Chef Richard Irving has impacted the L.A. culinary scene with enduring dining staples The Ivy and The Ivy by the Shore. In a city that’s constantly changing, The Ivy Restaurants are one thing that will never need a facelift; they’ve been popular with celebrities and foodies alike since the Robertson Boulevard location opened in 1980. Irving began the restaurants with his partner – in life and in food – Lynn von Kersting. After working in famed Le Restaurant (“one of the top two restaurants in L.A. at the time”), and opening his own dessert company, L.A. Desserts, which “sold desserts to some of L.A.’s best restaurants like the bistro, Valentino and Mr. Chow,” Irving decided to branch out with The Ivy.
I asked Irving why he thinks The Ivy has become an icon on the L.A. culinary scene. “We have some fabulous things that we serve there. The food is extremely fresh and delicious, yet simple. We have exquisite flowers there, the place is immaculate,” he told me. The Ivy has been featured in an array of films and is the real life dining choice of A-listers abound. Irving credits von Kersting for the restaurants’ exceptional beauty, but the food is all him. Not only did he always know that he wanted to be a cook, beyond a ”brief period as a little boy of wanting to be a cowboy,” but Irving was introduced to the field by his mother, Charlotte, herself a passionate cook. ”She spent several days a week at Chef Gregoire’s cooking classes and bought all her pots and pans from Dehillerin in Paris. I used to always love helping her in the kitchen when I was growing up… I started cooking at home from the age of four and have loved it ever since,” explained Irving.
The old adage goes: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” but though Irving is a passionate chef, he explains that maintaining The Ivy’s success is not exactly easy. ”We work seven days a week and have to be eternally vigilant,” said Irving, who is constantly “trying to improve everything, always trying to look to the best ingredients.” These high standards mean Irving and his partner have their own bakery, Dolce Isola, where they take their own hamburger buns, scones, sourdough bread and all of The Ivy’s dessert.
Irving is not just an L.A. chef with a knack for what’s popular in the City of Angels; he’s also a world traveler who derives culinary influence from his experiences abroad. ”I gain inspiration from southern Italy as well as Provence and India. As a family we spend three months in the summer in Europe, at our apartment in Paris as well as our villa Capri and practically everywhere in between, so those months are always filled with discovery of new favorite foods and flavors,” shared Irving, who learned to bake Parisian baguettes at a neighborhood boulangerie in Paris and real Neapolitan pizza at Di Matteo in Napoli.
Photos courtesy of The Ivy Restaurants.