Christophe Emé, an F&W best new chef 2005, is one of Los Angeles's most talented and influential young chefs. He's done quite well in his love life, too. He recently became engaged to Jeri Ryan, an actress who has been on Star Trek: Voyager, Boston Public and The O.C., and whose latest project is a pilot for a TV courtroom drama called Shark, with James Woods. Ryan still seems both charmed and astonished as she recalls one night when they met up at the L.A. restaurant L'Orangerie, where he was then working. "Christophe put this pan full of cooked white beans in front of me—a pan full of white beans! And he had me sort them, one by one."
Since that evening in 2003, Ryan and Emé have gone on to open a restaurant together, Ortolan, in 2005. Emé, who grew up in the Loire valley in France and trained with Michelin-starred chefs Marc Veyrat, Michel Rostang, Joël Robuchon and Philippe Legendre, creates lush and beautiful cuisine with a down-to-earth, rustic side. For instance, he sears small Napa Valley escargots with tomatoes, red and green peppers and chorizo to produce an intensely flavorful ratatouille-like dish. On his tasting menu, he serves a spectacularly tasty and simple dish made from a single egg encased in dough and cooked briefly in hot ash, then topped with vanilla-infused whipped cream and caviar.
Ryan, who spent much of her childhood in Paducah, Kentucky, and has lived all over the United States, helped create Ortolan's country-chic look. The floor is made of vintage wood planks that she discovered in a Pennsylvania barn—a striking contrast to the dining room's gorgeous crystal chandeliers and cream-colored leather banquettes. Along one wall is a vertical herb garden that reaches to the ceiling.