More and more these days, it seems that just when you get used to a chef and he's settling in at a restaurant, someone lures him away with the offer to head up, and often partner in, a hot new restaurant.
Which is what recently happened at Silver Lake's Cliff's Edge, when chef Vartan Abgaryan got a call from entrepreneur Emil Eyvavoff. Abgaryan agreed to have lunch at Takami, the sushi and robata restaurant Eyvavoff owns and operates on the 21st floor of 811 Wilshire. Afterward, Eyvavoff offered to show him his new project.
“I walked out of the elevator onto the the 71st floor of the U.S. Bank Tower and into a 360-degree view. The space was unbelievable," says Abgaryan.
"But I was so afraid of the height, I couldn't even walk to the window. I still haven't been able to look down." It was a really clear day and you could see all of Los Angeles laid out below the 73-story tower on Bunker Hill, the tallest building in California and the tallest west of Chicago.
It didn't take much convincing for Abgaryan to sign on as the proposed restaurant's chef and partner. But he's not abandoning Cliff's Edge managing partner Pierre Casanova just yet. He's going to be working through October to give Casanova plenty of time to find a successor. "No way would I leave Pierre without having him settled with somebody new."
Abgaryan's last day will be Halloween. After that, the 33-year-old is taking November off. "I think I haven't had more than a week without a job since I was 15," says Abgaryan, who immigrated with his family from Armenia in 1991.
He'd been cooking at Public Kitchen & Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel when he was tapped to be Cliff's Edge chef. In his 2-1/2 years there, Abgaryan and Casanova have revitalized the restaurant, which used to be known more for its lovely sprawling patio and bar than for its food. An updated menu, special oyster and cocktail nights, and an expanded and darkly romantic dining area on the patio have made the 10-year-old restaurant more popular than ever.
"I've been excited to be a part of that," says Abgaryan. "I'm most proud of the people I got to work with at Cliff's Edge. But I always told Pierre that if I ever had the chance to be a chef/partner in a restaurant, I would have to leave. And now that time is come."
71Above is slated to open in March 2016, giving Abgaryan lots of time to think about what he'd like to do with the menu there. It won't be a white tablecloth place.
"We're going to try to be as refined as possible — without getting stuffy," says Abgaryan.
Meanwhile, before he disappears up in the clouds of 71Above, you'll have all summer to enjoy Abgaryan's cooking at Cliff's Edge.