Los Angeles, CA (LA ELEMENTS) 11/09/2017-“With seafood, I look at it like women. You’ve got to be delicate and gentle. Not mask it with stuff. So my seafood dishes are very, very clean. Produce and seafood are my favorite. Meat is like men. You can be more heavy handed and more aggressive,” says Les Coulisses Executive Chef, Frances Li, describing her approach to cooking.
Invited guests had the opportunity to attend the grand opening celebration of Chef Li’s restaurant, Les Coulisses, in downtown Los Angeles on 11/01/2017. LA’s newest culinary experience enjoys a prime locale at The Belasco Theater on Hill Street. The remodeled space is adorned with an eclectic mix of antiques. Art Deco designed walls are covered with ornate gold mirrors and interesting early American art. The upstairs mezzanine level features a second bar and a space that can accommodate parties of up to 50 guests.
Chef Frances Li describes the menu as ingredient driven French food with an emphasis on local produce. Classically trained, she studied with some of the top chefs in the world. One of Chef Li’s instructors had been the head chef for the White House and previously was the head chef for the Queen of England.
Attendees were treated to a sampling of crostini, hot tastings and sweets from the menu. Vegetarians will enjoy Les Coulisses white bean hummus with colorful marinated vegetables on a crostini or the polenta fritta with roasted tomato. Seafood lovers will love the seared scallops dusted with a citrus pancetta vinaigrette. Les Coulisses chocolate hazelnut torte with a delicious Nutella mousse is a delectable choice to please your palate at the end of a wonderful meal.
We spoke with Marc Sittenfield, the Director of Hospitality at Les Coulisses. Marc told us that Les Coulisses means “backstage” in French, which is what the restaurant actually is, the backstage of The Belasco Theater. Monitors inside the restaurant allow Les Coulisses diners to enjoy the evening’s live performances at the Belasco.
What led you to your path to Les Coulisses?
“Before this, I worked in Europe a lot. I worked in Cannes during the film festival doing the big events in and in nightclubs. Been here a long time, since 1986, in San Francisco at a big nightclub and Los Angeles including Riviera 31 at the Sofitel Beverly Hills. I did a lot of different lifestyle events in Los Angeles with my own company.”
Were you instrumental in creating the space at Les Coulisses?
“I got the idea from traveling where there are a lot of places like that. There are a lot of restaurants in Europe that are red and loungy.”
What is your favorite item on the menu?
“I like the octopus, but am partial to beef.”
We also sat down with Chef Frances Li and learned more about her passionate personality that drives her to succeed.
How did you decide to come to Les Coulisses?
“The space is amazing. I’m in love with the 1920’s and art deco, so the building sold me. So when the decorators were doing their thing, I thought my food had to match the space. It had to be iconic Los Angeles, French driven, but modern and progressive. A lighter fare. It’s rich, but you get tricked into the idea. I don’t like using too much butter, so it’s very anti-French. But because so many people have allergies to dairy, I try to stay where the flavors are clean. French cooking is very ingredient driven, so I approach it that way.”
Were your parents supportive of you when you decided to become a chef?
“My father believed in me being happy. My mother would say “You got into med school and you turned it down to go into culinary school? Go into debt?” Until they came and ate. Now they are proud of me. I made my mother cry. I’ve cooked for everyone. I’m not scared to cook for the President, press, celebrities, I’m not scared. If I cook for my mom, its way worse. She sees everything. She sees my personality on a plate and says “This is all wrong”. My mother is a chef and grows her own corn in the backyard in the summertime, fresh beets, a macadamia nut tree in her backyard.”
What is your favorite item on the menu?
“ I’m so in love with everything still. My happy place is the pork belly.”
What is your mission at Les Coulisses?
“I like to think that my job besides being a teacher is throwing a fabulous party. Everything needs to be beautiful. Everything needs to be just right. I like my food to be nostalgic. I have people try my food and say it reminds them of something from their country. I’m like, yes, that’s the perfect answer. I’m not inventing the wheel. I’m not reinventing anything. I’m just taking a thoughtful approach to French food. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so I’m an Angeleno. The décor here is so me and Marc smashed together. He’s my French Harry Potter. He’s very eclectic and I’m his Chinese Alice. He will make me pull rabbits, pull tricks out of my bag. My vision for this venue is to instill a mentoring program. Bring students in. The greatest problem right now is not having talent in the industry. I don’t want to train my cooks. I’ve been doing this since I was a green cook. I had the opportunity to train since the beginning. I was the girl who would come early. Look at you and say nothing. Be in the corner. I can’t teach you passion. You are either born with it and love it. I can’t teach you passion, common sense or kitchen sense. And heart. I’m that girl that wears her heart on her sleeve. And it shows.”
Les Coulisses is located at 1050 South Hill Street, Los Angeles. Dinner service begins at 5 pm daily. For more information on Les Coulisses please visit their site.