We had the good fortune of connecting with Josiah Citrin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Josiah, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The ethos that I’ve built each of my restaurants and my brand has always been the pursuit of excellence, and I wholeheartedly believe that this is the key to their success. Being “in pursuit of excellence” means that there is a constant evolution happening. When it comes to running my restaurants, everything is about the guest and their experience. We do everything in our power to make them leave with a smile on their face. It’s about the food, the attitude, the timeliness, the environment, the music- these are all a factor in how the guest feels at that very moment at your restaurant. It’s this attention to detail that allow us to pinpoint exactly what can be improved upon so that the next time they come, it’s an even more memorable experience. It’s also important to maintain that level of passion that drives you in your position. I think when you reflect on what you can do to be better, you’re reinforcing that notion of growth. I make sure that all my restaurant kitchens have a plaque that says “in pursuit of excellence” to remind my teams daily of this, and I find that it really drives my staff to always improve and do better– not just in the workplace, but in life in general.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I discovered my passion for food through my family at an early age, growing up in Santa Monica and Venice, learning from my mom and grandmother. Early on I moved to Paris to explore my heritage after graduation from Santa Monica High School, and started working.in the kitchens, learning and art and discipline of cooking and fine dining. This really formed the definitive basis of my training. When I moved back to the states in 1990, I began working at some of LA’s best restaurants- Wolfgang Puck’s celebrated Chinois on Main and then at Granita. I moved on to join Patina and Pinot Bistro and cooked alongside restaurateur and mentor, Joachim Splichal. I launched JiRaffe in 1996 alongside my childhood friend and fellow chef Raphael Lunetta. In 1999 I sold my interest to Lunetta and pursued my lifelong dream of opening a fine dining restaurant.
Since then, we’ve received Two Michelin Stars in 2007, 2008, and again in 2021 when Michelin came back to Los Angeles. The restaurant has evolved quite a bit since when I first opened the doors in 1999. There have of course been trials and tribulations along the way, but as I’ve said before, our constant pursuit of excellence helps drive our passion and allows us to continue to grow and evolve.
Our location is now split between two separate restaurants- Mélisse and Citrin. Mélisse is an intimate 14 seat restaurant where chefs and sommeliers guide guests through a culinary adventure, and the kitchen and dining are one. Citrin is a fun, welcoming, and approachable experience. A large bar and the choice between our ala Carte menu and prix fixe brings a fresh take on our love of hospitality and passion to deliver exciting and delicious food with many of the older classics.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
– Go on a beautiful hike through Topanga Canyon mountains and finish off with lunch at Nobu for the view and scene – Catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl and I’d make some food to bring for a picnic
– Go cycling or maybe surfing along the beach
– Have dinner at Mélisse because it’s such a great experience and unlike anywhere else (plus you can listen to really great vinyl)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d love to dedicate this to Joachim Splichal, my mentor in the kitchen. He taught me what it means to keep moving forward and evolving.
DYLAN + JENI JEFF COUCH REBECCA BARONE STAN LEE