Q&A with Kris Morningstar, Executive Chef of Ray’s

The news went out at the end of last week that Kris Morningstar has been named executive chef for Ray’s, the new Renzo Piano-designed restaurant opening at LACMA—alongside the new Stark Bar—on March 4. Kris was here at the museum last week and we had a chance to ask him a few quick questions about his plans for the menu and his new position.

Kris Morningstar

How do you feel about being named executive chef at LACMA’s new restaurant and bar?
I’m very excited to be coming here—it’s great to be back working with Joachim Splichal’s Patina Restaurant Group as I used to work as line cook at his Michelin-starred Patina Restaurant in the Walt Disney Concert Hall. After six years it’s great to be back in the family with Joachim, who’s made an art of creating a fine dining experience in concert halls and museums across the country. I’ve worked at AOC, Blue Velvet, and most recently, I was executive chef at District and Mercantile.

Tell us more about the menu and your style of cooking.
Ray’s is a great venue, where the focus will be on the food and good service. The menu itself will be contemporary, market-driven cuisine, not overly stylized, and well-presented, featuring great flavors driven heavily by the seasons with a focus on local farms. The kitchen has a wood-burning oven and wood grill, so you can see what we’re up to behind the scenes!

What is the difference between Ray’s and Stark Bar?
At Ray’s, we hope to serve something for everyone. The outdoor Stark Bar will have a different menu from Ray’s, featuring shared plates and bar food, and the mixologist will create cocktails to complement this style of food. In both, the wine list will feature predominantly Californian wines but a selection of wines from around the world will also be available. It’s great to have somewhere in this area to cater to not only museum-goers, but all the office workers and production offices along Wilshire.

What do you think of the restaurant and bar, designed by Renzo Piano, and what are your thoughts about working in a museum setting?
I love the restaurant’s design, which is modern and functional, and allows us to focus on the menu. The fact that it’s at the center of the museum’s campus, behind the welcoming Urban Light on Wilshire—there are few places like it. It’s an artwork in itself! I’ve lived in this neighborhood for awhile, so I’m glad to be able to work in such an exciting and inspiring environment.

How are you preparing yourself for the launch in March?
At the moment we’re experimenting with the menu and tweaking and refining it. My focus is on building the foundations of the restaurant behind the scenes, testing the equipment, working out budgets, in order for it to become a restaurant that’s around for a long time.

Miranda Carroll, Director of Communications


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