Chef of the Moment: Hans Rockenwagner gets spicy

Hans Röckenwagner is chef-owner of 3 Square Café and Röckenwagner Bakery as well as the planned Café Röckenwagner, set to open in Brentwood in January. Röckenwagner grew up in southern Germany and has cooked in Germany, France, Switzerland, Chicago and Los Angeles, where he operated fine dining restaurant Röckenwagner and now runs the full-scale retail and wholesale bakery. He's also working on his cookbook. An avid woodworker, he has custom-built the cabinets, tables and shelves for all of his restaurants. "As we’re in construction in Brentwood," Röckenwagner says, "my drill has been in heavy use."

What’s coming up next on your menu?

I’m so excited about how Café Röckenwagner’s menu is shaping up. We’re still finalizing it, but it will be a mix of dishes inspired by the former Röckenwagner in Santa Monica and the more casual menu we have at 3 Square in Venice. Café Röckenwagner’s menu will reflect the Brentwood neighborhood — family friendly, high-quality, seasonal and contemporary.

Latest ingredient obsession?

Spices. Every German baker has a slightly different spice mix for their lebkuchen, leckerle and stollen. We’ve experimented with ours over the years and think we’ve nailed our proprietary blend this year.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?

Chosun Kalbi in Koreatown. I like going with a big group so you can order a lot of different dishes. It’s communal, satisfying and social. I particularly like the bulgogi, and I love kimchi (though I still think my mother-in-law makes the best). For special occasions, I like Melisse, which never disappoints.

What’s your favorite breakfast?

German apple pancake. But by doctor’s orders, I don’t have it every day (though I would if I could).

What’s the last non-food-related book you read?

“The Secret Race” by Tyler Hamilton. It’s an inside look by a former teammate of Lance Armstrong’s at the world of doping in cycling. I took up cycling a few years ago and ride with a group of chefs on the weekends. I could not put the book down — the culture, the physical rigor, the competitiveness — fascinating.

3 Square Café & Bakery, 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-6504; Röckenwagner Bakery, 311 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-4267, and 12835 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 577-0747;


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