Former Leyla Chef Back in Business in Los Angeles

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Vatche Meguerdichian, the opening Leyla chef who left the downtown restaurant after he was denied a shift drink, is again selling schawerma and shish tawook in Los Angeles.

Meguerdichian’s new Sherman Oaks venture is considerably more casual than his previous southern California restaurant, which drew praise from Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold. Entrée prices at the counter-service joint top out at $12. Continue reading

Leyla’s Opening Chef Quits

vatcheThe accomplished chef charged with helping Leyla find its culinary footing has given up on the downtown Lebanese restaurant.

“I want people to know that I am no longer associated with this unorganized and unprofessional organization,” Vatche Meguerditchian writes in an e-mail disclosing his Wednesday resignation. “I am sure they will mess up my menu.”

According to Meguerditchian, he and the first-time restaurateurs behind the three-month old Leyla had clashing philosophies from the start: He felt they micromanaged “a chef of my stature” by involving themselves in daily kitchen operations. But he says he made the decision to leave immediately when he was denied a glass of Scotch after work.

“I gave my 110 percent, but I saw that this was gonna be due sooner or later,” he writes.

Meguerditchian reports he’s returning to Los Angeles, where he ran Alcazar, a Lebanese restaurant twice named to critic Jonathan Gold’s list of 99 “essential” L.A. eating spots. Continue reading

Charleston to Wait a Few More Days For Lebanese Cooking (And, Possibly, Armenian Singing)

Leyla will not open this weekend, as previously announced, but the downtown Lebanese restaurant is aiming to have its doors open by Wednesday.

“I was hoping,” says owner Dolly Awkar, a first-time restaurateur who switched from selling rugs to hawking hummus because her accent prompted so many customers to ask where they could find food from her native country. “I did my best.”

The Labor Day holiday delayed the issuance of a certificate of occupancy; Leyla is scheduled for city inspection on Tuesday.

Awkar and her husband, Joseph, have spent much of the last month training servers, many of whom have no previous experience with Middle Eastern cookery, and tasting dishes created by chef Vatche Meguerdichian. Meguerdichian previously helmed Los Angeles’ Alcazar, named one of the city’s 99 essential restaurants in 2011 by critic Jonathan Gold. Continue reading