Outside the kitchen, Micah Wexler is friendly, funny and never without a 5 o’clock shadow. He’s the Seth Rogen of chefs — the kind of guy you wish you could grab a beer with. But in the kitchen he’s all business. Music during dinner prep? That’s fine. But come dinner service, it’s time for him and his staff to be quiet, put down their heads and cook.
Wexler, 31, made his culinary name as one of the few chefs in the country to specialize in upscale Israeli fare. Dishes like flatbread topped with cauliflower, feta, olives and golden raisins, and pink snapper served with fava beans, sugar snap peas and Persian mint, won his Los Angeles-based restaurant, Mezze, praise from Food &Wine, Los Angeles magazine and diners.
This spring, Wexler will trade in his tahini, za’atar and flatbread for spicy brown mustard, marbled rye, pastrami and a 10-seat counter called Wexler’s Deli, in L.A.’s Grand Central Market.
When Grand Central Market first opened, in 1917, it was a hub for the city’s residents: Home to fish and cheesemongers, fruit and vegetable vendors, flower shops and soda fountains, it captured the essence of early 20th-century shopping and eating in L.A. Nearly a century later, the 30,000-square-foot outdoor arcade is in the midst of a renaissance, with a wood-fired pizzeria, a Thai street-food stall and, this March, Wexler’s nouveau delicatessen.
Home to several iconic, old-school delicatessens, most notably Langer’s and Canter’s, L.A. hasn’t exactly caught up with the deli revolution that is currently playing out in other cities. Wexler plans to change that.
An L.A. native, he grew up eating at Langer’s and developed a lifelong craving for cured meats and pickles. “There was this whole routine with the same waitress every time, the same comfort foods and this sense of greatness to the deli,” Wexler said. “I did not realize it as a kid, but growing up around this food really shaped me.” So did his grandmothers’ cooking, a degree from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, and a string of jobs in high-profile kitchens across Europe and America.