The food world in Los Angeles can often seem like a particularly small one, maybe because we're all waiting out miserable traffic in the same farmers markets and Korean BBQ restaurants. Which is where, over a smoking grill and bowls of excellent yuk hew bibimbap at Oo-Kook on Olympic, a trio of local food industry veterans met yesterday to discuss the new restaurant management company they just formed. Farid Zadi, Susan Ji Young Park and David Haskell are now not only, respectively, a chef instructor and culinary school director, a food historian, and a sommelier — among other titles that the trio have had over the years they've been in this industry — but fixers.
Their joint company FOH/BOH³, so named because it will encompass front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house operations, and because there are three of them, will function less as a consulting service than as the restaurant equivalent of what Harvey Keitel has been in so many films: the clean-up man, the guy you call to recalibrate a situation that didn't turn out quite the way you wanted it.
Zadi and Park, who are married and together run the culinary school Ecole de Cuisine, met Haskell via Twitter. Of course they did. Zadi, a French-Algerian chef who was classically trained in Paris and is a veteran of Michelin-starred restaurants in France, is from Lyon. Park and Haskell are both native Angelenos, which they say will make a difference in their company's approach. Haskell, who has been through many doors himself, including those at Johnson & Wales, Le Cirque, BIN 8945 and Vertical Wine Bistro, not only grew up helping out at Citrus under Michel Richard, but admits to being an extra on 90210. Park, whose parents came to Los Angeles from Seoul in 1975, grew up in Chatsworth (“the porn capital of the world”) and is not only program director or Ecole de Cuisine but is probably better at southern style Tiger-Crane kung fu than you are. Zadi, for the record, likes “the part where the guy cuts off his ear” in Reservoir Dogs. (Which would be Michael Madsen, not Harvey Keitel.)
Park says that FOH/BOH³ can go into any venue — a French restaurant, an American diner, a Mexican taquería, a Korean BBQ, a butcher shop — and provide services. By which they mean hands-on services, such as training staff, writing menus and wine lists, doing cost analysis, even doing cooking demos. Zadi didn't put in half a dozen years teaching chefs at Le Cordon Bleu for nothing. Park says they can also organize pop-up restaurants and events, as well as whatever else people need.
So why did they go from chatting about what wine to drink with bibimbap to forming their own company? “I joke to Farid and say, why don't you just set up a booth that says Ask a Chef?” said Park, cataloging the kinds of business and culinary advice people continually ask them for. “I think we're all sick of doing this shit for free,” said Haskell.
As for what's on the horizon, either FOH/BOH³'s coming projects or that restaurant of their own (see Eater, August 15), we'll keep you posted. For more information or to contact FOH/BOH³, write to FOHBOH3@gmail.com.
A note: Both Farid Zadi and Susan Park are occasional contributors to this food blog. This writer was also a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena when Zadi was a chef instructor, although (sadly) she was never in any of his classes.