There's never a right time to open a restaurant or go on vacation,” Suzanne Tracht declares. Yet the executive chef/owner of L.A.'s Jar and the brains behind Tracht's, which opened last year in Long Beach, continues to tempt fate and do both. The ink was barely dry on her licensing agreement for Tracht's when she launched into plans for Suzpree, a modern oyster bar and noodle house that will premiere on the L.A. restaurant scene next year.
Tracht, a Phoenix native, worked her way up the culinary ladder through apprenticeships, cooking behind the scenes at top-shelf hotels in L.A. and the likes of Campanile and Jozu, where her skills blending bright flavors, textures and spices won a loyal fan base. In 2001 Tracht opened Jar, a modern chophouse, rolling out a seasonal menu of comfort foods, including a famously tasty pot roast. Jar has been a critical and commercial hit. We dropped in on her recently at the home she shares with her teenaged son and daughter and two dogs.
How is it to juggle two restaurants, a family and charity commitments? What's your day look like?
I drop the kids off at school, then I hike or bike or do some type of workout like Pilates. Then I go into the office at Jar, do paperwork, answer e-mails, talk to people like you, talk to the kitchen about specials and ordering — βthat kind of thing. I go down to Long Beach a few times a month and talk to them daily about the numbers and specials. I'll take a break in the afternoon, pick up the kids and go home, then back to Jar. I'm here until 9:30 or 10.
Tracht's in Long Beach is a licensing arrangement. How involved are you? And can you give us a preview of the new place?
The Renaissance Hotel owns the restaurant; I'm there to make sure that the food is up to par and everything is right, including the chef and the GM. Suzpree will be right down the street from Jar on Beverly Boulevard. It will have a California Pacific menu, with a lot of great fresh noodles and seafood. I'll have financial partners, including my chef de cuisine, Preech Narkthong.
I hear your kids can sometimes be found doing their homework at Jar. Do you all hang out? How do you keep a 14- and 15-year-old entertained?
We'll go to the beach, sometimes we rent bikes, they love going to the movies and out to dinner — as long as it's not Jar. And we love having people over.
For pot roast?
We usually do barbecue — steaks, burgers, fish. There's a lot of outside cooking.
Ah, the sunny SoCal lifestyle. When you can drag yourself away from that, where do you like to go?
I like places like Thailand or Mexico — warm spots that involve water — or in the winter, some place with good skiing.
Speaking of water, I see you're about to host a Culinary Arts Voyage on the Silversea line. What's that involve?
I'll do cooking demos and oversee meals in the kitchens. We're planning the meals with the cruise people; I'm sure we'll do pot roast. I've never been on a cruise, so I have no idea what to expect.