Jordan Kahn is getting about two hours of sleep a night. The Food & Wine Best New Chef has spent the last four years gearing up to open Vespertine in Los Angeles—an immersive dining experience that takes its inspiration from site-specific theater productions, like Sleep No More in NYC. It’s an undertaking that requires long nights and early mornings — ideation, dreaming, executing and editing. It turns out that when you’re about to unleash what may be the most radical restaurant America has ever seen, sleep isn’t high on the list of priorities.
“Vespertine is unusual, exceptional and unprecedented. It’s really just an insane project,” says Kahn, whose role at the restaurant is as much chef as it is conductor, director, Oz behind the curtain. Housed in an Eric Owen Moss-designed monolith in Culver City—just across from his nouveau café Destroyer—Vespertine represents a confluence of artists that Kahn respects. He asked Austin post-rock band This Will Destroy You to create a score for the restaurant; Jona Sees designed the avant garde uniforms; Moss made 3-D printed molds used to sculpt ingredients back in the kitchen. “The food isn’t always the most important part of a meal,” says Kahn of his choice to approach Vespertine like a curator. “Even the best meal you have, you won’t remember all the courses. What we’re trying to create is an everlasting memory for our guests.”
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If this all sounds a bit vague, consider that it’s intentional. Many of the restaurants currently topping best-of lists embrace a coddled service style, but Vespertine runs in the other direction. “We want the guest to create their own ideas about this world we’ve created,” says Kahn, whose goal is to preserve the sense of surprise and mystery surrounding Vespertine. “I don’t want to tell the guests why we think our dishes are good—I just want to let them experience it on their own terms.”