Chateau Marmont is no doubt one of the most iconic hotels in the world. You can name any celebrity, rockstar or artist, past or present in the last 80 years and likely count on the fact that they’ve stayed at the Chateau Marmont. Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, James Dean, Hunter S. Thompson, F.Scott Fitzgerald, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and so many more were all once guests and/or regulars at the hotel. A long time ago as a carefree and precocious eighteen year old, I was enamored by the legend of the Chateau Marmont through all the stories I had read about the artists and musicians that I looked up to who had stayed there. So I decided to trek over to California with my best friend and stay at the hotel for a few days and pretend like we were residents. At the time, I felt like I was in a wonderland; we were upgraded to the 5th floor/room 52 which featured a large living room, dining room, kitchen and separate bedroom and a long balcony with killer views of Los Angeles. We played our music really loud, ordered room service, hung out in the cool, gothic style lobby, took a dip in the pool and best of all met and had our pictures taken with Keanu Reeves and Ben Kingsley (at separate times). So silly, but the pictures were my prized possession for a very long time.
The hotel was built in 1927 and modeled after a Loire Valley castle in France and also feature Disney-like cottages with Art Deco touches and original mini Case Study flats behind the hotel. The rooms aren’t designed with any gaudy or unnecessary over-the-top luxuries in mind but instead have a stylish minimalist look and feel featuring vintage touches in the kitchen and bathroom, velvet couches, Alice in Wonderland style black & white tiles and crisp white sheets. Chateau Marmont also has a very popular outdoor dining and lounge area in the courtyard and a tiny, gorgeously European decorated reservations-only restaurant located inside next to the lobby.
Chef Carolynn Spence once the executive chef for the English style gastro-pub Spotted Pig in NYC relocated to Los Angeles to take the reigns at Chateau Marmont and Bar Marmont next door. We took a moment to speak to Carolynn about her new role as executive chef for this legendary hotel.
Q: Having come from the NYC restaurant scene, what is your favorite and/or least favorite thing about the Los Angeles restaurant scene?
A: LA’s got two, make that three, amazing features that NYC doesn’t have. 1) An abundance of year round produces 2) An incredible ethnic food culture 3) killer weather. If you miss that perfect spring or summer day in NYC because you’re working.. You might not necessarily get another one that year.
Q: Is there anything you miss most about NYC?
A: I greatly miss the comradarie in NYC amongst everyone in the restaurant industry. Everyone knows everyone and is very quick to meet up after work for drinks, food and over all celebration. It’s one of the charms of being in this industry. I don’t miss working in a NYC kitchen in August Humidity. ECK!!!
Q: What do you like most about being executive chef at Chateau Marmont?
A: Chateau Marmont is a special, quirky place. It is intimidating from the outside but warm and homey on the inside. The main dining area is a green courtyard that the guests share with hummingbirds. It feels like the kind of place Oscar Wilde should be dining at while sputtering quotes and pondering life. It’s nice to be inside these walls; I feel protected and I feel like a protector.
Q: What is the most popular item on the menu at the Chateau Marmont restaurant and at Bar Marmont?
A: The Chateau Marmont sells a ton of Truffled Arancini with Wild Mushrooms which is kind of an oxymoron considering the Arancini is traditionally made with leftover risotto and in our case we stuff with black truffle, parmesan and mozzarella. The other item Chateau seemingly can’t get enough of these days is The Shrimp & Avocado with Garlic & Lime. It’s a super bright dish of shrimp sautéed with browned garlic and lime juice, poured over a sliced avocado served alongside pickled cucumbers and red jalapenos.
The Bar Marmont has been selling the Grilled Flatiron & Tomato Salad like crazy since the warm weather has kicked in. It’s basically a spiced grilled flat iron steak along side a salad of grilled tomatoes, romaine, red onions, and smoked blue cheese. The Melted Raclette board & Gougeres have become house favorites as well.
Q: What’s your favorite region in the world for eating?
A: I’m not sure I’m answering this correctly but I’d say traditional American BBQ is my favorite only because I feel it’s one of the last types of food in the US that still has extreme differences from region to region.
You can travel to all different parts of the US and get BBQ but only “their style” of BBQ. I also think good, smoked BBQ is a lot tougher than people think. There’s a real art to smoking the meats which include so many steps; brining, spice rubbing, which kind of wood, what temperature, etc. It’s definitely a labor of love.
Q: If you could cook for one person real or fictional, alive or dead who would that person be?
A: I would cook for Ian MacKaye of bands like Minor Threat, Fugazi and The Evens. He’s a musician who I find to be always evolving and changing but still is his core self. He’s always been an inspiration for me though his music and really drives the people around him. I try to do in my cooking career what he does in his music.
8221 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046