For all of us who've been mourning the empty Maury Rubin-shaped hole where City Bakery used to be in the Brentwood Country Mart, good news indeed. Jeffrey Cerciello, lately culinary director of Thomas Keller's casual dining division, has taken over the space -- which has been vacant for the last year -- and will be opening the Farmshop Market & Restaurant in mid-July. Farmhouse will open for breakfast and lunch -- a soft opening is scheduled for July 15th -- with dinner to come about 6 weeks afterwards. It will be the first restaurant for Cerciello, who not only opened Bouchon and Ad Hoc ("we might see a little of that here when we open for dinner"), but also co-authored the IACP award-winnning Bouchon cookbook.
It's a coming home for Cerciello (Cal Poly Pomona, CIA), who was born in Torrance and grew up in Laguna. In fact, the chef's grandmother and mother once owned a store on 26th and Wilshire. "I wasn't looking for this, but it's the perfect location," said Cerciello by phone last week. "Especially having two young kids, and having grown up on the beach." Farmhouse will be both a restaurant and a market, with the products (charcuterie from Fra'Mani, Fatted Calf and Boccalone; cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and Bellwether Farms) used in the kitchen on sale in the shop.
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The larder idea isn't just a conceit: both the idea and the name are nods to the original store that opened in the space in 1948, a store called Farmhouse that sold fish, meat and poultry. "That's what lured me into it," said Cerciello. "That's one thing I loved about Bouchon. It's about history, it was looking at the tradition of bistro cooking. Modernizing it a bit, but it was tethered to history. To see this space -- it felt right." Keeping the focus on California artisans makes sense for everyone, both aesthetically and pragmatically. "Somebody asked me if I was going to make my own charcuterie," said Cerciello. "Why, when I can tell their story and sell their products. Serving local food is our responsibility; it's not just a marketing tag line." And now the chef doesn't have to turn his basement into a salumi drying cave. (That's Paul Bertolli's happy job.)
As for leaving Keller's empire -- which Cerciello joined in 1996 as an apprentice at The French Laundry -- the chef said that he couldn't pass up the opportunity to open his own place. Besides, it's not like they won't be seeing each other at the odd family potluck anyway. "We're connected," said Cerciello. "He's engaged to my sister-in-law."
The Farmshop Market & Restaurant: Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Brentwood.