The gourmet doughnut has finally gotten the Bravo treatment -- or, at least, its maker has.
Waylynn Lucas is the co-owner of West Hollywood-based Fonuts, the 3rd Street doughnut shop she and Nancy Truman opened in 2011. The curly-haired pastry chef, who has worked for several big name Los Angeles restaurants and served as the executive pastry chef under Jose Andres at Bazaar, is in the midst of adding "Bravo-lebrity" to her resume as one of the stars of "Eat Drink Love."
Already finding success in the food competition genre, the network is now mixing foodie culture with its bread-and-butter formula: personal drama. The show follows five single women in the food industry -- including Lucas, a personal chef, a restaurant marketer, a publicist and a food writer. [In recipe terms, the show is ½ cup of "Top Chef" + 2 cups of "Real Housewives" (early seasons) + 2 tablespoons of "Sex and the City." It certainly has the foodie world talking.
We caught up with Lucas at Fonuts -- post-morning dance party -- to talk about the show, which now airs Thursdays. Read on to find out how her peers have responded to the show and her response to those who say it's giving a bad name to L.A.'s food scene.
Why do a Bravo show? I assume you're familiar with their stuff.
No, I'm not. I don't watch a lot of TV. And I watch zero reality TV. I was approached by Brownstone Productions, which makes the show, and I had done work in the past and knew a lot of people at Magical Elves who does "Top Chef," which is obviously a Bravo thing. So, you know, my name had been floating around. And I thought about for a second about competing on "Top Chef Just Desserts" -- I’ve done a lot of stuff on TV. I was a judge on "Hell's Kitchen," I’ve done some Cooking Channel stuff and Food Network stuff when I was over at Bazaar, so a lot of people would approach me to do TV -- cooking things, competition things, judging things. I was always very picky and very selective about it just cause, for me, TV was never something that I ever wanted. And I didn't want to do anything if it would take away from my integrity as a chef because I worked really hard to get my experience.
When they approached me -- I’m the type of person who will say yes, I’ll go along with it, and have the conversations, because you only live once. I thought we would get ball rolling and see what it’s about and then I’ll make my decision. And I ended up just saying yes, and they came to film a bit here at Fonuts -- me cooking, hanging out with Nancy -- to get me on camera. It was about a year of convincing that it took me to make my decision. I was very, very, very hesitant. Very hesitant. I really wanted to know who else was going to be on the show, what it was really going to be about....
And what did they tell you?
They let me know that it was going to be everything in my life. I really, really struggled with it. I don't think I slept for that entire year trying to make the decision. Only because (a) as a business owner -- and my business is reflective of myself and as a chef in this town -- I knew that I really had everything to lose, and I also had everything to gain. So I really thought long and hard about it and I sort of came to the cliche decision that you only live once. I do have this new business, which I am so proud of, and what an amazing way to get that out into the world and have people see that.
What about Nancy -- did you consult with her about the decision, and did she have any concerns?
Nancy has to be the best business partner and friend ever known to man. She was beyond supportive. And she knows and trusts that if I believe in something, and if I decide to do something, she will no matter what support me 100%. She played devil's advocate with me and we weighed the pros and cons of everything. But ultimately she said if this is something you want to do, I’ll support you. I was beyond lucky.
Seeing how it's played out thus far, are you happy with the decision?
There’s definitely been a couple of moments where I say things and I’m like, "ohhh, yeah, I think that’s a moment where I forgot the camera was there. How nice.” But, really, all and all, I'm OK with it. You can see me dancing in the shop and joking around with Nancy and burping in her face and having fun and busting my employees’ chops. Just really holding true to who I am. I don’t really put up with a lot of BS -- I say it how it is, but I also try to be kind and loving. I think my true personality comes across. There’s obviously been some moments, and there’s obviously some people on the show that sort of paint a picture of what we do in a little less admirable of a light. That makes me sad. But really when I went into this show, and throughout the whole time, and now, it’s just sort of all I can do is keep my side of the street clean. All I can do is try to behave as a person with integrity and good work ethic -- other people are going to do what they’re going to do.
There has been some criticism that the show may be giving the food world a bad name -- can you see that argument, or do you disagree?
