Long before she rocked a Dr. Pepper aioli with shallot rings and microgreens on popular TV show Top Chef Masters, California cooking star Suzanne Tracht found a way to make magic with simple ingredients, and with a twist.
The longtime owner of the famous Jar Restaurant in Los Angeles, Tracht says her approach to cooking is much like the challenge she faced on Top Chef in 2013.
“When you’re cooking in a busy kitchen, the first thing you have to do is take a deep breath and focus. What I did on Top Chef is what we do every day at The Jar. I look around, see what ingredients are fresh that day at the farmer’s market, and I make it work,” says a chef who wins consistent high marks from top food writers. Described by Los Angeles Magazine’s Patrick Kuh as a chef with the “most finely tuned and modern sensibility of any cook working in LA,” Tracht takes all the praise and numerous awards in stride.
Asked what she’s most proud of in her years as an indomitable cook, she replies, “I’m most proud that it’s been 16 years since I’ve had Jar Restaurant and we’re still here, we’re still viable, and I’m proud that I employ people and give people jobs.”
In this week’s Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Tracht offers insights on a cooking career she began at age 19.
Q: You’ve been recognized as a top chef, both on TV, and by your peers. What’s your secret?
I’m not sure it’s a secret. I’ve been doing this work since I was 19. I worked in a lot of places before I had Jar, and I treated every job and every place I worked like it was my own restaurant. No matter what job I held, I treated the work with a great deal of respect. I’ve always had a very strong work ethic.
Q: Jar Restaurant offers retro food with a modern twist. Please tell me more about this vision.
If you take our pot roast as an example. We use a very rich and good meat. But we lighten up our sauce, subtracting flour and a roux. We use great ingredients, and it’s one of our most popular dishes. *So good is the pot roast that Brad Johnson of Angeleno Magazine wrote, “I can’t think of anyone who makes a better pot roast than Tracht.” And Food Network personality and chef Rocco DiSpirito named Tracht’s pot roast as his “all-time favorite.”
Q: How do keep customers coming to your doors after so many years?
We work really hard to make our customers feel welcome. We have a lot of regulars. And by regulars, I mean people who come in once or twice a week and have a particular table they think of as theirs. We know their names, they know us … it’s funny, but a lot of our customers feel a kind of ownership of the place.
But after so many years, it is a challenge to keep people coming in. Everyday a new restaurant is opening, and we’re constantly reminding people, mostly through social media, that Jar is still here and still strong.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to open their own restaurant?
The first advice I always give them is don’t do it. You have to have skin like an alligator. It’s tough work. And it’s a lot of attention to detail *That attention to detail won the praise of Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila, who wrote, “Tracht’s attention to detail sets Jar apart. It’s not only good, it’s absolutely reliable. How rare is that?”
For years Jar has been among Los Angeles Magazine’s top 75 restaurants named in the magazine. — The Jar uses Boxerbrand menu covers in its table presentation. Thank you!