Show 58, January 25, 2013: Roger Hayot, Executive Chef, J. Nichols Kitchen

Roger Hayot of J. Nichols KitchenIn 1987 the Authentic Café opened on Beverly Blvd. near CBS’s Television City in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. It was the inspiration of Chef Roger Hayot who was mentored by his prior employer, David Overton, the creator of The Cheesecake Factory. It was initially a small place and from Day 1 they had lines of patient guests out the door…Eventually they expanded into the space next-door to accommodate the strong demand.

Roger’s always intriguing menu was inspired by the cuisines of the American Southwest, Latin America, Asia, and the Mediterranean. He used authentic global ingredients which was unusual at the time. Thai fish sauce was one of his regular ingredients. The exotic appeal of his cooking was always balanced by its hominess.

He had the honor of cooking at The James Beard Foundation in New York.

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Show 58, January 25, 2013: Roger Hayot, Executive Chef, J. Nichols Kitchen Continues…

There is a new chapter to Chef Roger Hayot’s inspirational cooking story in Los Angeles so we continue.

Mezze Plate at J. Nichols KitchenIn 2012 Roger moved into the Executive Chef position at J Nichols Kitchen in Marina del Rey. This originally opened as Nichols Family Restaurant in 1974 as a friendly, neighborhood coffee shop with reasonable prices and big portions. When the founders’ son and daughter took over the operation they faced a dilemma. The retail center they were in was about to undergo a major renovation (and upscaling) and their clientele was aging and the younger crowd wasn’t patronizing them. The Nichols made the tough decision to remodel and reposition themselves as a destination neighborhood restaurant with more serious food and no snootiness. That’s a major transition…

The first 6 months of the new concept was a bit rocky. The seniors didn’t like the new menu or pricing and the Millennials thought it was still a coffee shop. A lot of guest confusion…Chef Roger joined the team in progress with the mission of improving the food and consistency. Over the last 18 months that has happened and the successful transition accomplished! A great turnaround story…

Virtually everything is now made from scratch from the pizza dough (3-day process) to the fruit preserves served at breakfast. Chef Roger takes the time to make his own biscuits (very popular) as well as flavorful premium sausages. He has his own smoker. All the desserts are house-prepared. The novel Greek Yogurt Cheesecake is perhaps Chef Roger’s tribute to The Cheesecake Factory. It’s light, has a graham cracker crust, crushed pistachios, and a honey drizzle. Yum…

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