Exclusive: Meet The Chef Behind Vespertine–LA’s Otherworldly New Dining Experience

Vespertine

Chef Jordan Kahn sees Vespertine as a portal to another galaxy

“At Vespertine, you may as well be on Jupiter.” That’s how food critic Jonathan Gold summed up his otherworldly dining experience at the most talked about, picked upon, eyebrow raising new restaurant in Los Angeles.

Meet the chef at Vespertine, the most talked about, picked upon, eyebrow raising new restaurant in Los Angeles

Chef Jordan Kahn’s ultra-high-concept establishment inside a wavy UFO-like structure in Culver City, California, announced its arrival last summer as a gastronomical extravaganza “from a time that is yet to be,” in the chef’s words. A few early Instagram photos that leaked out (Kahn discourages food pics by customers) appeared to confirm that claim with dishes that looked as if they’d been plucked from a sci-fi edition of Chef’s Table.

Jeff Elstone

Red spinach, a dish that may or may not be of this world.

Diners are not neutral about Vespertine. Those who’ve eaten there typically emerge in one of two ways–either they’ve seen God or they want their $500 back.

Vespertine

Chef Jordan Kahn

Kahn, whose resume includes stints at The French Laundry, Per Se, Alinea and Red Medicine, has been mostly silent about his latest venture, aside from a curious GQ interview about Vespertine in which he called the spot “a machine artifact from an extraterrestrial planet that was left here like a billion years ago by a species that were moon worshippers.”

.@chefjordankahn wanted his restaurant, Vespertine, to be “unlike anything anyone’s seen anywhere in the universe”

To get past the hype, I invited myself for an interview at Kahn’s office on a recent Monday when Vespertine is closed. With a look that is appropriately out of this world–the chef’s dark hair is shoulder-length on one side but cropped to military specs on the other–Kahn definitely presents as a renegade. But once he got rolling, the conversation was as electric and engaging as any I’ve ever had with someone in the food world.

Here’s Part 1 of my exclusive two-part interview:

Describe what it’s like eating at Vespertine.

The experience is intended to be transportive. Dining at this level should make an impact. When you look at the restaurants considered the world’s 50 best,  you see that food is only one ingredient of what happens at a great meal. For us, the meal is deeply connected to the music, to the architecture, the lighting, the pieces on the table, the reflections and shadows, the story of the place. Coming here is not as much ‘going to a restaurant’ as it is an evening event that surrounds food and beverage.

Fäviken in Sweden is considered one of the best restaurants on earth but one of the best parts is just getting to Fäviken. It’s a great restaurant but if you were to somehow with a Magic 8 ball get the dishes here to L.A., the meal would be fine and maybe a little weird. It’s the long journey that makes it exceptional. You have to fly in and stay overnight. It’s the same with el Bulli. Part of the myth of that restaurant was that you had to travel down that long road in Spain to get there. That idea ignited a fascinating discussion: How can we create a transportive piece but in the middle of a huge city like Los Angeles?

Jeff Elstone

Vespertine is located in the Hayden Tract district of Culver City, California

What was the solution?

The whole project started with finding the building and how it spoke to me. It played to ideas percolating in my psyche for years. When I first saw the place under construction, I didn’t know anything about the area or the architect. But I became kind of obsessed. I was working at Red Medicine, and wouldn’t get out until 2:30 or 3 a.m. Afterwards, I’d be wired and would drive here and hop the fence. Luckily there were no security guards. The front doors were two pieces of plywood on hinges. I’d pop them open and walk through the building in the middle of the night with scaffolding everywhere. Super illegal. My footsteps made a lot of noise and it freaked me out, so I put on headphones. At a certain point, the music and the building started to sync. I began to feel the building breathing. There was a movement about it. It was like a Salvador Dali still life–still but moving.

Article source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhochman/2017/10/06/exclusive-meet-the-chef-behind-vespertine-l-a-s-otherworldly-new-dining-experience/

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