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

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

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

LA Chef Walter Manzke’s Republique
Image courtesy of SHGfoto

When Patina was undergoing a big renovation in 2000 and was closed two months, Chef Joachim Splichal asked Chef Walter Manzke where Walter wanted to go. After getting Walter's answer, Splichal then made the arrangements for Walter to go work for Ducasse in Paris, and with Ferran Adria at elBulli for three weeks. Plus Splichal paid for everything. Walter was asked to stay on at both Ducasse and elBulli by the respective chefs in charge of those kitchens, and though either place would have been a great opportunity, he was committed to being the chef at Patina, where Splichal was making a big investment with the remodel.

Though Chef Manzke isn't doing any molecular gastronomy at Republique, he thinks, "there is much more to Ferran Adria that is much more important than the fact that he was making spheres out of raspberries or whatever he was doing. It's not just techniques; it's more Adria's approach. He was really the one who started questioning everything. In France everything was always so rigid. You do it this way because that's the way Alain Chapel did it and that’s the way it's always been done so that's why you do it. That is great too, but Ferran said why do you have to do it that way? Why can't I do it a different way?His looking at everything from the outside with phenomenal ideas is just a phenomenal approach. Plus there is nothing wrong with molecular cooking. I don't think there is anything wrong with the idea of forcing air into something to make it light and flow on your palate particularly when there is a purpose for something. Molecular gastronomy is a set of tools you can use down the road some where if you understand it."

Whether any of these tools are ever used down the road at Republique on a tasting menu, remains to be seen. Chef Manzke said that he'll most likely do a tasting menu, but he's waiting to see how the restaurant evolves. For Walter said, "a restaurant has a life of its own to an extent. If you let it live its own life, you have to support it, but in a sense you have to let it go its own direction and do what it wants. Moreover if you listen to the customers, and cook what they want, they're going to take it a little bit in its own direction which is what is happening here at Republique. We're finding our way right now with what our prices should be, and what every one is excited about. I think what is working is this mix of some classic bistro with some fine dining cooking. We served Dover sole recently which is quite expensive and generally only served in restaurants like Melisse. We were serving that next to a roasted chicken so there's this kind of mix: A good balance between technique and a little excitement with some high end and some low end. This direction seems to be working."

Chef Manzke continued, "But it has to be in balance too. You have to stick by your beliefs: this is me, this is what I do, and this is where I’m going. At the same time I have to listen to every one else and go where they want to go and that's what we're doing now, we're finding our way. But what I don't want is to have ten people sitting in the dining room loving a three hundred dollar prix fixe menu when I can have three hundred people happy with what I'm doing now. So some of this we'll just wait to see where it goes and what happens. I definitely plan on it [the tasting menu], though the one thing I'm sticking by is Republique is not another Balthazar [ in New York City], which is a fantastic restaurant. Balthazar is right out of the book, and it's very classic."

Walter though took six to eight of the best selling dishes from Church & State, which was aspiring to be like Balthazar, and brought those dishes to Republique; changing them up a bit, because he thinks that it's important for the restaurant to be recognized as a bistro plus Chef Manzke wants people to know what the restaurant's purpose is. These dishes from Church & State are kind of the basics and the core of the bistro- the escargot, the tarte flambee, the mussels and fries, the steak and fries. So if you're craving steak tar tare, you can come to Republique for it.

To enjoy all the culinary results of Chef Walter Manzke's experiences, travels and accumulated tools, please visit Republique in one of the most impressive restaurant spaces in Los Angeles at 624 South La Brea Avenue, just north of Wilshire. Currently the restaurant's cafe is open from 8:00AM to 3:00 PM serving pastries and coffee. Breakfast and lunch menus are going to be added during this current month of February. The restaurant is open for dinner from 6:00 PM until 10 PM Monday through Wednesday, and from 6:00 PM until 11:00 PM Thursday through Saturday.

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