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LA Chef Walter Manzke’s Republique – Part 2 of 3

Chef Walter Manzke at Republique
Chef Walter Manzke at Republique
Image courtesy of SHGfoto

Second part of two parts, please start here with Part 1

LA Chef Walter Manzke at Republique
LA Chef Walter Manzke at Republique
Image courtesy of SHGfoto

For Chef Manzke, as a cook spending even just a day in the kitchen of any great restaurant can be a tremendous learning experience. So the year he spent at Ducasse's Le Louis XV made a lasting impression. Le Louis XV is a restaurant with food from the region. So the food is very Italian with a French chef cooking it. The food is very ingredient driven. In that respect, though chef Mazke wouldn't say that Le Louis is like what Republique is doing, Le Louis has a similar direction in that Louis's food is very basic, very high quality, very high executed, very well presented as well as with the best ingredients Chef Manzke has ever seen. At Le Louis XV ingredients were a everything plus everything was done everyday fresh and done extremely well.

Certainly there's a similarity between the climate of that southern region of France and the climate here in Southern California especially with both regions' proximity to the sea. In California, both North and South, Chef Manzke's emphasizes we have some of the greatest vegetables on earth. So in California, as a whole, the kind of cooking done at Le Louis fits here too and that is one of following the seasons, going to the markets, tasting and then letting your palate decide what should be on the plate; not a trend or a fad.

For Republique, Chef Manzke or another member of his team goes to various farmers’ markets in Los Angeles as many as six times a week depending on what they need in the kitchen. Chef Manzke does have relationships with certain vendors but he also doesn't try to get too personal with all of them. The first thing he does instead when he walks through any of these markets is that he tastes everything. As he noted, "I eat leaves of lettuce. I eat pieces of fruit. I look at things and I smell them. For me, that's the first step of going to the market, and while i do this I'm thinking of what I'll serve. I'm getting ideas. So I'm not tied to any farmer. Whoever has the best tangerine that week, that's who I buy it from or at least the flavor I'm looking for as well as the size, the color, the shape so it's all driven by my senses."

Chef Manzke time in Ducasse’s kitchen in Monaco in 1996 and then several years later at another of Ducasse's restaurant in Paris was arranged by Chef Joachim Splichal. Splichal also arranged for Chef Manzke to stage at elBulli plus took Walter to Daniel and many other places. Thus Splichal opened many doors for Walter and was the one person who has had the biggest influence on Manzke's career. Something else that Walter learned from Splichal is that none of this can happen without somebody paying for it plus since the margins in the restaurant business are so narrow, if you don't focus a lot on the p & l (profit and losses), you'll never have any longevity. That's true with anyone no matter what level of restaurant experience is being provided.

Joachim had a tremendous career. He went from being a cook to becoming the sous chef at the Chantecler restaurant in the Hotel Negresco in Nice being a guy from Germany running a kitchen full of French chefs. That is where Joachim got a big part of his influence plus Jacques Maximin's restaurant was the one to work at the time. Every one of the cooks in that kitchen is now a famous chef somewhere in the world. Jacques Torres now in NY was in the kitchen. Sylvain Portay, who works for Alain Ducasse now, was there as was Franck Cerutti who is now the executive chef at Le Louis XI plus Bruno Cirino.

When Splichal came to Los Angeles, he opened Max Au Triangle in Beverly Hills and did something that left an impression in L.A. that people still talk about which doesn't happen often. Walter noted, there are only a handful of restaurants that have been closed for twenty five years that people still talk about and that's one of them. After a few other restaurants, Joachim then opened Patina, a restaurant that if you recreated it today how it was then and where it was, that restaurant would be packed just like it was before. This version of Patina, Chef Manzke stated actually is a lot like how Walter would like Republique to be because Patina as Walter describes it "wasn't a fine dining restaurant in the sense that we know one today, rather this restaurant was all about quality of food, how it was presented, how it was executed, the service, and the wine. Patina was about details and not about flare." This is what Joachim Splichal was doing when Walter started working with him so Walter saw this stage of Chef Splichal's career.

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End of Part 2; please click here for Part 3 to continue
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