Chef Q&A: Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne of Lucques
In this new Q&A series, we’re taking you inside the kitchen to learn more about the chefs preparing some of the most extraordinary dishes in our favorite West Hollywood restaurants.
We could not be more excited to wish Lucques a very happy 20th Anniversary this summer.
“For years, West Hollywood has always shined colorful on the Los Angeles landscape. It’s the area of town that has really fostered creativity and exploration as the center of design, fashion and now more than ever, food,” offers Caroline Styne, who founded and opened Lucques with Chef Suzanne Goin in 1998. The rustic setting, with cozy beams and brick, has always showcased market-driven, seasonal dishes with a French touch, and they’ve earned incredible accolades since the first month of opening.
The colorful landscape of West Hollywood’s dining scene would certainly not be what it is today without Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin, and we sat down for a Q&A to learn where they’ve been, where they are headed and, most importantly, how you can join in the celebrations for this massive milestone.
What was the original mission of Lucques?
Suzanne Goin: The original idea that Caroline and I had was to open a place that we would want to go to. A place where we would feel comfortable and happy. That sort of blend of comfort along with the transporting feeling a restaurant can have—where you feel like you are somewhere special—where the light is just right, and the music good and you feel welcomed and brought into a new and different experience. And I really just wanted to cook the food I love without the restrictions of it being French or Italian, fine-dining or casual.
Is that vision still the same today or has it evolved?
Suzanne Goin: I would say that the vision is the same. It has grown and evolved as we have grown and evolved, but it’s still very personal. It’s been wonderful to explore new cuisines and take on the influences of some of our cooks and employees along the way. We have a history now that has so many parts to it. I think that age and history has definitely made us more developed and deeper.
Tell us a little about the partnership you both have and how it helps create the dishes and the atmosphere that people have come to know and love about the restaurant.
Caroline Styne: I feel so fortunate to have met Suzanne and literally call her my restaurant soul mate and best friend. From day one, we have maintained an intensely shared vision for every aspect of the restaurant and a great sense of mutual respect. At this point, we literally finish each other’s sentences. We also care very much for every member of our staff and truly look at them as our extended family.
Is there anything you’d love to bring back – either a dish or a moment – from the last 20 years if you could?
Caroline Styne: I have actually loved every moment of our life at Lucques. So, it’s hard to nail down one moment. I do miss Suzanne’s foie gras terrine, though.
How many events are you both hosting to celebrate 20 years in business and what are the biggest ones?
Caroline Styne: We’re hosting six core events that encompass the spirit and relationships that influenced our early years at Lucques. The coming events include:
Sunday, July 1: Lucques was just one year old when Suzanne got the surprising phone call from Food & Wine magazine announcing she was names on of their Best New Chefs for 1999. Two of those other chefs became particularly close friends of Suzanne and Caroline’s and one, Marc Vetri, introduced them to the charity from which was born their annual fundraiser, L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade. Journalist Kate Krader, who was influential in choosing those Best New Chefs, will be in the house as well.
Sunday, July 22: The Real OGs: Lucques welcomes back the crew from the early days to cook a momentous Old School Sunday Supper. This dinner includes talented alumni Corina Weibel, Julie Robles, Brian Edwards, Breanne Varela and Laura Schweers with more to come.
Monday, July 30: Spain Trip Reunion Dinner with Wylie Dufresne, Gabrielle Hamilton, Paul Kahan, Michael Schlow and Paula Disbrowe. A born Francophile, Suzanne focused the early years of Lucques on the Southern countryside of France, but a momentous trip to Spain in 2001 opened her eyes to the glories of the Iberian Peninsula.
Sunday, August 12: Wood-Fired Heroes. Lucques welcomes great friends and chefs Chris Bianco and Russell Moore to grill their hearts out over a wood-fire. Russ and Suzanne worked together at Chez Panisse back in the day, and Chris so impressed Suzanne and her then-fiancé David Lentz that they decided to get married at Pizzeria Bianco and have him create the menu. Look out for a few of those wedding dishes to show up on the 12th.
Monday, September 24: The Birthday Bash! Celebrating the incredible 20-year journey with a five-course dinner of favorite dishes from over the years. More details to come!
In addition to these celebration dinners, Lucques will be hosting a series of “Retro Sunday Suppers” that will include some of our most loved Sunday dinners from the last 20 years, as well as some dinners honoring the farmers that we have worked so closely with throughout the years.
Why should every visitor make time to dine in West Hollywood and how is it a different dining landscape today than ever before?
Suzanne Goin: There are so many more restaurants! Chefs from all over the country are coming to LA to open. I’m a native, so I remember back in the day when New Yorkers and San Franciscans used to make fun of LA. There is much more freedom and diversity in the different styles of restaurants and even where restaurants are opening.
I think West Hollywood has a relaxed and creative joie de vivre to it that you don’t necessarily find all over the city. People are relaxed and really just want to have a good time.