Jessica Largey, who spent four years as chef de cuisine at Manresa, David Kinch's lauded Los Gatos restaurant known for its farm-to-table tasting menus, plans to open her first restaurant, called Simone, in the downtown L.A. Arts District this fall.
Largey, 30, who won the 2015 James Beard Rising Star Chef award and is finishing up a chef rotation at Intro in Chicago, has partnered with Bruno Bagbeni (former general manager at the now-closed Fraiche, who also worked at the now-closed Bastide) and film and television director Joe Russo (he worked on "Arrested Development") on Simone.
A Ventura County native who went to the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena and landed an internship at Michael Cimarusti's restaurant Providence (ranked No. 1 on Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurant list for the last three years) when she was just 19, Largey felt that now was the right time to come back to Los Angeles.
"I have a good reputation in the Bay Area and I really love it, but I do think that there are so many great restaurants and so many great chefs, and I just didn't want to continue with that trajectory and just be one of the pack," Largey said. "I wanted to bring those mentalities and try to bring that movement down to L.A."
So she settled on an old building on Hewitt Street, built in 1909, next to Urth Caffe.
"When I lived there [L.A.] before, you never went downtown," Largey said. "To see all these things really up and coming in that area was really exciting to me."
Largey is converting two of the building's existing cellars (one of which has been a dark room for the last 30 years) into a cold butchery room and a wine cellar. A rooftop garden will provide a small space to grow specialty sprouts, greens and edible flowers. But don't expect the fancy tasting menus one would find at Manresa or Providence — at least not in the main dining room.
"I'm departing from my fine-dining background in some ways, and going a much more casual route," Largey said. "For me, it's important that I build a restaurant that I would go eat at all the time."
There are no specific details on the menu yet, but Largey said she will focus on using the great produce available in Los Angeles. And she hasn't left the tasting menus completely behind: She's planning a six-seat chef's counter where she will create long-form tasting menus and interact directly with the diners.
"I think it will be great to offer these special menus that have very intricate techniques and ingredients for people who want to come in and have that type of experience," Largey said. "But also offer a way for them to come in randomly on a Wednesday night and order one entree, and that's all they have."
And the name Simone? Largey said it's loosely inspired by Nina Simone, one of her favorite musicians. (She said the name came to her one evening while cooking dinner and listening to the singer.)
Although Simone is scheduled to open this fall, Largey said she's "being realistic" and hopes to have it open by the end of the year.
447 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles
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For the Record
April 27, 4:02 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said Largey was chef de cuisine at Manresa for six years. She worked there for a total of six years, but was chef de cuisine for four years.