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Chef Jenn Louis Gives the Inside Scoop on Her L.A. Restaurant Inside of a Glamorous Hostel

The 2012 Food and Wine best new chef and author of Pasta by Hand is opening a new restaurant in L.A.

Jenn Louis
Jenn Louis
Jenn Louis

Chef-owner of Lincoln Restaurant and SE Division's Sunshine Tavern, Jenn Louis will open her first restaurant outside of Portland this fall, and to do it, she's teaming up with two glamorous businesses within the Sydell Group: Freehand hostels, the chic hotel franchise that shares stylistic similarities to Portland's Ace Hotel, and Broken Shaker, the overwhelmingly awarded Miami cocktail bar. The forthcoming Freehand hostel will be located in downtown Los Angeles and have a rooftop pool, and the food at Louis's yet to be named restaurant will decidedly show Israeli cuisine's more eclectic side.

Louis is excited to show how neighboring food cultures have seeped into Israeli dishes. "The people who live in Israel aren't just Jewish," says Louis. "They're Muslim, they're Christian—and I'm looking at how people eat."

Louis visited Israel for the first time in college for about a week, and after graduating, she returned to Israel to work on a kibbutz, or community farm. "It was in a desert in the Arabah, way south," says Louis. "It was really hot—like, in November, 120 degrees or something—and I lived in a trailer and worked in a dairy. It was intense."

Then, in the past year, Louis did a culinary trip through Israel with two chefs and a food writer. "We had a driver and a guide, and we literally started eating from the second we left our rooms, to when we went to bed."

Louis found new cultural influences. "There are people from France, from Syria, and Ethiopia," says Louis. "For instance, in the 80s, when there was a famine in Ethiopia, there were these Israelis doing relief, and they came across a group of Ethiopians praying in Hebrew. This was somewhat mind-blowing, so they brought them back to Israel. What a lot of people don't realize is that it's a really crazy melting pot of flavor."

To develop her flavors for the restaurant, Louis is working closely with Broken Shaker's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi. "We're always texting ideas back and forth, so it's been really productive," says Louis. Additionally, Louis draws from her SoCal childhood, pointing out there her dad went to Fairfax High in Los Angeles.

But after living here for twenty years, Louis says she won't be leaving Portland. "Los Angeles is two hours away by plane," she says. "In two hours, it's pretty simple. I've done it just for the day before."