The opening of the café is a success. “Eatery” is what Sevan calls it. Open for only two months, it is a hub of activity with Sevan at the center of it. Short in stature, with closely cropped hair and two day’s worth of stubble, he seems to be everywhere – outside greeting friends, inside managing staff, serving a plate here, a cup of coffee there – all the while keeping up a steady chatter with anyone within hearing distance without breaking his rhythm or flow of speech.
It wasn’t always this way. After attending a culinary institute, Sevan went to work for Joachim Splichal of the Patina Group. “All the guys that have worked for him are now, ten years later, doing their own restaurants and done the proper training on how to plate and be a proper chef and have that European discipline.” Basically, he learned the restaurant business from the best and is now applying those skills in his own restaurant.
“The reason why you get far is because you know how to cook for two hundred people on the fly. Making all the elements happen. Not because you know how to make a great quiche and you have a great hand,” Sevan says with a dismissive wave of his hand about the requirements of being a top chef. He quotes from the doyenne of the culinary world, Julia Child, who said “I’m not a chef. I’m a cook.” Meaning a chef is someone who manages a restaurant and people under him. “Here’s the most innovative person basically saying I’m not a chef, I’m a home cook. A chef is someone who’s not cooking like Julia childe. You’re delegating. ‘Chef’ comes from the word ‘chief.’ Does that make sense?” he asks. Sevan’s speech is like an endless run-on sentence. He barely pauses for breath and jumps from topic to topic, all the while emphasizing his speech with hand gestures and highly descriptive facial expressions.
After the five years he spent with Chef Joachim, Sevan branched out into restaurant design. “I lay out the menu, what the food should look like, what goes in the food. That’s what I do.”
Recently he made the shift from being behind the scene to being front and center of his own personal project. “I think at one point, even though the hours are longer, I wanted a routine in my life. When you’re doing contractual work, when you’re working on a film and the film is over, all those people… they’re all gone now to another film. I think as you grow older, at least for my life, with a family, with a daughter and all that… if there’s anyway I can keep my life and have my own business and still be creative and have somewhat of a routine in my life… then I think I’m on top. Versus when you’re doing projects and have deadlines, you might have to fly to New York. If I have my own business, I don’t have to go anywhere,” he says and takes a breath.
His small, little eatery has a nice cozy feel. Located on a main street in Glendale, its bright and cheerful atmosphere with bistro tables and wall to wall glass windows has been a runaway hit since the day it opened.
“It’s all those elements,” he says of the skills he used to apply for other peoples restaurants with a healthy dose of his own philosophy thrown in. “The number one guarantee in this country that’s left now is that people are working harder for less. But what does that entail to the public? Whether you’re Armenian, Latino, French, whatever you are, ayt verchin badare (that last bite) you want to enjoy it. At this point in the economy I felt ‘why does everything have to be so pretentious? Why can’t you have a nice place, you can have nice people, at a decent price with a decent product? Why is it so bad to just do that?’ This country is so far beyond lost in morals that people just don’t care about other people.” He sees other entrepreneurs who write themselves a check before the business has begun to make money. “Versus me. We put our money back into improvements to make the business better. People [customers] teach you that … fast. You make the adjustments and move forwards. But again, it’s not about the money all the time. You have to have a little bit of your dream. I can make so much money being a private chef for a celebrity but at the end of the day you’re walking their dream.”
Although he is knee deep in this new venture, his ultimate dream is to be a restaurateur with different projects under his name, very much like his role model Chef Joachim Splichal who turned his first restaurant, Patina, into a collection of dining experiences from fine dining to bistros. “Everyone had nice touches but all different. One had $10 sandwiches and one had $30 dollar steaks. That’s my goal, is to create and umbrella company. I own it but I had these ten different venues. It’s essentially creating this whole entity with creative venues,” Sevan says and calls this first venture his “diving board” into that world.
Sevan is considered relatively young in this world of restaurants. At 33 he’s accomplished more than others much older than him. His energy level is like a force of nature even though he says “I was crazier, younger, more non patient. Now I have more females in my life. You have to be softer. Especially if you have a girl. You have to calm down the burning fire. I want the best for her. I think the most I want for her is for her to be her own person. Not to count on any man. If she choose a man to be with and loves and wants to share a relationship and a life with, that’s great – as long as she has her own passions and drives and stuff like that, so she doesn’t have to count on a man. I think the world is changing that way. Especially with girls. You have to give them the ability and the education so they don’t end up being just a housewife. The more we educate the females the more the mother earth becomes this more intelligent place.”
This idea is one of the grounding forces in his marriage. Sevan considers his wife to be the “knot” that grounds his “hot air balloon.” “I’m very lucky because my wife let’s me be me. That’s very difficult for an Armenian woman. So that said, I think she’s an artist too and she kind of understands that you have to be patient in this kind of game.”
The hype generated by the eatery hasn’t affected Sevan. “Money opens a lot of things. Essentially I think, at the end of the day, as long as at the end of my life my family is taken care of and I can also be creative for the rest of my life… I’m done. To the point where I get out of restaurants and make a film with an Armenian director. I’m down for that. If that’s where my mind goes, I don’t want to stop it. There’s too much,” he says referring to the myriad creative ideas that bounce through his mind on any given day. If the eatery is an indication of what they are then we have much to look forward to.