In the three times I dined at Bouchon, I made some of the best memories of my life. What did I have to eat? It doesn't matter.
News of Bouchon's closing came to me from a friend who I made through dining there. She was the server that waited on my mom and I during our first trip to Bouchon in April 2016. At the time I lived in Kansas City and after feeling like I had lived out the same weekend every week for a year, I needed a change. I had never been to California so one morning at work I opened my laptop and bought the plane ticket. Funny how California seems like a court of last resort, holding a vague glittering promise of something better in the sunny days and shadows of its ubiquitous palm trees.
Within 20 minutes of the plane ticket confirmation, I booked a table for 2 at Bouchon for 2:30 in the afternoon, one of few options that was available. I didn't know where in LA I would be staying, but wherever I was, I would get to Bouchon from there. To an outsider, Bouchon offered the promise of a celebrity sighting or a glimpse of a Hollywood bigwig having a power lunch but never in the crass roadmap-to-the-stars-way. Bouchon was a culinary equalizer. Make no mistake, you might be krill in the Hollywood food chain, but at Bouchon, you were in the same dining room as the whales, just at a table a few feet away.
During my second trip to Bouchon, in June of 2016, I met my ex, introduced to me by my server-turned-friend from my first experience there. After we started talking, Thomas Keller had come into Bouchon for some kind of annual visit, and he (let's call him C) called me to complain about it, which reminded him of another story. Apparently one time Keller came in with his wife and a server asked them if they preferred sparkling or flat water.
"There's no such thing as flat water," Keller allegedly told her.
"What an asshole," my ex said, recalling the story. Whatever bristling reaction you just had to reading that my ex called one of the most respected chefs in the world an asshole, is the same one I had.
"Well, not only is he right," I had told him, "It's his restaurant. And he is one of the best of all time." My dissent was not appreciated. Unrelated to this particular instance, and perhaps unsurprisingly, our relationship was short-lived.
My third trip to Bouchon was in July of this year, and apparently what would be the final time, for its last service is New Year's Eve. A week in LA was one of my summer vacations -- I flew there with my mom, and my best friend from New York joined us the next day. The friend I made on my first visit (who introduced me on my ex on my second visit) had since left Bouchon, but we stayed in touch, and the four of us met for lunch. There was a lot of rosé, hundreds of dollars worth of food, and we laughed and cried talking about our gratitude for friendships.
So what did I have to eat at Bouchon? Well, there were macarons and a tuna tartare appetizer and a steak with pommes frites but Michelin star or not, it wasn't about the food. (Sorry, chef!) At Bouchon, food was the centerpiece for the conversations, the friendships new and old, and the relationships, To me, at their best, restaurants are capable of bringing people together when they least expect it in ways you couldn't imagine. And so, I am sad for Bouchon's closing not only because of its mark in the culinary world and the sheer beauty of its Beverly Canon Gardens location, but for the memories I made there and the people I met along the way.
By Kathryn Greene