The Village Idiot opened on Melrose in 2007, and has enjoyed a steady stream of loyal customers ever since. Chef Lindsay Kennedy is part owner of the bar and restaurant, building an eclectic menu that ranges everywhere from British pub food, to bánh mì, to Southern-inspired American food. He certainly didn't follow the traditional path to a successful chef career either — even working at one point as a food stylist for the Food Network. In fact, check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview, as well as a recipe, its photo, and its food styling provided by the chef himself. That, by the way, is what we call a triple threat.
Squid Ink: Where are you from? Tell me a little about yourself.
Lindsay Kennedy: I was born in Atlanta but my family moved here when I was 7. So the only thing I know about Atlanta is that I still love the Atlanta Braves baseball team. I went back to Atlanta this year for a Braves baseball game, opening day. I knew absolutely nothing about the city. I had a memory of the house and the street I grew up on, and just walked the street, and I think I found my home. I'll have to go back and check on that and look at old records though. But I'm from L.A. I grew up on the Westside, in the Palisades. I went to UCLA as a theater major. I graduated there in '92 I think.
SI: You were you at One Market in San Francisco before Village Idiot, right? How was that?
[He gets a quizzical look on his face.]
SI: Didn't I read that in Irene Virbila's L.A. Times review?
LK: I don't know where she digs that stuff up. I worked there for free for six months, and I got it because one of my mom's friends was an investor. I was in San Francisco to go to culinary school and I went because I wanted to work when I was there. So I was sort of an intern, I guess. From there I worked in another restaurant in San Francisco, called The Meetinghouse, which was a short lived restaurant, but still my favorite restaurant I've ever been to.
My food background, as you're about to find out, was pretty boring. I was a tour manager after I left UCLA, in Australia. I've worked in television production for Food Network, as a producer for shows, and as a food stylist. Back then, everybody wanted to do shows about food but nobody knew about food. So it was a great opportunity at that time to use my food knowledge to get into meetings. But I found out that I was more interested in doing the styling than I was the producing. So eventually I started doing freelance food styling for them. What else? I got married, I did an antique furniture import business with my wife, who's a designer. So I left her doing that when I opened [Village Idiot]. But my cooking résumé is thin. I wouldn't have hired me to cook here. Maybe on personality, but certainly not on cooking credentials.
SI: Just to clarify, when you say you “left your wife doing that…”
LK: [laughing] No, we're still married. Left her to do the business.
SI: Right, right. So how was it over here with the World Cup going on?
LK: World Cup was amazing. It was better than we anticipated. We gambled that it would be busy, by installing some secret TVs back there and it really worked out. We were extremely busy, we made a ton of new customers, and we're now showing English soccer on weekends. But the World Cup response was crazy. Every morning, we tried to open at 7 a.m., but there were lines outside, so we'd open at 6:30, and by 8 o'clock we were at capacity. It was crazy. It was…I think we should petition to have them do it every other year. It was a great experience. But our rule with those TVs is we only turn it on when it's daylight.
Oh, and by the way, I never said this was a gastropub. I never wanted it to be called a gastropub. I'll show you my business cards, it says nothing about a gastropub. But it turns out it's very much like a gastropub.
Anyway, the good thing about the TVs is it's a lunch place, but still 70% of our business is at nighttime. And when you have a TV at night it really changes the dynamics and we didn't want to do that. When we first opened, we thought about putting in TVs, but couldn't afford it. Then when we saw how it was going, we didn't want to intrude on that. So soccer is perfect, because it's done by 1, and doesn't affect the atmosphere.
The one time we did it at night was for the Obama election, and that was a great night. People were standing up and cheering. And I think we did it one time for the Oscars, but that's it. But we get request all the time. “Can you put the Laker game on?” I remember someone one time, who I could name but I won't, who said “I don't get that place. They think they're too cool to turn their TVs on at night.” So I guess we are. It was a fellow restaurateur, who I overheard at a restaurant supply store, who said he loved the Brussels sprouts, but didn't understand the TVs.
The Village Idiot: 7383 Melrose Avenue, L.A., (323) 655-3331.