My last meal / Los Angeles
In LA, the hills have eyes – your restaurant choice and who you dine with make a big impression. For the editor and co-owner of ‘The Hollywood Reporter’, a hunger for getting to the heart of the story is matched by a passion for fancy-free food.
“I have to be honest, I developed my love of food pretty late in life. My parents are from Korea but we didn’t really eat Korean at home. I think they felt there was a push to assimilate when they arrived in the US in the 1950s: to be, quote unquote, ‘as American as possible’. So we didn’t have chopsticks in our house. My parents felt that they were expected to learn the ways of their new country as fast as possible. Plus both my parents worked: my dad – who was a former opera singer – at a medical supplies company and my mother for the dreaded IRS [Internal Revenue Service]. So there were no five-course dinners being prepared; most dinnertimes were very rushed.
Today I’m a pretty casual diner; my husband, who was my boyfriend in college, went to culinary school in Paris so he still loves the fancy and the precious. But I definitely prefer a more relaxed dining experience – when I’d go to Paris, I loved going to those places where you can get chicken and fries, and the pigeons fly in and out. Kind of disgusting really but amazingly delicious.
Meals have a big significance in LA; it’s a real lunch town. I think that an invitation to lunch is taken quite seriously here and is a sign of acceptance. It’s also a town where who you’re seen with at lunch indicates a lot of things. There’s a club feeling about the whole place. Like, don’t make a mess of yourself in front of your guest. Maybe order two courses but definitely not dessert. But people tend to be more relaxed over lunch; food can put people at ease.
The Hollywood Reporter was so tragic when I started in 2010. It was the last place people would call back but that changed. Any time a journalist kills a story in favour of someone you don’t gain influence, you lose it. If you show that you put the audience first and that you value the news qualities of journalism then you become important and you become a staple. Hollywood is just an excuse to do all these other stories that are of great interest to me and to the larger audience. We have been able to cover politics through the lens of Hollywood and also food, and fashion, and automobiles and hard news.
In December someone who I can’t name from the Trump administration invited me to dinner. I knew that Donald Trump was a huge fan of The Hollywood Reporter. I recall the day Joan Rivers died and one of our reporters called him for a comment – Donald and Joan had known each other from The Apprentice. And Trump relayed to the reporter, ‘Tell that broad who runs The Hollywood Reporter that she’s done an amazing job, she’s amazing!’ When he announced his candidacy I wanted him on the cover. I put in a request on a Tuesday and by Friday we were doing the interview. We were on the Donald Trump rollercoaster. We were there for four hours.
I don’t know how much he loved the story but I did. It wasn’t a soft landing. One of the things about The Hollywood Reporter is that its political orientation has never been stated.
Steve Bannon [White House chief strategist] chose his first interview after the election to be with us, which some people would consider insane. But to me it spoke to the influence of the magazine and the perception that it’s not biased. That interview made a huge amount of news; it is where he likened himself to Darth Vader and that was great.
The funny thing about Hollywood is everything is a death match here too. It’s a bloodsport. There’s so much schadenfreude that runs through this town. They’re used to tough journalism here. They expect it – they just hope it’s not about them. But everyone’s turn comes around at some point.
I think food is a great definer of who you would like to be. I have to say that one of the things that makes my skin crawl a little bit is someone who’s a very picky eater. I have three children – two of them are picky eaters but I’m assuming that they’re going to grow out of it at some point. I could be wrong to assume this but I think that there’s probably a small-mindedness that sometimes goes along with it. The desire to understand and experience the world through food is always a good quality.”
Janice Min took the helm at The Hollywood Reporter magazine in 2010. Born in Colorado in 1969 to South Korean parents, she is credited with transforming the Reporter’s fortunes, from an ailing, back-slapping trade daily to the glossy, long-form-focused weekly it is today. It’s a field in which she has form: as editor in chief of the celebrity magazine Us Weekly from 2002 to 2009, readership soared by more than a million, lured by a brand of celebrity news that Min in part created and that is now widespread. She became co-president and cco of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group in 2014 and, earlier this year, was appointed strategist at Eldridge Industries, whose holdings include said group. She currently lives in LA with her husband and three children.
Opened in 2016, Nava at Soho House in West Hollywood is in a two-storey penthouse that was built by American architect Charles Luckman in the 1970s. The menus by executive chef Thomas Youell are inspired by Middle Eastern cookery and the dining room’s large wraparound windows capture a sweeping panorama of LA, including a stretch of Sunset Boulevard below, plus the palms of Beverly Hills to its west.
Crispy squash blossoms with labneh (strained yoghurt), peas and cured lemon
Cauliflower with cured lemon, tomato-seed oil, pistachio, herbs and labneh
Sea bass wrapped in a vine leaf with green pepper and fennel relish
Lamb cutlets with zhoug (green-chilli sauce) and pickled and fresh radish
Braised freekeh (green durum wheat) with beetroot, labneh, asiago (Italian cow’s milk cheese) and horseradish