Lulu, a new restaurant and bar tucked away in the courtyard of the Hammer Museum, is a collaboration between chefs Alice Waters and David Tanis, a partnership built on decades of friendship and collaboration at Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Here are five things to know about Lulu.
This is not an Alice Waters restaurant – not really
Waters’ interest in seasonality and emphasis on local agriculture will be fully demonstrated. But Tanis takes the lead.
“I never wanted to have another restaurant – and I don’t have another restaurant,” Waters said. “I’m a cheerleader for a restaurant that I think is very important to have at the Hammer Museum.”
Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin approached Waters in 2020 about opening a restaurant in the available courtyard space. Noting links with a larger institution, Waters felt it might be similar to the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome, a project she helped found in 2006. If she could pick someone from other to lead what was to become Lulu, she would consider it – and she couldn’t think of anyone other than Tanis.
Tanis, a seasoned chef, prolific cookery author and New York Times columnist with a pedigree and understanding of natural flavors and culinary nuances, has run kitchens in Berkeley, Santa Fe, NM, Paris, New York and the beyond, and was ready for the task.
“Alice called me and said, ‘Hey, would you like to open a little restaurant in a museum in Los Angeles?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds good,’ “Tanis said.” I had just walked through the [early]pandemic myself, we had sort of escaped upstate New York for a while to get out of town, and I was looking to do something new.
Menu and format
The menu will constantly change. An a la carte menu might feature sandwiches, soups, and salads, while a three-course prix fixe will allow Tanis to cook meals with a narrative or culinary arc, much like at Panisse. The dishes – designed to be simple and straightforward – could include Sonoma goat cheese with garden lettuce and golden beets, and a North African lamb tagine with saffron couscous.
“Our menu is very simple; it’s big, bright flavors but very easy to prepare, ”said Tanis. “There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles; if it’s a kale dish, it won’t be kale cooked in three different ways with a little kale powder on top.
Regenerative agriculture is the backbone of the restaurant
Much like at Panisse, local farms are at the heart of Lulu, although Waters says sustainability is not enough; restaurants and consumers must support practices that actively fight against climate change. In Lulu, the team works in partnership with farms engaged in such practices, such as no-till farming, carbon capture, and encouraging pigs to graze (and fertilize) orchards. Composting and using as much produce as possible is also crucial for Lulu’s cooking.
The restaurant currently uses a compost collection of green waste, but the team is hoping to find partner farms that can help close the carbon loop: when Tanis and others return to the farm to collect their produce, meat or meat. ordering dairy products, they will bring compost from the restaurant with them to be used for the soil on the farm.
“Sustainability is where we are right now, and we can’t stay where we are now,” Waters said. “We are destroying the planet. And so we really need to be regenerative in terms of thinking about agriculture. … We must, for our survival on this planet, learn the values that can help us live together, and that begins with stewardship of the earth. We need to fall in love with nature, and what better way than to fall in love with food? “
The design is also sustainable
The team inherited a fully trained catering space. Instead of tearing up the decor of the latest Hammer (Audrey) restaurant, Lulu’s team set out to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible, replacing more modern table tops with wood from a single fallen tree. ; add greenery native to southern California; and maintain almost everything else.
Education, Waters said, is at the heart of her values - and of Lulu. “It is this Montessori education that I have never been able to give up; it is education of the senses and learning by doing, ”she said.
The chef’s decades of linking nutrition and education will continue in Lulu, where she and Tanis hope to connect UCLA students and the affiliated museum with hands-on opportunities to learn and even work in the kitchen ( they’ve already hired a few UCLA students). They also hope to use the connection to the UC system to stimulate discussions about large-scale, university-wide local food supply.
Tanis hopes that education can continue for everyone in the kitchen, not only by hiring students, but also by welcoming guest cooks to present their own techniques and areas of expertise for thematic or special menus, thus allowing to Tanis and his guests to continue to learn.
Lulu is now open at the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, and serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are available in line.