Happy Thursday friends!
I’m sharing with you today and interview with Annie Miler, the founder and chef of Clementine in Century City and Beverly Hills. Upon meeting Annie I immediately felt her warmth and hospitality when visiting her at Clementine. She mentioned hospitality a couple of times throughout her interview which brought me back to my first memory of meeting her and she definitely stands by that and shows it! The food at her restaurant is amazing, local and seasonal. I was not only impressed with her food but also how welcoming it was coming into her restaurant. It’s very obvious she has not lost touch with her Mid West roots or family values, as she learned to cook from her mother and grandmother. You’ll find that there are some items on the menu that she grew up making and learned from them. I highly recommend stopping by this lovely neighborhood restaurant! You will feel like you’ve left LA and are having an awesome home cooked meal!
You’ve been in the restaurant industry a long time. Has opening a restaurant always been one of your goals?
“I don’t think so. I’ve cooked since I was a little girl. I was a history major in college. I wrote my honors thesis as close to food as I could get. I was trying to figure out how to be involved with food. After college, I was working a part time job in a kitchen and just really liked that and quit my day job. I then went to the Cordon Bleu in London studying basic pastry. I never set out to open a restaurant but now that I’ve done it, it seems I wouldn’t have done anything else.”
You’ve been cooking for a long time, what is it about cooking that you love?
“The hospitality aspect, caring for people. Doing something to bring happiness to somebody else is very satisfying!”
You use seasonal and local produce from farmers markets, which markets do you usually go to?
“I personally go to the Beverly Hills farmers market on Sunday or the Santa Monica market on Wednesday. We use a lot of produce at the café so we usually order ahead.”
What is the most popular dish on the menu right now for Fall/Winter 2013-2014?
“At the Beverly Hills location it’s the Three Salad Combo (premade salads from the case.) The salads are especially good! The Clementine Chicken Salad Sandwich is another popular one.”
Why did you choose Century City and Beverly Hills as your two locations for Clementine?
“A space became available in Century City (the location we are at now.) It had been a pastry business before and was successful so I knew it would be a great lunch place. It had some character, it’s a 1930s building, and it was also on the edge of a residential area and close to all the office buildings. For our Beverly Hills location, we had an opportunity to be a part of a redevelopment. This was a chance to bring something more unique to that area which was not only a great opportunity for us but that a lunch place could have seasonal food in that type of setting.”
What was the most important element to you when opening Clementine? What did your restaurant definitely have to have? (As far as décor, menu, atmosphere, etc.)
“When planning it, I really thought it would be more of a store/market/bakery than a café. Very quickly it became apparent that the neighborhood wanted a café. The first thing people would ask was, “why don’t you serve breakfast?” It quickly became a community place. It ended up happening organically that way. When I think back to that, to think that it would be something other than what it is,is funny!”
You are hosting a dinner party at your own home, what are you cooking?
“I started to collaborate with Produce Project as a weekly pick up spot for their baskets. I subscribe to it also so I get a basket every week. I find since someone else is picking it out it has more of a variety than what I would pick. It’s fun to get a surprise every week. It would be driven by whatever is in there, and maybe grill some fish. It would be pretty simple though. Get some dips or something from work and maybe bring a dessert home. Although they enjoy it, I always feel guilty bringing home food from the restaurant."
What was something that you learned from your mother and/or grandmother that you still do today when cooking?
“There are a number of things I learned from them. Meatloaf! It was one of the first things I learned to make. My mom would pay me $1 to make dinner twice a week and there had to be three things on the plate. There’s also the Mrs. Miller cookie! Mrs. Miller was a woman who lived down the street from my grandmother when she was little. I grew up calling them “Mrs.Miller cookies” so there was no other name to really call them.”
What sets Clementine apart from other local restaurants?
“I think the fact that we change our menu, not completely but every few months. That was very unusual and customers would get mad but now they like the change. We are a neighborhood place but also have a lunch crowd and some people come twice a day. I like to think we try to give people something more than coffee and show our hospitality.”
Are there future plans to expand? If so, where to?
“Not really, never say never, but I’m super happy and challenged by what we have now. Not trying to have an empire. But I have a lot of my plate with both of these restaurants right now, but in the best way! It keeps it interesting!”
(Pictured: Century City location.)
Interviewed and Written by: Kristen Tola Hettich
Photographed by: Bethany Nauert