Rich Melman Talks about Laurent Gras, L2O, and Those Michelin Stars

Rich Melman
Rich Melman Photo: courtesy of LEYE

Rich Melman is the co-founder of the Lettuce Entertain You, a company that owns around 70 different restaurants around the Chicago area. Three of those places were lucky enough to get Michelin stars today, including both Tru and Everest. But the big news was that L2O got three. As the only other restaurant besides Alinea to get the guide’s highest rating, you’d think everything would be joyous for the highly acclaimed restaurant. But the news is tinged by the fact that Executive Chef Laurent Gras mysteriously left two weeks ago for personal reasons. There is the possibility that Gras will return, and, in fact, Gras will actually attend the Michelin announcement. But Melman is preparing for either scenario, talking very passionately about new chef Francis Brennan and the direction of the restaurant. We started with the obvious question.

Is this the same L2O that won the three stars?
Let me say it like this. Francis Brennan has been with Laurent for years. The two were together through the whole way, and help create L2O together.

So Francis can step right in?
Brennan was heavily involved at the beginning, and he developed the bread program. He was actually thinking about developing a new project. When Gras came to me a few months ago and said that he needed to take some time, I went to Brennan and asked if he wanted to take L2O. He got really excited and said he wanted to take that challenge.

Are you excited about what he can do?
In my heart I believe we’re going to make it better. I honestly think it’ll be better.

What do you think about Anthony Martin at Tru getting a star?
It’s amazing. I think Anthony is just now feeling comfortable and getting confident. He’ll be around for a while.

He’s very young to get a star.
I’ve been working for forty years. My job is prepare for the next forty years. That’s my goal. I want to continue to get this young talent.

Rich Melman Talks about Laurent Gras, L2O, and Those Michelin Stars