“I feel like a veteran!” says Caroline Styne, one half of the duo behind the Lucques Group, and recent recipient of the James Beard Award for outstanding restaurateur. “When we started, it was such a different landscape,” she recalls, of September 1998, when she and chef Suzanne Goin launched Lucques—the restaurant whose market-driven recipes and renowned Sunday Suppers would lead to sister restaurants A.O.C., Tavern and the Larder, not to mention catering arms, cookbooks and charitable causes like L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade. “L.A. was ripe for a changing of the guard,” says Goin. “We grew up in the shadow of Wolfgang, Joachim, L’Orangerie and Michael’s, but we wanted to do what felt right to us.” And, while Goin admits to nerves when they opened, she proudly says that they stuck to their guns, undaunted in their goal of creating an unfussy dining environment that served unfussy food. (Think onion tarts, short ribs and kale—before it was cool.) “I remember people being confused, ‘Wait, is it fine dining?’ Those are questions no one asks anymore,” she says. Styne echoes that sentiment and also credits shows like Top Chef for pushing the culinary world into the American consciousness. A keen observer of the city, she is quick to note its transition from Hollywood to tech, an evolution reflected in the restaurant scene. “You can open a restaurant anywhere in L.A. now—sometimes the stranger the better—and serve whatever you love,” says Goin. So how will the duo celebrate their 20th? “We’re taking an emotional road trip, highlighting the special moments, places and people who influenced us,” says Goin, mentioning dinners with friends like Paul Kahan and Wylie Dufresne. Expect revisits of their most memorable feasts too—all prepared with their signature (and delicious) nonchalance.
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