For a restaurant that's been open for 28 years, having less than 10 executive chefs is quite a feat, and not just for L.A. Longevity was definitely a part of L'Orangerie's early success, but as the kitchen door spun out of control through the late 90's and especially the 2000's, the restaurant never quite recovered. Many of the chefs made L.A. their home and can be found in kitchens around town. Disclaimer: We're not perfect, and research was hasty, so this may not be an exact timeline, but a good attempt nonetheless.
1980-1990: According to his bio, Jean Francois Meteigner had a lengthy stint at L'Orangerie, one of the longest, almost 10 years. Under his tenure, the restaurant was named one of the "10 Best Restaurants in the World" by Lifestyle's of the Rich & Famous. We couldn't find an early review, but Meteigner gets super high marks for La Cachette, which he opened in 1994.
1988: Peter Roelant (exec? sous?) left L'Orangerie to open the venerable Four Oaks in Bel Air, which just closed in 2005. Now he's at the Wine Bistro, another 20+ year old restaurant, in Studio City.
1991: LA Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl drags her husband, the Reluctant Gourmet, to L'Orangerie, coaxing him with promises of steak and apple pie, the likes of which he's never seen. In her review, "RG" notes the lack of diners, and she muses: "This place has been getting great press since the arrival of chef Jean-Claude Parachini a few months ago. Surely there are more than 16 people in Los Angeles willing to spend $100 a head for great French food?"
1995: Parachini announced his departure and owners Gerard and Virginie Ferry were thrilled to announce the new chef, Gilles Epie, who trained with Alain Ducasse and with Alain Senderens at the three-star Lucas-Carton in Paris. Ferry told the LA Times: "It's such a change to deal with somebody who has a sense of reality. Most cooks are a pain in the you-know-what. Hopefully, it's going to work out well."
The last 10 years coming up next...
1996: Apparently, it didn't. A year later, Epie announced his departure, and a a young, strapping Ludovic Lefebvre was brought over from France to helm the kitchen. This was also the year the Ferry's bought back the restaurant from an anonymous Japanese businessman, though we don't know why or when they sold it to said businessman.
2002: Ludo called it quits, and he landed at Bastide. When he left L'Orangerie, he filed a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner charging that Ferry owed him $209,490.88 in unpaid overtime and unreimbursed expenses, according to an LA Times story. That same year, executive chef Christophe Eme was brought in to run the show.
2004: Out goes the
tempermental passionate Eme, who now owns Ortolan with his girlfriend, actress Jeri Ryan. Right after he left L'Orangerie, it was given a "C" rating by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services for seven health code violations. It won back an "A" within days.
2005-2006: In comes Christophe Bellanca, who garnered tremendous praise while he was there. Now, the rumor is he's taking a post at Le Cirque in NYC. With the news that L'Orangerie was calling it quits at the end of the year, whatever chef was hired to replace Bellanca barely made waves. Except with Sophie Gayot, who positively gushes about the young exec chef Jerome Voltat, who will be cooking your dinner if you were lucky enough to get a reservation this week.