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New Broad museum restaurant will be more than a museum restaurant

Russ Parsons
The California Cook
Chef Tim Hollingsworth spills some details on his new restaurant by the Broad museum

Tim Hollingsworth says his new restaurant, opening next door to Eli Broad’s new art museum on Bunker Hill downtown, may be part of the museum complex, but he doesn’t think of it as a museum restaurant.

The new spot, with the working name Otium — a Latin word that translates loosely as "leisure time" — is scheduled to open by early fall when the Broad museum opens. A partnership between Hollingsworth, Broad and Bill Chait’s Sprout Restaurant Group, it straddles the block between Hope Street and Grand Avenue immediately south of the museum, about a block and a half south of Disney Hall.

“The idea of this is that it’s not a museum restaurant, even though it’s next door [to a museum] and Eli Broad is a partner in it,” Hollingsworth says.

“It’s more a neighborhood restaurant, a part of [Broad’s] whole effort to get people to walk around in that neighborhood. We’re hoping to get people from the museum, of course, but we also want people from all the different businesses around there, and even people from outside the area who want to come in for dinner.”

Though Hollingsworth first came to national attention as the chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s ultra-refined French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley and as the American representative at the 2009 Bocuse d’Or cooking competition, he says the food at Otium will be anything but fussy.

“I think we’re going to be doing a modern way of dining that’s based on how people want to eat today and on how different cultures eat,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s going to be a lot less formal. We’re going to have great ingredients and technique, but we’re going to remove the fanciness and fussiness, but still have finished food.”

When pressed for menu specifics, Hollingsworth laughs: “I’m calling it contemporary American. You know what that means, right? It means whatever the chef wants to cook.”

Now chef and co-owner at the Barrel & Ashes barbecue joint in Studio City, Hollingsworth says Otium will be about sharing. “There’ll be a lot of big plates meant for passing,” he says. “It’s about community. It’s about something I’ve associated with eating ever since I was a kid -- everybody sitting down at the table and sharing a meal.”

Otium is coming along just as the balance of cultural energy downtown has shifted dramatically, especially as far as restaurants are concerned. Though Bunker Hill was once a prestige address, today it seems like most of the action is taking place down on the flats, with restaurants such as Alma, Factory Kitchen, Baco Mercat and the resurgent Grand Central Market getting the attention while Bunker Hill is seen as mostly office buildings.

“That’s exactly what [Eli Broad] wants to see change,” Hollingsworth says. “We’ve got amazing arts and architecture up there -- MOCA, the Broad, Disney Hall -- but what we don’t have is a lot of people walking around.

"One of the goals of the restaurant is not to get just the people who are already going to be going to the museum, but also to get the younger generation that might not know the area and expose them to the arts that are available and expose them to this part of downtown.”

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