The visionary behind experimental LA restaurants Destroyer and Vespertine on how he blends cooking, community and art.

By Hannah Walhout
Updated May 01, 2018

It takes a special kind of chef to open a restaurant without telling anybody. But that’s just what Jordan Kahn did with Destroyer, his cabinet of culinary curiosities in Culver City, CA. “Our first day was amazing,” says Kahn. “We made no announcements whatsoever—in fact, we kept the whole restaurant a secret, so on the first day we just unlocked the door.”

Opening without fanfare meant that Destroyer’s first customers were community members and people from the streets of the neighborhood—Hayden Tract, an artist hub that Food & Wine Restaurant Editor Jordana Rothman calls “a particularly ascendant part of LA.” Kahn, who grew to love cooking from his childhood copy of The French Laundry Cookbook and his Cuban grandmother’s peasant comfort food, sees this type of direct community engagement as essential.

His food is unusual, to say the least. Destroyer only serves breakfast and lunch, a quirk that Food & Wine Editor in Chief Nilou Motamed admits is “not normally what we would showcase in Best New Chefs—but that’s how exquisitely he is serving these two meals.” Kahn describes his menu there as “comfort food for creative people...there’s a certain edginess to it that people really respond to.”

He’s pushing himself even more with his next project: Vespertine, a dinner-only experience similarly shrouded in mystery. What is it? Says Motamed, “When I say experience, I mean that quite literally—because it feels like theatre.”

This tasting menu-only concept is housed inside a jarring, glassy building designed by Eric Owen Moss—the firm behind the Hayden Tract neighborhood concept and a slew of stunning projects popping up all over Culver City. Kahn has been working with the architects for nearly four years, trying to figure out exactly “how to put a restaurant inside this crazy art piece.”

It seems they’ve figured it out. Vespertine’s July 6 opening is fast approaching, and Kahn is proud: “I would say it’s the most important thing I will probably ever do, professionally.” Good news for us, they’re now accepting reservations.

For more on our latest class of BNCs, check out the rest of the Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2017.