Travis Lett, the chef behind Venice restaurants Gjelina and Gjusta, is in the process of ending his partnership with co-owner Fran Camaj, according to a source close to the talks who was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing negotiations.
If the outcome is as expected, says the source, Camaj will buy Lett’s equity in their company, Gjusta Group, and Lett — who has largely been the face of the popular restaurants — will move on from the business.
Differences regarding the company’s priorities and future direction were cited as the reason for the dissolution.
Gjelina and Gjusta have become synonymous with Venice dining over the last decade. Camaj opened Gjelina in 2008 with Lett as chef, whose pizzas and mix of vegetables channeling Italian and eastern Mediterranean flavors framed the moment in California food culture.
Gjusta followed in 2014, a deli-bakery-cafe hybrid selling an eye-popping array of salads, breads, pastries, sandwiches and house-cured seafood. The place has sometimes been at the center of conversation around gentrification in the area; crowds mob its patio throughout the day.
Lett and Camaj’s group also runs three other Venice businesses: MTN, an izakaya on Abbot Kinney; Gjelina Take Away (GTA), next door to Gjelina; and Gjusta Goods, a retail shop. Shelley Kleyn Armistead also is a partner in Gjusta Group and, according to the source, would remain part of the company if Lett departs.
For the last three years Lett has been nominated for the Best Chef: West award by the James Beard Foundation. He published a cookbook, “Gjelina: Cooking From Venice, California,” in 2015. No word yet on what his future projects might include if and when his professional separation from Camaj becomes final.
The three group principals either could not be reached or declined to comment.