September 25, 2018

Shiloh’s New Owner Wants to Raise Kosher Bar

A European chef has dedicated his career to raising the bar when it comes to kosher dining. Today, he’s using those skills to revamp the well-known Pico-Robertson upmarket French kosher steakhouse, Shiloh’s. 

Speaking with the help of his translator and General Manager Laurent Masliah, Chef Ange Benisti told the Journal, “I knew kosher food had a bad reputation, and I wanted to try and adapt what I’d learned to make great kosher food.”

The secret, he said, is that even with the limited ingredients that a kosher meat meal demands, “the techniques evolve, so with the same ingredients you can make something completely different and new.” 

Benisti, 43, together with his partner Samuel Wrobel, took over Shiloh’s in December. They’ve spent the past six months making gradual changes, while still keeping the establishment open. 

Born in Israel, Benisti moved to France at the age of 4, and then to Belgium when he was 6. By 13, he was working with his father, who ran a kosher catering company. He then went on to study at Institut Emile Gryzon in Belgium. After returning to Brussels, he worked at Bruneau La Villa Lorraine, Comme Chez Soi and La Maison du Boeuf at the Brussels Hilton, which at the time were the only Michelin-starred restaurants in the country. 

At 22, together with a friend from cooking school, Benisti bought out his father’s catering company and worked on refining the menu. Five years ago, the duo started a kosher patisserie in Miami but they parted ways when Benisti decided he didn’t want to stay in Miami. 

“I knew kosher food had a bad reputation, and I wanted to try and adapt what I’d learned to make great kosher food.” — Ange Benisti

Today, he splits his time between Beverly Hills, where he lives with his second wife and two young children, and Europe, where he still has a catering company, and two teenagers from his first marriage. 

Benisti said working in the United States was always a dream, and when he and Wrobel visited Los Angeles in the fall 2016, he knew they’d found the perfect location in Shiloh’s. 

“The location was great, the reputation was good and we didn’t want to start from scratch,” Benisti said. “It was something to build on.”

Benisti said he knew rumors that the owners wanted to sell, “but they weren’t actively looking for a buyer.” Undaunted, Benisti spent a year in conversations with the owners and eventually bought the restaurant. They brought in an entirely new kitchen staff from France, as well as a new pastry chef. Minor changes have included new light and dark gray paint and removing the curtains to create a more open space. 

Specialties on the menu include the chef’s Cut Calotte and the Cote de Boeuf for two. “But,” Benisti said, “It’s important [for me] to continue to upgrade the menu, and I encourage patrons to try new food experiences.” 

Consequently, he puts a special French dish on the menu each week. “For example, you might have a spoon with a green sphere,” he said. “You put it in your mouth and then you can taste, for example, peas with meat, so you have explosions of flavors.”

He’s also thinking ahead and said hopefully, beginning in September, he’ll launch a pop-up restaurant one night a month with a six-course meal. He and Wrobel also have plans to open a restaurant in Las Vegas and a dairy restaurant in Los Angeles. 

Benisti said he’d also like to get back to his roots by opening a catering business.

“Catering is a great job because, when you do your parties, most of the time it’s for good events — a simcha,” he said. “You share the happiness of the people. You are part of it. The fact that you feed people and you see how happy they are when they eat, it makes you fulfilled.”