Monthly Industry Insights
Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
August 2018 Edition
Caroline Styne, Sommelier and Restauranteur of The Lucques Group
Caroline Styne was raised in Los Angeles and began her work in the food service industry in 1989 when, at the age of 22, she co-founded Basically Baked Inc., producing and distributing specialty foods to retail accounts nation-wide. By 1998, she teamed with Suzanne Goin and opened Lucques, their flagship restaurant, which planted the seeds for The Lucques Group, a Los Angeles hospitality company that comprises two other fine dining restaurants – a.o.c., and Tavern – and four marketplace restaurants – The Larder at Maple Drive, The Larder at Burton Way, The Larder at Tavern and The Larder at Tavern at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Along with these culinary enterprises, the company also operates Lucques Catering, the Larder Baking Company and comprehensive food services for the Hollywood Bowl.
You started your career so early in life with Basically Baked, Inc. what inspired you to start in the food service industry?
I always knew that I would own my own business at some point in my life, and my experience with my tortilla chip company indoctrinated me into the food world to a degree. From there, I started taking pastry-baking courses and also started a catering business with a friend of mine. I realized fairly quickly that I was drawn towards the idea of operating a small, boutique restaurant, which is what inspired me to get a job with restaurateur Sean Macpherson.
What was the hardest part of starting a company so young?
The hardest part was probably getting past other people’s perceptions of my youth. People used to refer to Suzanne and myself as “girls” which drove us crazy. Another difficulty was getting past my own tendency to undervalue myself.
Who had been your most impactful mentor in your career thus far and what has set them apart from everyone else you’ve worked with?
The most impactful person to me in my early restaurant years was my General Manager at Jones Hollywood, Keith McCarthy. He was incredibly hard working, focused and dedicated and set a great example of a leader. He was generous of his time to his staff and guests alike.
What is one piece of advice you have to those who currently are in the process of opening their own restaurant or bar?
Gird your loins! Stick to your vision and get some sleep.
When you entered the world of wine and started your path to being the established sommelier you are today, what was something that fascinated you the most?
I think I was fascinated by the depth and breadth of the wine world in general…so many varietals, geography and geology, so much to absorb, to the point that every time I thought I knew something, there was more to learn. This is still true.
You’ve been quite busy throughout your career, opening, writing, creating your own wine label. What was your favorite experience you’ve had so far?
I’ve really enjoyed all of it. I kind of found a love for writing and would love to do more of that, and I think I’m not terrible at it. But, there is nothing quite like the excitement and energy that one experiences during a restaurant opening. It’s really hard work that occupies incredibly long hours, but it’s exhilarating, fun and gratifying.
In one sentence, could you give us your most important philosophy for food service hospitality?
I think the most important aspect of hospitality is making people feel like they are coming to your home and treating them as such. I never want to make a guest feel like they are lucky to be dining with us. I want them to know how much we sincerely appreciate their patronage. I always say that to be good at this job, you have to have a co-dependent need to please people. I know that was more that one sentence!
You’re a co-founder of the LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade, what drew you to support Alex’s Lemonade?
Suzanne and her husband participated in a fundraising event for the foundation in Philadelphia and came home and told me about the incredible story behind Alex’s Lemonade Foundation. The three of agreed that we had to get involved and do something for them in Los Angeles and came up with the idea of a decadent chef’s picnic. It’s hard not to be inspired by Alex Scott and the legacy that her parents have carried on.
What is one thing you would say to the young entrepreneurial men and women who are looking to be successful in the foodservice & hospitality industry today?
The industry has changed in many ways since we opened our restaurants and in order to survive today you need to be more than a great host or great chef. You need to be business-minded, strategic, proactive, and have social media and marketing savvy.
If you had to go to a deserted island and could only bring 3 things to eat, what would they be?
Bread, broccoli and yogurt
May 2018 Chef Insight - Interview with Michelle Bernstein, Chef and Owner, Crumb on Parchment and Michelle Bernstein Catering
April 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Claire M. Marin, CEO, Catskill Provisions
March 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Chef Elizabeth Falkner
February 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Chef Maneet Chauhan
January 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Chef Reinhold Paul Teuscher