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Bouchon Beverly Hills Chef de Cuisine David Hands jokes he was practically born with a silver spoon in his hand. Enjoying cooking as a young boy, at the tender age of 15 he began working in the kitchen at a local restaurant in his hometown in the rural England countryside.
Realizing that he not only had a natural talent for cooking, but also a keen interest in techniques and developing unique and innovative dishes, Hands went on to study at the Birmingham College of Food & Tourism.
Upon graduating at age 19, Hands gained a Commis position at Gidleigh Park Hotel in Dartmoor, England – a renowned restaurant with two Michelin Star AA Rosettes (ranking of four out of five).
Spending five years there he gained experience in all stations within the restaurant, including the pastry section, eventually working his way up to become the Sous Chef.
Realizing his potential at home, Hands set his sites on furthering his career abroad, precisely conquering the New York City restaurant scene.
Arriving in the United States at age 24, he got his first Chef position at Per Se, the Thomas Keller fine dining establishment at the Time Warner Center.
There, Hands worked on a two‐year visa at all ‘savory’ stations, spending a year at the Canap (hors d’ oeuvres) station, and working alongside some of the restaurant industry’s most elite.
The experience enabled Hands to master his craft while learning the systems, core values and standards of excellence of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group.
After gaining a visa for outstanding abilities in 2009, sponsored by Chef Keller, Hands helped Thomas Keller open Bouchon in Beverly Hills as a Sous Chef.
Within six months, he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef (at age 26) and then, in October 2012 became Chef de Cuisine (at age 28).
He has overseen the restaurant in this position from then on and continues to lead the team with his inventive versions of classic Bistro fare and a full range of new seasonal simple dishes and flavorful and fan favorites at the casual dining establishment.
Chef Hands was most recently awarded Zagat’s prestigious “30 Under 30” for top Culinary Achievements for 2013.
What was the appeal of Bouchon when you first started?
After working at Per Se, I wanted to grow and learn more about our profession. In my mind there is no better place to learn than a newly built Thomas Keller restaurant. The opportunity to be a manager is one that I couldn’t pass up.
What makes Bouchon Beverly Hills so unique?
The collaboration between the entire staff at Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. We have such a wealth of knowledge between us, I am humbled by my team every day I come to work.
How would you describe the theme of the menu?
We pride ourselves on creating memories with simple, flavorful food. It takes so much more restraint and courage to put simple food, sourced at the peak of season, seasoned well and cooked to the best of our ability, on the menu than to cover it up with elaborate garnishes. The menu is a classic French bistro. Bouchon promotes sharing and enjoyment.
What are two of the most popular dishes?
The most popular dish is our roasted chicken. This dish provokes memories of childhood to so many, the smell of a great roasted chicken cannot be beaten. We source the best chickens, brine and dry them for two days and roast them simply, then finish with a little sel gris.
The second dish is more a French tradition, the raw bar, or oyster bar. I believe if you are having dinner in a bistro you must always start with some oysters and champagne. This to me is the essence of a bistro.
What is your vision for future menus at Bouchon?
We switch the menus four times a year, changing with the season. Bistro’s are all about consistency and creating a community. We will continue to explore and bring back the traditions of a classic Lyonnais bistro to life.
Running The Bouchon Front Of House
Bouchon Beverly Hills Maitre d Thomas Marini has been the “face” of the front of house since joining the restaurant in early December 2012.
What is your history of restaurant experience?
I grew up in a patisserie/boulangerie/viennoiserie – and the viennoiserie is what’s important because it’s not just the pastry and the bread, it is the technique and the ingredients to create the perfect croissant and pain au chocolate… which is not easy and rarely do people get it right… but to be around the products and have my dad teach me everything I would need to know as a base. Bread is the basis of everything. And I knew this since I could walk. After I grew up I went on to work in 4 different countries which is very important because you learn four different countries’ cultural specialties, products, types of wines, ways to eat, times to eat, types of service. I studied both business and sales so when I started in different countries as a waiter, I always sold the perfect table and worked quickly up to manager and then back in France I created, opened and ran a place for a financier. Being a maitre d’hotel at Baoli, though, was really exciting. It was a huge place, very upscale, very exclusive, host to many prestigious events during the Cannes Film Festival, and that’s when I really learned to entertain the crowd. A lot like what I do, now.
Where were you before starting at Bouchon?
Santa Barbara, at Stella Mare’s.
What do you think makes the restaurant so unique?
First and foremost it’s Thomas Keller. He’s the best American chef in the world. It’s also a beautiful location. The room, the salle, the kitchen, beautiful. Flawless. It’s definitely unique to Los Angeles, probably to the states. And the ambiance makes you happy. The guests are also unique, unlike any other in the world.
What do you enjoy most about working at Bouchon?
Many things but mostly, working for Thomas Keller and Laura Cunningham. Thomas is so specific, detail oriented, it’s amazing to understand and be a part of his team, his way to train people, his way to deal with people; it’s really beautiful. Thomas and Laura are mentoring types of people. I’m very lucky. Other things are seeing people getting happier as they experience an evening with us… always a unique experience. Exchanging with the guests is great; our crowd is always full of very interesting people. Entertaining them is my success. And sharing with my co-workers who are extremely professional people. Everyone is learning everyday on every level and in every position. And I have the great fortune of working with this quality of product, with the simplicity of our dishes and the complexity with which we create them. This is a really wonderful thing.
Anything else you like to mention?
My amazing training. I was trained in The French Laundry in Napa, Per Se in New York and Bouchon in Las Vegas and of course in Beverly Hills, and my knowledge in the hospitality industry was increased unbelievably in a short but intense period of time. It’s still one of the most special experiences in my career. I also want to thank Laura for her fairness, her mentorship and for making me feel comfortable.
Bouchon Beverly Hills is located at 235 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills.
For reservations or more information, call 310.271.9910 or visit bouchonbistro.com.