STAN LERNER aka Chef STAN 2012

As 2012 came to an end, I couldn’t help but to wonder if writing about one’s self, as I am about to do, is worthy of anyone’s attention, even my own. For most of my life, my ego drove a steadfast belief that I had something to say to the world, something that people should hear. I even came to believe that there might be value to be found in my shortest musings over current events. I do not believe these things to be true any longer. Now, if and when I write, I only do so because it is what I do; I cook, I write, I breathe, I sleep, all things that I do, not one more important or less than any of the others. Do I hope that people enjoy the fruits of my labor, of course I do. And over the last few years, I have found this to be a real happiness…

It was a cold January morning, 17 degrees if I recall, when I left Guthrie Oklahoma and headed for my childhood home in California. Living in both Winfield Kansas and Guthrie had proven to be one of the best experiences of my life, sometimes I would drive through the countryside and want to pull over and cry, as the landscape was so beautiful…

I interrupted my life in the Heartland to come back to LA and deal with a lawsuit between the landlord of the Eastside Chippery and myself. The landlord, a man named Wade Weiman, contends that even though he stated in a lease that he would bring the Chippery’s bathrooms to any code, that he was not actually obligated to do so. Would it surprise anyone to know that he and his siblings inherited this property? It’s interesting that our culture has now produced both rich and poor who believe that all that is right, is governed by their own need for money, whether they are entitled to it or not.

And then there was my birthday. As I sat at the Four Seasons waiting for my old friends Andy Wiederhorn and Chris DeWolve, I pondered how quickly I had fallen back into the routine of my former life in the City of Angels. I don’t think I had been in town 48 hours before this moment. Seeing Andy is always a joyful experience for me, we met just as we both finished our college careers, neighbors in very good times and although many years have passed and we’ve both had our challenges, his presence always brings back those times to my most vivid recollection. And Chris, who I know through Andy, is just a cool guy who for some reason seems to understand me–even when I don’t understand myself.

Fatburger; Andy bought Fatburger from Magic Johnson, this is the short version of the story, eight or nine years ago. So as we had drinks and I explained my Midwest life, Chris thought this to be the coolest thing ever, Andy offered me a job. What Andy really wanted was a franchise salesman, but what he got was a Director of Business Development. And in this vein I set out to grow my friend’s company from a hundred and fifty stores to a thousand. Andy ended my effort only four months gone by and I truly wish that he hadn’t…That being said, there will be a Fatburger in Downtown LA that I had a lot to do with. And Fatburger had a great 2012, which I hope turns into many great years to come…

Oto Oto: I went to work for this small Japanese upstart as Director of Business Development. Why? Oto Oto is financed by RAMLA Japan and I wanted to do as much as I could to facilitate their investing in doing business in the U.S. And to this end, there will be two more restaurants, now to be called Gyoro Gyoro, one in Encino and one in Palm Springs. Two months of working for the U.S. partner, Yuji Uno, turned out to be long enough… Sam Walton (Walmart / world’s richest man) once said, “If you want to be successful, hire people that are smarter than you.” This can be a real test of a business owner’s ego and that’s why very few equal the success of Sam Walton.

Hygge Bakery: While at Fatburger and later Oto Oto, I would wake up long before dawn and make soups and bake at Hygge—this went very well…I really enjoy baking for folks. One of the other bakers was a girl that had grown up on a farm, which reminded me of being back in the heartland There’s something about everyone being fast asleep, while you’re working to make sure that they start their day off with something really good to eat…

7 Restaurant and Bar: To cook at the corner of 7th and Grand, across the street from Bottega Louie and on the same blocks as Water Grill, Industrial, Mas Malo, Mo Chica, Soy 7, Coco Laurent and Sugar Fish, just to name a few, was not something Chef Stan could say no to and in fact it was I who pursued this opportunity with vigor.

As the chef partner in the kitchen at 7, I get to do some of the things that I do best. However, 7 has its limitations. The kitchen is small and lacks much of the room I need to do everything that I would like to do and our front of house is long past being long in the tooth. The partners and I are as different as is possible to imagine. But I came to 7 to cook some great food and that’s what I do. So does it end at 7? I think not. I want to give people so much more. I want people to have a place that brings their community together, to the point of creating a truly extended family—I want everyone to have a place that feels like the warm home that I grew up in. There’s nothing better than a place that feels like home and I won’t be contented until I can say, “This is the place. This is what I want people to have.”

I ended the year seeing many of my old friends, including a hundred plus at my Holiday Party at 7…My sister was there and so was Kasey, Kasey is pretty close to all grown-up now. Several cast members from Meet The Family, it’s funny how the Meet The Family, family became part of my real family. Randy Kubota, his mom was my den mother in Cub Scouts and of course Big Ed / Ed Yawitz, we’ve been friends since we were six. Pauline Martinez, stopped by, looking like high school was just a few years ago and so did Mark and Ron, and so on and so on. I shared a glass of wine with Mike Berger in the kitchen, Mike is one of my favorite people in the whole world, and I said, “This all I really care about. I just like being with my friends and family. I enjoy my work, but this is what I love.”

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