Bouchon Bistro Beverly Hills’ chef de cuisine Rory Herrmann was raised in the Midwest and made his name cooking in New York, but like his boss Thomas Keller, he has Southern Californian roots of his own. Hermann is ecstatic to be back in the city he spent his childhood summers in, especially having spent the last year training at Bouchon locations in Yountville and Las Vegas. The former Per Se chef managed to get a case of the pre-opening jitters mid-interview (the restaurant opens on Wednesday), but not before sharing with us the similarities he finds throughout all of Keller’s restaurants.
What was the road that led you to Bouchon Beverly Hills?
In New York I was working for Alain Ducasse (at Mix) and was inevitably introduced to Thomas and then was offered a position at Per Se, which I just couldn’t pass up. It was such an amazing opportunity. I spent five years there, working from sous chef all the way to chef de cuisine of private dining. There came a time where I wondered, ‘What else can I do, what comes next?’ So when I was offered the opportunity to be involved with Bouchon, I jumped at it. It was an easy decision, really, and another truly humbling experience. Moving from Per Se to Bouchon, or fine dining to bistro cuisine, Keller’s philosophy runs through them all. It was a win-win.
How have you prepared for this job?
It started with me going to Yountville to see where the first Bouchon began and working with incredible people like Jeff Cerciello, the director of casual dining who opened the first Bouchon, and Philip Tessier, the chef de cuisine. It allowed me to see the original bistro and get a sense of what guests love about it, how it captures people and what has been built over eleven years. Then I went to Vegas where Bouchon has been for five years, and spent six months training there with Bouchon’s executive chef, Mark Hopper, and his chef de cuisine Bryan Podgorski.
Thomas is very dedicated to great bistro fare and the restaurants have an incredible circle of chefs, so it’s not just the philosophy or recipes coming to L.A. now, but a whole league of talent that really cares for the restaurant. For example, Jerry McInerney, Bouchon in Vegas’ private dining director, is coming here is here as assistant GM. Scott Wheatfill, who was the pastry sous chef in Vegas, will be the pastry chef in Beverly Hills, and Robert Hohmann, who cooked at Per Se and also trained in Las Vegas and Yountville, is our executive sous chef. All the way to some of the runners and servers who have come with us here, or the dishwashers trained by our chief steward from The French Laundry, Juan Venegas. There’s a bond between the restaurants and staff. It truly feels like a family that supports each other.
Was there anything you tailored specifically for Los Angeles diners when developing Bouchon Beverly Hills?
Actually we really didn’t want to change too much of the Bouchon experience or redefine it. For years so many of our customers have been coming to Yountville and Vegas from L.A. and we wanted to keep the experience true to their memories and make it feel like home in bringing Bouchon to them. We’re very happy about what we have in L.A. and guests who have been coming to Vegas or Yountville might very well get the experience of seeing a familiar face that has served them or cooked for them before. We want to stay true to what we are and make it comfortable and enticing, but ultimately create a place where guests can create their own memories.
And we saw there are a few new dishes too…
We talked in depth about adding those to the menu. They are not really new recipes — dishes like tuna nicoise and the Ille Flottante having been around forever. But I’d say it’s an evolution and part of Bouchon’s efforts to constantly offer excitement and to also celebrate local farmers. We have these classic dishes that can rotate and evolve among our restaurants.
We spoke with neighborhood chefs in September about what Bouchon’s opening means for L.A. What does coming here mean for Bouchon?
It’s a return. For Thomas and myself, we’re coming back to a place we know and love. It’s exciting to think we’re going to cultivate relationships with guests, both new guests and people who have been coming to us for years. We’re happy that now we’re able to come to them. Ultimately that is what this is, a return home.
Bouchon is the most anticipated opening in L.A. this year. Are you nervous?
Wow, I think now that you say that, you could be the one making me nervous. We’re just feeling electric energy and big anticipation. There’s noticeable electricity in the kitchen and it’s felt through the whole staff. We’re just excited to finally get out and get creative and bring what we care so much about to L.A. and provide things that people love. We’re happy to be a part of what’s around us. I truly admire and respect the chefs in this city and all the different restaurants here, from mom and pop’s, bistros, casual restaurants, and Michelin-starred chefs. Just to be a part of it right now and to be allowed to give something back myself, I am deeply honored.
Bouchon Bistro, 225 N Canon Dr. Beverly Hills. 310-271-9910.