Chef Josie’s alluringly uncomplicated menu is a reflection of her healthy approach to eating as well as her flair for flavor-rich combinations. She has orchestrated an original melody of classic cuisine and comfort foods, ranging from the enticing Pan-Seared Duck with Savory Hawthorn Berry Sauce to the homey rib-eye steak with Pop’s Peppercorn Sauce.
Her eye for variety and quality is readily apparent in her ingredients; The hazelnuts in her roasted beet salad are organically grown in Oregon. The wild rice is hand-harvested from a lake that has never been touched by a motorboat. And the elk comes from a ranch in the Rockies that prides itself on a “no stress’ policy towards animals.
Chef Le Balch’s unique concept of culinary harmony resonates in Ralph Gentile and Sophie Harvey’s interior design. The interplay of the rustic and the refined is evident in every room. From the sand-blasted wooden ceiling beams and the modern skylight to the hand-crafted stone hearth and the tailored lines of the furnishings, the ambiance is a mixture of old country warmth and clean, contemporary sophistication, a perfect palette for Le Balch’s imaginative menu.
It has been said that Josie has always had “one foot in the old world and the other in the new.” And with the opening of Josie Restaurant, diners now have the best of both!
Josie Le Balch
Executive Chef / Owner
The first time Josie Le Balch picked up a knife to prepare to cook, people shrank back in horror. It wasn’t a commentary on her cooking, but rather a reaction to seeing an eight-year-old wielding a 10-inch chef’s knife. For by that age, she had already been drafted by her father, Gregoire Le Balch, to chop parsley and chiffonade basil at his cooking school in West L.A.
Thankfully, Le Balch the Younger was a rebellious teenager, because whenever she was grounded, her punishment was doing time at the Elder’s restaurant, Chef Gregoire. At first she holed up in the wine room; eventually she filled in for an AWOL dishwasher one night, then for a sick sauté cook. Thus a career was born.
Today, Le Balch’s cooking, which she describes as “progressive American with French and Italian influences,” has won a cadre of admirers. Caroline Bates of Gourmet proclaimed, “Le Balch can cook circles around most of her contemporaries.” When Le Balch opened her eponymous restaurant, Bon Appétit’s Tanya Wenman Steel wrote, “Los Angeles probably has more women chefs per square inch than any other city, and Josie in Santa Monica adds another great one to the list.” Her cooking has the power to seduce even the most seasoned food writers, as Patric Kuh demonstrated in Los Angeles: “It caused the reviewer in me to give way to the diner.”
Her intensive education led to jobs at Ma Maison with Wolfgang Puck and at L’Ermitage with Jean Bertranou. In 1986, Le Balch became head chef at the Saddle Peak Lodge in L.A. Four years later, Francesco Antonucci approached her to lead the kitchen staff at his Santa Monica restaurant, Remi, a move that won her an armful of awards including Best New Restaurant from Los Angeles magazine. In 1995, Le Balch returned to Saddle Peak Lodge at the requests of its new owner where she went on to earn the restaurant such top honors as the famed DiRoNa award for Food and Service. In 1998, she opened The Beach House in Santa Monica, and then, in 2001, Le Balch opened Josie Restaurant in Santa Monica, which has since been consistently named one of the best restaurants in L.A.
Le Balch has been featured in such national media as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Food Arts, Condé Nast Traveler, Wine Spectator, Elle, Esquire, Travel & Leisure, Art Culinaire, InStyle, and USA Today, as well as the Food Network’s “Ready, Set, Cook” and “Ultimate Kitchens,” the syndicated “Recipe TV,” and most recently as a guest judge on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” with Gordon Ramsay.
In August of 2011, Josie opened Next Door by Josie, a casual spot located right next door to the original Josie Restaurant. Due to its tremendous success in the few short months that it has been open, there are plans for more on the horizon.
Director of Operations
David began his career in food and wine at a seemingly unlikely place—the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. While earning degrees in music composition and orchestral conducting, he worked his way through school in various restaurants and catering businesses. This bizarre and mysterious restaurant life took hold of him, eventually culminating in his graduating first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York.
David continued working both in the front-of-the-house and in the kitchen at various restaurants on the East Coast, including working with Lydia Shire and Susan Regis at Biba and Pignoli in Boston. With the encouragement of friends and the attraction of the booming restaurant scene in Los Angleles (not to mention the weather), he decided to move west, where, in 2001, he became the general manager at Röckenwagner Restaurant inSanta Monica. In addition to helping the restaurant attain its first of many Wine Spectator awards, he oversaw the concept change, redesign, and remodeling of both Hans Röckenwagner’s Marina Del Rey restaurant, Röck (later Ballona Fish Market) in 2002, and Röckenwagner itself in 2003.
Also, to prove he doesn’t only like to work on the coasts, David consulted on the opening and wine list development of Bluestem in Kansas City, Missouri, which was recently named the Best Restaurant in Kansas City by both Kansas City Magazine and the Zagat Guide, and whose chef, Colby Garrelts, was named one of the Best New Chefs of 2005 by Food and Wine Magazine.
In 2003, he went on to become the General Manager at the award-winning Zax Restaurant in Brentwood, and joined the team at Josie in 2005, bringing his expertise in cost control, new project development, and strategic long-range planning, as well as a broad knowledge of the world of food and wine. In his current role as Director of Operations, he manages all aspects of both the original Josie Restaurant and Next Door by Josie, our new casual eatery that opened in the fall of 2011. David is also certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, and has designed and currently oversees the beverage programs at both restaurants.
Jonna J. Jensen
Jonna J. Jensen has been working in restaurants since the age of 15, in places ranging from Hemingway’s Tavern by the sea in Laguna Beach to Wolfgang Puck’s fashionable Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. Inspired by her Danish heritage, the self-taught Jensen has honed her skills both in the States and abroad where she spent time living and training in the pastry kitchens of Paris.
Jensen has also worked as a consultant, developing and creating signature desserts and recipes for the menus of many of Los Angeles’s finest restaurants.
Chef Jensen met Josie Le Balch in 1990 when they opened Remi Restaurant, the West Coast affiliate of the New York flagship, winning the title of Best New Restaurant in Los Angeles from Los Angeles Magazine in 1991.
In 1995 she was hired at I Cugini in Santa Monica where she completely restructured the dessert program. Jensen was the opening pastry chef at ll Fornaio on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, the opening pastry chef and consultant at Amadeus in Beverly Hills, and was the pastry chef at the famed Coco Pazzo in the Mondrian Hotel.
Chef Jensen and Chef Le Balch have teamed up on several renowned restaurants since working at Remi including Saddle Peak Lodge in Malibu and The Beach House in Santa Monica. Together, they have earned some of the top awards in the nation including the famed DiRoNa Award for food and service, Gourmet Magazine’s Top Ten in California and have been featured in Wine Spectator Magazine and Bon Appétit just to name a few.
Joining forces again to open Josie in January of 2001, Chef Jensen’s desserts have been featured in many important publications. Chef Jensen was one of only three chefs featured in the Premiere Annual Restaurant Dining Guide by Los Angeles Magazine in August 2000, and her luscious blueberry tart graced the cover of Los Angeles Magazine’s 2004 issue, in which Josie Restaurant was named one of the top ten restaurants of L.A. Angeleno Magazine says, “The naturally gorgeous desserts that Pastry Chef Jonna J. Jensen sends out of the kitchen make people fall in love,” and they should—in 2006 the magazine named her Pastry Chef of the Year.