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Chef Interviews

Q & A With Govind Armstrong: Post & Beam, His New L.A. Restaurant, Why 8oz. Closed + Coming Home

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Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge chef Govind Armstrong - VANESSA STUMP
  • Vanessa Stump
  • chef Govind Armstrong

Govind Armstrong has a long history in this town, dating back to when he worked as a 13 year-old apprentice for Wolfgang Puck in Spago's kitchen. Armstrong, who is still maybe younger than you are, went from Spago to City to Campanile, with time spent time in European kitchens, including Juan Mari Arzak's in Spain, before opening Chadwick with Ben Ford. Armstrong opened Table 8 in 2003, which was reinvented as 8oz. in 2008, and closed permanently a few months ago. Add appearances on Top Chef and Iron Chef, and it's no wonder that the man might want to get off a plane and come home.

Which is just what Armstrong has done. The chef and business partner Brad Johnson are opening Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills in a month, maybe two. The new restaurant is going into the Baldwin Hills Plaza, along with the chef himself and his staff from 8oz. The location, which is still under construction, will seat 100 ("on paper," says Armstrong, "once the furniture comes in, maybe about 80") in a 2100 square foot space that was once a Golden Bird. For more details on Armstrong's new project, the kind of food he'll be cooking, and why he wanted to come home, turn the page.

Squid Ink: What's up? You're back in town.

Govind Armstrong: I've been back for awhile, I'm happy to say. I'm definitely spending a lot more time and focused attention in L.A. I've been bouncing around for several years. L.A.'s always been the base, always been home, but with all the other projects--I was living in New York for a long time, spending a lot of time in Miami and getting back to L.A. only every other month or so. People think it's this glamorous life, but it really is not. It's brutal.

I've been looking forward to getting settled back in LA. All my family's here: my mom, all my sisters, and my girlfriend. I'm happy to be home and putting my time and creative focus into developments here.

SI: When did you close 8oz.?

GA: Very unfortunately, we were forced to close 8oz. on Melrose about 2 1/2 to 3 months ago now. There were a number of reasons for that, which ultimately came down to inoperable issues with the lease that we signed almost 9 years ago. We had great success in that location with the original Table 8 and then with 8oz.; we had a successful business and the community really loved it. I loved it. We tried renegotiating, but it was just one thing after the next. It became really frustrating, as we but it just wasn't going to work out any longer in that space. It was tough - but we are moving on.

SI: You have other 8oz.'s.

GA: Yes, two currently -- one in Louisiana, one in Miami. And 3 locations are currently under construction -- one in north Miami, and here in L.A., the first of which will be at LAX.

SI: When is that going to open?

GA: I'm not sure exactly; sometime next summer. It's a big development project and partnership with HMS Host, and you know how that goes. I'm excited about it -- it's an interesting partnership and looks to be a pretty amazing project.

SI: You grew up here?

GA: Yeah, yeah. Born here in Inglewood. I spent some time in Costa Rica; that's where my mother's from. Then came back and we lived in the Valley for awhile, been around. But L.A. is definitely home.

SI: So what are you planning on doing?

GA: Ahhh, well, I'm definitely now in full "doing" of what I've been planning for several months -- and I'm really excited about it. I've partnered with Brad Johnson to open a new restaurant in the heart and soul of L.A. in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. I was born right down the road there. It's a very interesting community that's currently undergoing a major revitalization. We hope to create a destination restaurant that is the centerpiece for the community. I haven't been this excited about a project in a long time. It's brilliant to be a part of such refreshing developments -- bridging the lines of L.A.'s vast landscape -- dining and otherwise. You know, the more I talk to people in the community, they're just excited to have a place to call their own.

SI: What was the space originally?

GA: It was a Golden Bird actually. Golden Bird was an old fried chicken institution, a big chain back in the day, and this location was one of the first. It had very interesting architecture. We basically stripped it down to the studs and some of the load-bearing walls.

SI: Roy Choi's place went into an IHoP.

GA: It's kind of like that. It's not a huge restaurant, very humble. We tried to retain as much of the original post and beam style of structure as we could. But the more you dig, you find stuff, and the more you dig...

SI: So why Post & Beam?

GA: It's sort of an homage to the neighborhood. A lot of the homes in Baldwin Hills have that old post and beam architecture. It's definitely something that's very reminiscent of the era, when it was in its prime in the 50s and 60s.

It's a perfect little venue: we have a fair amount of outdoor space, where we're planting an herb and vegetable garden.

I'm not bringing in any "hallelujah" anything, it's a straightforward, familiar kind of spot -- a cool neighborhood restaurant with broad sensibilities and local character.

SI: So do you have a rough target date?

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