Two evenings a week, Nancy Silverton packs up her favorite knives, a long Bragard apron and a teak saltbox that her father made (filled with kosher salt, fleur de sel and Maldon sea salt in separate compartments), and goes to work at two Los Angeles restaurants: on Mondays at the mozzarella bar she created for Jar, and on Tuesdays at the antipasto table she developed for La Terza. She does both for free, for fun.
Because Nancy is one of L.A.'s biggest food celebrities, her presence on these nights guarantees a crowd. La Brea Bakery and the restaurant Campanile, both of which she founded in 1989 with her then-husband, Mark Peel, and Manfred Krankl, are city landmarks, while the Thursday Grilled Cheese Night she started at Campanile a decade ago is an L.A. ritual. Her influence also extends far beyond the West Coast. In 2001, she and her partners sold La Brea Bakery to an Irish conglomerate for $55 million; that corporation now distributes to grocery stores the crusty European-style breads she helped pioneer in America.
Today, Nancy is in a position in life that few people ever achieve. With both La Brea Bakery and Campanile off her hands (she recently sold most of her interest in the restaurant as well), an ordinary person might find herself facing an identity crisis, or at least feeling a bit untethered. Not Nancy. Unfettered by the daily responsibilities of running a business, she can do exactly what she wants, which, it turns out, is working with food.