Former employees of Patina in Downtown LA’s famed Walt Disney Concert Hall have received letters stating their jobs will be terminated by August 15, 2020, meaning one of LA’s most storied fine dining restaurants has likely closed permanently. Patina’s listing has also been scrubbed from Patina Restaurant Group’s website. The letter to employees said Patina Restaurant Group’s contract with LA Music Center, the organization that operates many of Downtown’s storied performance venues, has not been renewed, meaning Patina’s sister restaurants Kendall’s Brasserie, The Boardroom, Cocina Roja, and Upstage Burger are also unlikely to reopen.
One former Patina employee, who asked not to be named for this story, said many longtime workers who spent decades working at the restaurant were unceremoniously let go. This particular employee, who worked at Patina for over 20 years going back to its original Melrose Avenue location, said they were especially disheartened by the way the company sent a boilerplate letter notifying them of their job loss. “You would think they would take care of us after all the years of working and taking care of the restaurant,” they said.
Another worker who was at Patina for 16 years, says he has been out of a job since Patina temporarily closed in March. “I really need a job right now but it’s impossible to get,” he said. “Right now nobody wants to hire anywhere.”
Chef Joachim Splichal’s flagship restaurant first opened in 1989 on Melrose Avenue in the current Providence space, with LA Times critic Ruth Reichl writing this about in an early review:
“At his best Joachim Splichal makes eating a truly joyful experience. Even at his worst he makes food that is better than what you get in most other restaurants in town. But it must be noted that right now Splichal seems to be suffering from a certain stiffness, holding back, playing it safe. I can’t wait until he loosens up, lets himself go and really starts to cook.
Is this fair criticism? As I said at the start, I’m not sure. But Splichal himself must have intended to work slowly towards his best. Why else name the place Patina? A good patina, after all, comes only with age.”
In 2003, Patina moved to the ground floor of the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, receiving a Michelin star in 2007. Over the years, the fine dining institution garnered praise for its French-style cuisine under then-chef Tony Esnault, especially from LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila, who awarded it four stars in a 2010 review.
However, in 2016 former LA Weekly critic Besha Rodell gave it just two stars out of five, writing, “People like to say that fine dining is dead, but in the case of restaurants like Patina, it feels less like a death and more like delusion and apathy.”
At the time, Splichal responded to Rodell’s harsh review with the following:
“When I opened Patina in 1989, my vision was to create an unparalleled culinary experience with the finest quality cuisine and exceptional service for every guest that comes through our doors.
Through the years, those that have dined with us can attest to the constant innovation and exceptional talent for which Patina has been celebrated and renowned. I will personally be working with the Patina culinary team and staff to ensure that every guest has an outstanding experience, and can assure our loyal patrons and new diners alike that Patina Restaurant will continue to serve as a culinary institution that represents the best of Los Angeles.”
After that review, Splichal installed longtime Patina Group chef Andreas Roller in 2017 as executive chef, where he remained until March 2020. Despite a lengthy history and years of accolades, Patina’s tenure in Los Angeles has ended with a quiet coda: no announcement or official end, just a sad termination letter to longtime workers.
With restaurant dining rooms ordered to close in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19, fine dining institutions like Patina had little choice but to close and hope for a reopening scenario. But with the economic effects of the pandemic leading to job losses and uncertainty, the prospect of fine dining in LA returning to normal seems incredibly unlikely in the near future. As a result, upscale places like Bon Temps, Auburn, and more recently Trois Mec have all closed permanently due to the pandemic.
Splichal began expanding his restaurant empire with catering the Emmy Awards and then multiple concepts such as Nic & Stef’s Steakhouse, Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge, Ray’s & Stark Bar, and Cafe Pinot. The group expanded to New York City, opening the heralded Lincoln Ristorante at the Lincoln Center with former Per Se chef Jonathan Benno. The group was then sold to Delaware North in 2014. Delaware North is a global food service and hospitality company that had over $3.2 billion in revenues in 2018.
- All Patina Coverage [ELA]