five-course tasting menu releases “Golden Tickets” (reservations) via the website every Friday morning at 8:00am.
Executive Chef C.J. Jacobson
11334 Moorpark St
Los Angeles, CA 91604
Known for his participation on BRAVO’s ‘Top Chef’ culinary challenge (named the winner in fact), Girasol’s executive chef proves that an appearance on a reality TV show is not always a career curse. In fact, Girasol proves that CJ Jacobson is the exact opposite of a poster child for career ending reality TV involvement. As the seasons change, chef C.J. Jacobson is on a perpetual quest to find “superior ingredients” that are grown locally in Southern California for popular eatery Girasol. Mixing his earliest influences of Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian dishes, Jacobson’s style is best described as “rustic-refined.” His relationships with local farmers and purveyors are just as important and can be considered the backbone to Girasol’s innovative farm-to-table dishes.
Must-try: The Whole Roasted Maitake Mushroom roasted with Tamai Farms cauliflower, mandarin, almond cauliflower puree and lentils; or the Whole Fried Red Snapper with crispy greens, citrus, sauce of fermented fresno chili, kumquat and sorrel.