Q & A With Jeremy Fox: Paper or Plastik, Prefabs, His New L.A. Restaurant + Life Post-Ubuntu
SI: So what's the next step for you in terms of what you want to achieve?
JF: I've been trying to absorb all the information I can from people about things like architecture, design, art, packaging, logos, marketing, gardening, carpentry, painting, documentaries, pretty much anything you can think of. It's just I want to know about as much as possible. I don't have any kids, I don't even have pets, but when I think of a parent, I think of someone who knows things about a lot of different subjects. And I would like to be a dad someday, but all I really know about is food and some music. I'm not trying to become an expert by any means, I'm just trying to become competent.
SI: How do you think all that will end up informing the restaurant specifically? Do you see it as being a kind of an "auteur" restaurant where you are planning out a lot of the nonfood aspects as to how the place will function and look?
JF: Well, I've always been interested in restaurants as a whole and not just the cooking aspect. I have some cool ideas as to design that I'm trying to see though, which would definitely be different. I would like to have a pretty concise á la carte menu that's not really coursed out. I find tasting menus not very user-friendly many times.
Another thing that comes to mind is color. So many modern restaurants are dark, with nothing but wood paneling, which I've never been a fan of. I want to have color and light really prominently featured. That's what moved me into studying prefab architecture, like using recycled materials such as old shipping crates and assembling them like a Lego set. I would love to do a prefab restaurant. It would ease a lot of the construction pains, too. Transport it into the neighborhood, plug it in and just go. It's so much more freedom since it's not as permanent.
SI: That last part sounds a lot like the Eames House (Case Study House No. 8) in the Pacific Palisades.
JF: That's a huge inspiration for me right now: the mixture of woods, metals, plastics and Fiberglas. It's just clean, simple and sturdy. I went to the LACMA exhibit a few weeks back that had a re-creation of the living room from the Case Study House, it was really amazing. Even the chairs we sat on in grade school, they pretty much designed that stuff.
SI: Do you have a specific location in mind yet for the restaurant?
JF: I think a lot of the process right now is finding the right location, which could really be in any part of town at this point. It's just one of those things when you see it and it feels right: that's the catalyst. It doesn't matter if it's a dilapidated building or whatever, it's the potential behind the space. It's a long road after that with permits, working with investors, doing the business aspects, all that un-fun stuff, but I'm dedicated to taking it slow and being patient to make sure everything is right. Ideally, I want it be a place where people can come every week if not more. It could almost live anonymously within the neighborhood.
SI: Of course, it might be hard for a Michelin-starred chef to remain anonymous.
JF: Well, not to say I don't imagine it being popular, but not trying to be on the national stage. You have to be a part of the immediate community first and foremost. Ubuntu was great because there wasn't really any rules, which I enjoyed. The way it kind of leapt into becoming a destination restaurant existing under a microscope was unexpected. I turned down a lot of jobs after Ubuntu because I knew that this was something that I wanted to do even it it didn't cash out immediately. If it ends up that I'm not able to pay the bills, so be it. I think that's part of the ups and downs for doing what you love.
SI: Anything else on the immediate horizon for you?
JF: Well, Cube Marketplace & Cafe is going to be the first place in town to start carrying my Marcona almonds with lavender under the label Fox Fine Foods. It's something we served at Ubuntu and selling them retail is a step I've been working toward for several years.
SI: You mentioned your interest in music earlier -- any particular kitchen soundtrack you've been digging lately?
JF: Ah yes, music keeps me sane, relatively speaking. Anyone who knows me can tell you how important music is to me. I played the Trash Can Sinatras' 1990 album Cake the other night and it made my heart so happy.