It always starts with a trip. For Debbie Michail, co-founder of roving open-flame supper club Logmeh, it was a journey to the Middle East with friends that completely changed her outlook not only on dining, but on family flavors as well.
“I grew up in a home where we were always around a table full of food and laughter and talking and fighting,” says Michail, a Los Angeles native. Her Iranian-born grandmother would put on feasts for the whole family, and it wasn’t until that stay in Istanbul several years ago that Michail saw the sort of dinner tables — piled with dips and breads and roasted meats — that resembled her own at home.
Since then, the 2017 Eater Young Guns winner has been on a path to rediscover her heritage while opening new culinary doors in and around Los Angeles. It helps that she has spent time in some of the city’s most important kitchens, working next to names like Nancy Silverton and Gino Angelini, but the heart of what Michail is doing is very, very personal.
“Eating is an experience. I’m in the service industry, which makes me a servant to anyone who eats my food. And I take that very seriously, because if not, why do it?”
So together with butcher Alex Jermasek, Michail began Logmeh, a rotating open-air meat cook with a single ethos: Use it all. Use the place, the people, the animal, the history. Spit-roasted beef, broken down the day before, gets dashed with Middle Eastern spices and pulled into finger-grabbing piles for customers at places like the chic Lombardi House event space in Hollywood, and suddenly the notion of what a restaurant even is starts to look very, very different.
It’s Michail that acts as the weaving thread, tying off connections to LA’s fine dining scene, her own love of whole animal cooking, and her grandmother’s Iranian upbringing. Another month, Michail might be reinvigorating a rich side dish with a splash of smoked pomegranate sauce before sending it off to waiting diners standing around underneath a literal Downtown overpass, with a Metro train about to rattle past. It’s all part of the trip.
“When I first started Logmeh, I told Alex that I wanted to cook under a bridge,” says Michail. “But you can’t just find a space and roast. You have to envision an ambiance and a way for the people and the event to flow.” Michail plans to continue leaning into her own coursing story, using the winding flavors and function of Iran as a loose guideline for the future.
She’s a Southern California kid at heart, so the produce matters and the seasons matter, but what’s most important is telling a story that helps diners reach their own personal place. Logmeh is on hold as her partners move into different ventures, but that doesn’t stop Michail’s own trajectory back through some of the biggest kitchens in Los Angeles.
The next immediate step is as apprentice again, working as sous inside the kitchen of April Bloomfield’s upcoming Hollywood restaurant project with partner Ken Friedman. She’s got her sights on the grill station, of course, but is always willing to learn more, do more, and explore. That’s what being on a journey is all about.