The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2012

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Page 34 of 140

DEPARTMENT HEADER Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne. Fantastic at Fifteen W by Rich Manning / photo by Jimmy P. hen iconic chef Suzanne Goin and acclaimed som- melier Caroline Styne fi rst met each other in 1997, it didn't take either of them all that long to fi gure out that they needed to work together. "It was a quick click for the both of us," Styne states. "In a way, it almost felt like a successful round of speed dating." If anything, their fast partnership proves the old adage "when you know, you know" to be true. In the 15 years since that fortunate encounter, the heralded twosome and self-proclaimed "restaurant wives" have produced a trio of award-winning, highly infl uential Los Angeles bistros: Lucques, A.O.C., and Tavern. Certainly, the City of Angels is better off for the collaboration, as the duo's restaurants have played an utterly crucial part in transforming the area from a culinary weak sister to a region that demands respect on a national level. And while neither feels like a pioneer of the city's culinary landscape, both acknowledge that their restaurants' amalgam of refi ned cuisine and relaxed ambi- ence is representative of an exciting paradigm shift. "There is a more thoughtful approach to food now than when we fi rst started," Goin says. "You can see how this has effected fi ne dining in L.A. The focus on the food has become so strong, it has ended up making other elements more casual, if not more rough and tumble." To be sure, there is a great deal of thought that goes into each dish that Goin creates and each wine that Styne selects. While Styne has complete control over which wines are purchased for the restaurants, she says Goin's culinary 34 / the tasting panel / october 2012 acumen makes her job easier. "Suzanne's food is insanely wine-friendly," Styne says. "I never wonder if a wine or a particular varietal will sell, because I know that it will always pair well with something on the menu." Styne also acknowl- edges the growing fearlessness of the clientele has allowed her to be adventurous with her selections. "People have said they love coming to our restaurants because we feature smaller, boutique labels," she states. "They know that they can always come in and enjoy some fun, interesting wines." Their loyal customers aren't the only ones dishing the love. Indeed, the accolades that Goin and Styne have built up through their food and drink over the past fi fteen years have afforded them plenty of opportunities to brag. In addition to their immense critical acclaim—the two boast one James Beard Award and three other such nominations between them—the numerous television appearances and other media shout-outs they have accumulated over the years have enabled them to reach into the national consciousness. This level of penetration was strong enough to attract President Obama, who enjoyed a specially prepared fi ve- course meal at Tavern in 2011. Yet they remain rather humble when asked about their vast recognition. "I don't consider myself a celebrity chef," Goin confesses. "That would just be too weird." Then again, they don't really need to feel like stars. As the dynamic duo gear up for another anniversary this year—the tenth birthday of A.O.C. in December—their status as L.A. restaurant legends is fi rmly secured. SUZANNE GOIN AND CAROLINE STYNE CELEBRATE A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP

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