Looking In Between the Nooks Within the Soul of Los Angeles with Emilien Crespo
PHOTOS BY: PIA RIVEROLA | PORTRAIT BY: OLIVIA BEE
Today, Los Angeles is praised as a city where you can 180° a dream into a reality. It’s the typical “dollar and a dream” story we hear from plenty of transplants that flood from everywhere to seek their calling in the town that sits under the dancing palm trees. You’ll come across all types of life in the 4,700 square mile county and maybe a few hustlers that will try to backstab you along the way. But there’s plenty of beauty that blankets across from Lancaster down to Long Beach. Some will rest inside individuals, but most of it sprawls within the streets in the forms of museums, food trucks, boutiques, and late night establishments.
For writer Emilien Crespo, who just released his first book, Soul of Los Angeles: A Guide to 30 Exceptional Experiences, his story to LA isn’t your typical La La Land romance. Born and raised in France, Emilien found himself in the city of angels through a job opportunity with Apple 10 years ago. On the side, Emilien spent time writing about his experiences within this new landscape to share with loved ones. With an infatuation towards acclaimed food writer Jonathan Gold, where Emilien dined at every restaurant on Gold’s 101 best restaurants list, inspired Emilien himself to dive head-first into the known and unknown of Los Angeles. As slow as the 10 freeway crawls, how else is best to spend your time discovering the cuts of a new stomping ground? We had a chance to tap in with Emilien on how LA inspired him to write his book.
Tell us about yourself! Are you from LA? If not, where are you originally from and how did you end up in LA?
I am a thirty-something Frenchman and I have been living for a decade in Los Angeles where I worked for Apple’s marketing strategy for most of it. I was then lucky to create a few companies and writing is a hobby I take quite seriously. That’s why I’m so happy this guidebook “Soul of Los Angeles” is finally released made with two talented women: the photographer Pia Riverola and the illustrator Clara Mari, also two immigrants.
How did you find yourself writing?
I only enjoy writing when it’s to share my love with others for a place, an experience or a person that I interview. Along the way I got lucky to collaborate with some of my favorite magazines like Purple, The Gourmand, Autre or Muse.
How did you know you fell in love with Los Angeles?
I came to LA for the first time with Apple in 2009. I distinctly remember renting a car, and driving straight to the Getty Center. It was a Saturday, because to this day it’s the only day open late so you can watch the sunset. I remember being overwhelmed with joy looking at the panorama of the city magnificently lit. I told myself that I was looking forward to exploring every corner of this mysterious concrete jungle.
How did you go about discovering all of these places? Were you a wandering soul in the city or were some of these recommendations?
The late LA Times legendary food critic Jonathan Gold was one of the first inspirations. He did a list of the 101 restaurants and I went through every single one of them. And tried to discover every part of the city the same way looking for lists over the years: architecture, art, stores, wellness, venues etc.
How has this city shifted your own perspectives?
I definitely have the eyes of a tourist, a foreigner, especially from Europe. This city is a never ending exploration. I learn so much about different cultures. Art is alive here. The city itself is very difficult to understand. It takes years – every native would tell you. It certainly taught me not to judge a book by its cover and really dig to find what’s behind doors. And never be afraid of driving the extra mile to find something marvelous.
What would you define Los Angeles as? If you had to give the city a character, persona, how would that come about?
Every neighborhood is different but what unites them is a general optimism and appetite for the new. Maybe it’s the constant sunshine, but I never take for granted people surrounding me that have so much joy to discover and create.
What drives you crazy about LA?
At the risk of being obvious, the traffic and the pollution it creates that is slowly killing us. Hope public transportation and cars powered by renewable energy will save us.
For an outsider, what are things not to do while you’re visiting?
Always look at a map beforehand and plan to do things in the same neighborhood. Don’t be too ambitious trying to cross the city it will take the fun out of it.
Any new discoveries or gems in LA since writing the book that you wish you could have included?
I am a big fan of the newly opened restaurant Angler that is a slap-in-the-face-good. It’s in a shopping center (!) but the food is made by one of the greatest chefs in the world that just moved from his three stars restaurant in San Francisco to open it in LA.
Out of all of these locations, spots, and secrets you wrote about, if you had to compile a few of them into one day to make the perfect date, what would that date be?
It’s hard to choose between a candlelight Gjusta dinner before or after the sunset on Venice beach (depending of the season) followed by a fantastic Old Lightning cocktail OR an early dinner at the Thai restaurant Night+Market WeHo with excellent natural wines followed by a music or comedy set at the tiny venue Largo at the Coronet. You could even do a night cap at Jumbo’s if you feel more adventurous! I hope you’ll have as much fun exploring with this guide than we did making it.