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How beloved bakery Sweet Lady Jane found a new owner. It reopens this month

A pedestrian, reflected in the window at Sweet Lady Jane walks past the shuttered bakery in Santa Monica.
The Santa Monica location of Sweet Lady Jane, shortly after all six of its shops were shuttered unexpectedly at the end of 2023.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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Sweet Lady Jane

When Julie Ngu woke up to the news in December that the beloved bakery chain Sweet Lady Jane had abruptly closed all six of its locations, she turned to her partner and jokingly asked, “Can you imagine if we bought it?”

Matt Clark responded with a serious answer: “Why don’t we?”

Judging by the outcry after the closing from fans on social media, especially those who feared they’d never taste Sweet Lady Jane’s iconic triple berry cake again, there was certainly demand for the bakery’s return.

The pair contacted a lawyer and were connected to the former owners. On Feb. 16, Ngu and Clark became the owners of Sweet Lady Jane‘s multiple assets, including the recipes and the brand name. They then renegotiated the leases on all six locations: West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Encino, Calabasas and San Fernando. The L.A. Times confirmed the sale with a representative for the company, who noted there were multiple other interested buyers.

Now Ngu and Clark are planning to reopen at least some of Sweet Lady Jane’s locations this month and rehire some of its former employees.

“Having this opportunity is crazy, so I really just poured my life savings into this,” Ngu said. “It’s all or nothing when it comes to this. I just I believe in it so much, and it’s been a reoccurring dream of mine to be in this position now.”

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A selection of decorated whole cakes on a table
Bakery Sweet Lady Jane became famous for its cakes, including triple berry, almond crunch, lemon raspberry and old-fashioned chocolate.
(Susan Hoffman)

‘We have no idea what happened before, we have nothing to do with that. We just want people to love the triple berry cake.’

— Julie Ngu, new owner of Sweet Lady Jane

Ngu — a third-generation baker who operates another L.A. chain, her parents’ Pacific French Bakery — is spearheading the comeback and “will be wearing all the hats.” While her family’s bakeries feature Chinese, French, Latin and Vietnamese influences, she says that her turn at Sweet Lady Jane will maintain the cakes, cookies and other sweets exactly as they were sold before the chain’s 2023 closure.

She hopes to reopen at least four locations in March, with the remainder relaunching in April. She also wants to provide a way for some of the brand’s former employees to make a comeback themselves.

Days after Sweet Lady Jane’s December closure, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the bakery by former employees alleging wage abuse. Clark and Ngu said they have already hired multiple former Sweet Lady Jane employees, and added they have no ties to founder Jane Lockhart or any other past ownership of Sweet Lady Jane.

“We’re not corporate owners, we’re not big private equity, we’re none of that, so the last thing we would want to have to happen is for people to judge us for what may have happened before,” Clark said. “We have no idea what happened before, we have nothing to do with that. We just want people to love the triple berry cake. We simply are the new owners and and operators, and wanted to bring that back to life.”

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Currently, the pair say they’re in the throes of trying to reopen the physical locations — including maintenance, staffing up and preparing the menus.

“We are coming back!” a sign posted to the front window of its Beverly Hills location read last week, advertising that the bakery is hiring multiple job positions. “We are delighted that we will be opening again soon, but we will need some people to help us!”

Early this week the chain also posted to its Instagram, “Can you taste it? Get ready: Encino, Calabassas, Beverly Hills, Larchmont, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood.”

Another post teased “cafe service at select locations” with a menu listing breakfast sandwiches, wraps, salads, cakes and high tea.

“I envision Sweet Lady Jane’s Jane Lockhart being so proud of me and going, ‘Yes, this is the bakery that I started,’ ” Ngu said. “The beautiful vines on the triple berry cake — every slice has its own flavor profile and its own decoration. I want to bring that back. I’m not touching the triple berry cake. Don’t worry about it.”

sweetladyjane.com

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Zozo

Rivera chef John Sedlar holds a container of chiles at his sustainable rooftop garden Cielo Verde.
Chef John Sedlar in 2013 at a sustainable rooftop garden above Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles.
(Christina House / For The Times)

It’s been nearly a decade since star chef John Sedlar closed his celebrated L.A. restaurant Rivera and relocated to his hometown of Santa Fe. But he’s recently returned with Zozo, a genre-bending restaurant housed inside the La Brea Avenue home decor store Maison Midi.

Sedlar’s New Mexican roots and “cuisines of the sun” are found throughout the menu of fresh handmade corn tortillas (some topped with caviar, others with avocado butter); confit duck legs over tamarind sauce; turkey albondigas; lamb with chayote chutney, and escargots with Ibérico ham, weaving in Middle Eastern, European, Asian and South American influences.

Art and Sedlar’s culinary mentors also play a role, with food served aside miniature sculptures or atop framed prints, while murals of L’Ermitage’ chef Jean Bertranou and champion of Mexican-cuisine chef Patricia Quintana are on display near the entrance. Zozo is open in collaboration with restaurateurs Bill Chait, Jordan Ogron and Raphael Francois, with Maison Midi owners American Rag.

Zozo is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. 148 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 746-4700, zozolabrea.com

Patricia Quintana hunts for Mexico’s ancient treasures with the doggedness of an archeologist excavating some prehistoric site.

June 14, 1990

Origin Korean BBQ

An overhead photo of a grill at Origin Korean BBQ: half is brisket, the other is pork belly disks. Banchan surround it.
Origin Korean BBQ, from the team behind Quarters, serves a mix of unique and classic items, such as disks of premium pork belly that crisp up on the grill.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)
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It’s been open less than a month, but already Origin Korean BBQ, from the team behind Quarters Korean BBQ, one of Koreatown’s most popular restaurants, is drawing lines in Chapman Plaza that nearly rival those of its sibling concept.

