Meet & Eat: Felix Barron, KTCHN 105
KTCHN 105 may be one of the best-kept secrets in the city of Los Angeles. From its minimalist website and lack of press to its iffy hours and unknown back story, Chef Felix G. Barron IV—or Chef Felix for short—has had the food community excited for nearly two years now about his loft space in the heart of the Produce District in Downtown Los Angeles. Is it a community kitchen? A catering company? A fully-operating restaurant? According to Barron, it's all of the above.
While working at small restaurants, Barron discovered that he could make double the money in half the time catering. He started an event company called The IV Group, then moved to L.A. to make a go at a community kitchen/pop-up restaurant concept he'd been kicking around. What resulted was KTCHN 105, which serves Sunday brunch during the spring and summer and Wednesday dinners during the fall and winter. Hyper-seasonal, it plays off people's desire to eat lighter during summer months and seek out heartier dishes during the winter. Barron allows friends with fledgling food businesses to use the commercial kitchen, and offers food preservation and technical classes, as well.
Barron has purposely remained tight-lipped on the specifics of KTCHN 105—until now. With Sunday brunches starting up again this March, Barron decided to chat with me about KTCHN 105's inventive dishes and his plans for the future. Here's what he had to say.
How would you characterize KTCHN 105? It's a place to be creative with friends. Until now, it was a small restaurant based on word-of-mouth. For me, it's a place to have fun and experiment. All meals are planned just a few days in advance, and I pick everything out myself, mostly from the farmers' market and local Asian markets. We're in the Produce District, so if I need anything I can pretty much find it on our street.
Given that things are so hush-hush, what are your crowds like? At first I thought my approach backfired. I wanted KTCHN 105 to be exclusive, but not in a snooty L.A. way. I wanted it to be fun, somewhere you could count the degrees of separation from a diner to me. We do four-hour brunches and at first we'd only get about 20 people, but as the season progressed we reached capacity with a hundred. We're not quite there with our dinners; sometimes we'll have 20 diners, sometimes 70.
Do you have a kitchen staff? I do everything, from washing the linens to picking the herbs in the backyard. I bake our bread, make our preserves, cure our meat.
It's pretty rare for a restaurant to have a backyard. Originally, my idea was to purchase a loft inside a residential building, so that people who lived in the complex could drop in for breakfast on their way to work; I found one I loved, but it fell through. I ended up on Craigslist and found this amazing listing for a building with a yard. It was unlike any other space in L.A.; it had huge trees and a fish pond.
How would you characterize KTCHN 105's food? I'm pretty obsessed with eggs. A lot of our brunch dishes are basically dinners that have been reworked into breakfast items. One of our most popular brunch items was a BLT where the bread portion was cornmeal waffles with brown butter, greens, heirloom tomatoes, bacon, and roasted corn aioli. Our savory pain perdu was also popular—stuffed with turkey hash and came with a pear and caramelized onion maple syrup.
Our dinners are similar. They're very indulgent, which isn't really an L.A. thing, but it's only one day a week, so you might as will have fun with it.
Did you grow up in a food-loving families? My mom was a very good cook. I actually didn't know that I was interested in food until after high school, which is kind of silly now that I think about it, because I was cutting up apples and frying tortilla chips when I was seven. Things are so different now. I have a young niece who isn't allowed to touch anything in the kitchen, but when I was a kid I was playing restaurant by actually cooking.
What are your immediate plans for KTCHN 105? Once I build more of a following, I want to start doing brunch or pop-up dinners five days a week. Ideally, I want to take over an already-existing space, sharing with another restauran. I just think it would be a cool way for two restaurants to come together and give each other exposure.
What do you want people to know about KTCHN 105? That as secretive as it seems, I want anybody and everybody to experience it. I'm really accessible. If you're in from out of town, give me a call and we'll figure out a way to feed you. I'm always willing to work and if I'm closed, I'll tell you about another place in the area that deserves your business.
No one else is doing this in Los Angeles. The food is accessible and though it's a loft, it's not kitschy. You feel like you're walking into an intimate restaurant. It's all about the food and hanging out with your friends and family.