“Early on in my career I realized the importance of making everything in-house so that I knew exactly what the flavor profile would be for each dish. I also thought it was incredibly important to offer patrons the freshest of ingredients so when they asked if a dish had a certain ingredient in it we all knew immediately if it did or not. This philosophy has been a crucial part of all of my restaurants, so much so, that my company name is Scratch Restaurants.” — Phillip Frankland Lee, Scratch/Restaurants
Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee have opened a trio of popular restaurants in Lee’s home turf of Encino. Scratch/Bar + Kitchen serves a family-style tasting menu. Woodley Proper is the Scratch Restaurant’s lounge concept with delicious eats and a secret omakase sushi bar in back; and Frankland’s Crab & Co. serves up casual Cape Cod-inspired casual seafood — from a chowda teeming with clams and shellfish to lobster and crab rolls on Margarita’s housemade rolls, and her not-to-miss ice cream sandwiches. This fall and winter, Scratch Restaurants brings four concepts up the coast to Montecito Inn. As the name suggests, what ties all of the team’s concepts together is “dedication to artisanal from scratch hospitality.”
In-house menu items have become de rigeur in the LA food scene at just about every price point– while large chain restaurants serve pre-made dishes prepared in a centralized kitchen. The newly launched PBJ.LA at Grand Central Market encapsulates house-made nut butters and jams in sealed locally made bread. The Lucques Group’s lead barman Christiaan Rollich (Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern) prepares his own shrubs, tinctures, bitters, Negroni syrups, tonic, and even gin.
At West Hollywood’s Connie and Ted’s, which nods strongly to New England clam shacks and seafood houses, Exec Chef Samuel Baxter and team prepare just about all accompaniments to the classic seafood menu in-house, including dill pickles (used in the house-made tartar sauce and relish), 1000 Island dressing, griddled split-top and Brioche buns used for the restaurant’s signature Lobster Roll. If that’s not enough, the makes its own English muffins, ice cream, and more. The restaurant does use good ole Heinz ketchup and mustard!
In DTLA, Clifton’s Republic’s back of the house staff of 60 prepare everything but the fries. “The only reason we don’t make our own French fries is because we’d have to have someone whose only job is to prep the potatoes — and we’re not ready for that yet,” says Exec Chef Andrew Pastore.
When Pastore first arrived at the cafeteria-style eatery, he says barely anything was made from scratch but in the past two years, there’s been quite a transformation. “One of our biggest challenges has been that because people don’t see everything made in front of them, they assume it comes from somewhere else,” shares Pastore. Moving forward, Pastore plans to change the scope of the cafeteria-style eatery to bring more of a customer-facing production aspect. “We have the setup to roast our turkeys at the carving station and can start doing pastries downstairs — not full on baking of cakes but decorating and certain garnishing aspects,”he adds.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 people come through Clifton’s Republic on a typical weekend day so the food prep is brisk. Bakers prepare all breads, including sandwich breads, rolls, pizza dough, and even those famed laminated novelty display crocodiles or tortoises in the baking area. Everything is made either in the first floor cafeteria kitchen or the full production kitchen on the fifth floor, about 6,000 square feet of combined space, where the culinary team prepares stocks, soups, sauces, and dressings. There’s also a smoker for barbecue and a roasting oven.
“We even rotate three or four different pizzas each day — from focaccia to deep dish and traditional New York style,” shares Pastore. On weekends, the pastry staff prepares about 25 different options, 15 during the week. Pastore says cheesecakes are very popular now and the pastry team is alway rolling out different flavors. The line always includes jello, a nod to tradition, and the selection includes everything from pudding and cupcakes to themed desserts and cookies. The staff always includes seasonal favorites driven by what’s available. That could be strawberry shortcakes in the summer or carrot cake cupcakes in the fall. Clifton Republic’s chocolate chip cookies are a mainstay.
Whether you’re in the mood for a multi-course tasting menu, PB & J with an updated twist, the perfect cocktail or lobster roll — or a full-on old-school cafeteria-style meal topped with Jello and a chocolate chip cookie, L.A. has plenty of options for “from scratch” dining.