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Former LA Mag Critic Writes New Book on Hardship and Triumphs of Owning a Restaurant

Koreatown’s Here’s Looking At You is the subject of Patric Kuh’s new book

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Here’s Looking At You’s Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener.
Here’s Looking At You’s Lien Ta and Jonathan Whitener shares what it takes to succeed in Patric Kuh’s Becoming a Restauranteur.
Terry Matlin
Cathy Chaplin is a senior editor at Eater LA, a James Beard Award–nominated journalist, and the author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles.

Former Los Angeles Magazine restaurant critic Patric Kuh’s new book Becoming a Restaurateur gives readers an inside look at the restaurant industry through the lens of Here’s Looking At You, the Koreatown hot spot that’s been critically acclaimed and perpetually packed since opening in 2016. The restaurant is one of Eater’s 38 Essential Restaurants in America.

Through a series of in-depth interviews over the course of a year, Kuh’s five chapter, 109-page book chronicles the experiences of restaurateur Lien Ta and chef Jonathan Whitener. “It wasn’t so much an interview process as much as it was us just talking, hanging out, and eating. Kind of like we’ve known each other for a long time,” shares Whitener. “There were countless memorable conversations with Patric, famously over breakfast at local diners. Each one lasted a minimum of 90 minutes until Patric would throw in the towel and say he had a lot to absorb,” adds Ta.

The book is part of a new series by Simon & Schuster called “Masters at Work,” where journalists explore different careers and how people made it to the top of their fields. Becoming a Restaurateur touches on the ins and outs of opening a restaurant, from writing the initial business plan to seeking financing for the venture to the first night of service and beyond.

The restaurant industry is a demanding one with a notoriously high failure rate. This book pulls the curtain back to share with aspiring restaurateurs the gritty realities of running a successful operation day-in and day-out. “This game ain’t easy,” explains Whitener. “Opening and building a restaurant is a fucking struggle on its own, but it’s also a constant struggle to keep HLAY alive. We hustled to make this restaurant what it is today, and proved to a lot of people who may have doubted us that we could do it.”

Other titles in the “Masters at Work” series include Becoming a Marine Biologist, Becoming a Real Estate Agent, and Becoming a Neurosurgeon. Jonathan Karp, president and publisher of the Simon & Schuster adult publishing group, expects 20-somethings and those looking to change careers to be the target audience for the series.

“I’d love for readers to come away understanding some of the hard, day-to-day operational aspects that running a successful restaurant requires,” shares Kuh. “What I hadn’t realized when I started out was the capacity for risk taking that being a restaurateur today requires. Lien and Jonathan captured that.”

The book is available for sale online and at Here’s Looking At You.