To be totally honest and frank, I can absolutely, 100% see their argument. And it makes me sad that it is that way on the show because I love the show, I love being a part of the show. But I think, unfortunately, TV is TV and there needs to be a certain amount of drama when it’s based around five women. It’s not solely based around the food industry, it’s also based on single women and dating lives and social lives, and seeing how in this industry of food and drinks, we live our lives. So, it does make me a little sad that the L.A. food scene is represented like this because I think there is so much more to it. I would just certainly hope viewers take it with a grain of salt and know that though you are getting an inside view into what goes on behind the scenes at food event and restaurants in our lives, to realize it is TV and it’s supposed to be entertaining. And it is Bravo.
There is so much more that you can’t capture on camera and you can’t really see, and you can’t really know. I made it sort of my mission to really represent Los Angeles and the food scene the best way possible, and that’s why I really wanted it to be seen and known on camera how hard I work, because everybody else in this town who works in this industry as chefs and cooks, they work that hard, if not harder. And really that was the most important thing that I wanted people to see. There’s so much passion and so much hard work and an amazing work ethic to really make it in this industry, and I feel like that’s what people don’t see, that’s what people don’t know, and you don’t get that in the other food channel shows. You don’t get that in the competition shows -- that it really is your life. It consumes you. I think this show tries to show that -- that it is our life. I mean, it’s a small world, and we’re dating each other. It’s sort of unfortunate that it comes across in kind of a catty, airhead way. But all I can do is be responsible for myself.
And I imagine there’s a lot of politics in the industry. What’s been the reaction from your peers about the show? Are they keeping their distance? Are they telling you not to bring the cameras?
My peers, and my chef friends, yeah, they do roll an eye a little bit, but they are very happy for me and very supportive of me. There is definitely restaurants I would never even ask to come and bring the cameras and the crew and all the girls into just out of respect from one chef to another. It can sometimes take away from the experience. But I think that people have mixed reviews about the show. I think a lot of people are happy about it. And a lot of people aren’t.
I think, regardless, it is representing some things in a negative light, but it’s also exposing L.A. as a serious foodie city to the entire country. So it has its pros and its cons. But that’s like anything in life. I know I am really happy that L.A. is being exposed and a lot of the great restaurants are on the show. We can be taken seriously and can compete with Chicago or New York and other big cities. I think the food scene in L.A. has blown up so much in the past five years, and I think we do have so much to offer. So, it’s nice to see that at least that is getting a little bit exposed to the world.
Is it just a reality that doing TV -- even the smallest of appearances -- is something chef’s have to take into consideration these days to spread word about their business?
I don't think it’s the only way, at all, but I think that it’s a great way. In this day and age, if people have the opportunity to do that it’s great. But so many times people do think that it is the only way, and they chase after TV, and they chase after bad TV and bad programming, and it doesn’t make them look good and it almost has a negative effect. Like any business opportunity, you have to take the best one and be smart about it.
How is it in at Fonuts after an episode has aired?
We get really busy after an episode has aired. My only goal was this: That I would expose my business and maybe my business would increase a little bit so I could have some sort of integrity and represent a little bit of the L.A. food world. People come in the day after an episode has aired and are just genuinely so excited and so complimentary. I get emotional because this bakery truly is my baby and my life. And I opened it to create a fun environment for people to come into. Jose Andres taught me when I worked at Bazaar that it’s so much more than making good food, it’s creating a memory and experience for someone. So I really want people to feel like we’re welcoming them into our home, and we do dance, and we do laugh, and we do develop relationships with our customers -- that people get to see that on their TV and want to come over because of it, it’s just the biggest gift. I want to break the curse of the West 3rd Street location.
You stay out of most of the drama in the show -- but I wonder how long that can last. Does that worry you, getting sucked into that? Have you yet had to apologize over something you've said on the show?
I don't feel I’ve had anything to apologize for. I know that there was a lot of attention caused by the Eater article and Kat, and what I said about her journalism style. And, though, I do regret using those words -- they were harsh and unfriendly words -- I spoke the truth and I don’t feel I have any reason to apologize. She made a mistake in her job and I called her out on it, so I have nothing to be sorry about.
And no one has yet said anything too bad about me. Actually, I take that back. One girl has apologized to me, and you will find out why. So, yes, I guess I do get sucked into the drama a bit. It's a balancing act. I don't want to fall down the rabbit hole.
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