Set meals at Origin include banchan as well as corn cheese, steamed egg and the restaurant’s signature soybean-paste brisket ramen.

On6thAvenue Hospitality operates both restaurants in addition to Marinate KBBQ and the nightclub Terra Cotta.

The vibe of 1960s Seoul inspired the dining room at the group’s latest project, which features vintage-style posters and wall paneling in the former Baekjeong space.

Origin offers classic Korean barbecue meats and other stalwarts, such as beef brisket, pork belly, seafood pancake and kimchi fried rice. Its signature items include marinated beef short rib patty, or tteok-galbi; pucks of thin pork belly to be wrapped in ssam; and garlic-laden short ribs.

Origin is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 3465 W. 6th St., Suite 20, Los Angeles, (213) 451-6067, originkbbq.com

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Mom, Please in Mid-Wilshire

A vertical closeup of parsley-topped pelmeni dumplings at Ukrainian restaurant Mom, Please.
Ukrainian restaurant Mom, Please specializes in handmade dumplings, including pelmeni.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

A celebrated, family-owned Ukrainian restaurant in the South Bay recently expanded with a second location, bringing even more traditional Eastern European dishes and pastry to L.A.

Oleksii Kochetkov opened the first Mom, Please in Playa Vista with his wife, Inna Kochetkova, and his mother, Olena Kochetkova, after emigrating from Mariupol. After losing their bakery and patriarch in a rocket strike, the refugees fled Ukraine and the war with Russia and began anew in Los Angeles, first selling their handmade dumplings and sweets online, then with a bricks-and-mortar location.

Now a second branch of Mom, Please, this time in Mid-Wilshire, serves buttery pelmeni dumplings; borscht with garlic pampushka; a range of varenyky, similar to pierogi; holubtsi, or stuffed cabbage; and sweet or savory mlyntsi, or crepes, plus sandwiches, salads, daily pastries, cakes and a full coffee program.

Mom, Please also offers a limited menu of its dumplings and other goods from the freezer case, to be prepared at home.

Mom, Please’s new location is open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. 5657 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (412) 808-0880, mom-please.com

Is borscht Ukrainian or Russian? The answer depends on who you ask, and where.

March 9, 2022

Mama’s Night Market: Year of the Dragon

Pearl River Deli's Johnny Lee will reprise his fan-favorite Hainan chicken, center, for Mama's Night Market.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
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The community-focused, fundraising local group Mama just announced another iteration of Mama’s Night Market, and this time, the outdoor food festival is celebrating the Year of the Dragon. On March 9 a handful of the region’s s-tier vendors will be taking over Chinatown’s Central Plaza from 6 p.m. to midnight with a la carte dishes, while live programming and activities will include a mahjong arena, DJ sets, martial arts demos, karaoke and more.

As is traditional to Mama’s Night Market, the mix of vendors includes traditional and next-gen interpretations of generational immigrant cooking. This festival’s lineup includes vendors such as Holy Basil, Brothers Sushi and Johnny Lee’s recently closed Pearl River Deli, which will be popping up with Hainan chicken, along with classic spots such as Soban, Fugetsu-Do and A&J.

This event, held in collaboration with the Bruce Lee Foundation, is 21+; proceeds will benefit the foundation as well as Mama’s nonprofit offshoot called Respect Your Elders, which helps feed senior citizens in minority groups in Los Angeles.

General admission tickets cost $35, while VIP tickets — which include an open bar and a special entrance and separate bathrooms — cost $99 per person. 943 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, mama.co/pages/nightmarket

Maciel’s Fairfax

Highland Park's new vegan deli makes its own dairy-free cheese and animal-free meat in house for sandwiches.
Highland Park’s vegan deli Maciel’s debuts an indefinite pop-up residency in Fairfax this week for sandwiches like this Mexican “short rib” option, the Flores.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Some of L.A.’s best — and vegan — sandwiches just headed west. Highland Park plant-based butcher shop Maciel’s is known for its replication of deli meats, cheeses and classic sandwiches like an Italian sub and a Philly cheesesteak using the likes of chickpeas, seitan and hearts of palm.

Starting Feb. 29 the husband-and-wife team of Maciel Ba?ales Luna and Joe Egender are bringing much of their menu to an indefinite pop-up inside bar and venue the Dime on Fairfax, with plans for brunch events, music and more.

Maciel’s is open Thursday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 442 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, macielsplantbutcher.com

Whether you’re already a plant-forward person or contemplating a change in diet, here are 30 restaurants to check out.

Jan. 17, 2024

Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival

A sprawling new culinary event is filling the lot next to the Santa Monica Pier this weekend, with bites from more than 90 chefs plus art in collaboration with Frieze Los Angeles, a designated sweets room, themed bars, live mural painting, DJ sets and other entertainment.

Los Angeles Wine & Food Festival kicked off Friday and runs until Sunday, and is the latest from IMG, the group behind Frieze and Taste of London. The 21+ event features some of L.A.’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurants, including Holbox, Justin Pichetrungsi of Anajak, Pasjoli, Timothy Hollingsworth of Otium, and other culinary celebrities such as Jet Tila, Adam Richman, Melba Wilson and Geoffrey Zakarian.

General admission tickets cost $225 per day and include unlimited food and beverage, while VIP tickets cost $325 per day and also include early entry and VIP-only bites and drinks. A weekend pass, at $400 for general admission or $700 for VIP, includes access to all days of the festival. 1550 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica, lawineandfood.com

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