Chef Raquel Jubran is the most accomplished and versatile Long Beach chef you’ve probably never heard of. For the last three decades, the multicultural military veteran (who is better known as “Chef Roq”) moved through a handful of notable Southland restaurants, learning everything she could about cooking cuisines from around the world and earning hard-won respect from some of the top names in L.A.’s fickle food scene by serving as sous chef at Border Grill and Patina Restaurant Group.
But despite all her experience in L.A., Jubran — who is chef-partner at the year-old Lasher’s Kitchen in Belmont Shore — actually spent most of her career feeding Long Beach.
She first started cooking here in 1997, when the culinary school graduate and longtime home chef got hired to help open the original Lasher’s, the beloved white-tablecloth fine dining concept that turned a Craftsman house on Broadway into a neighborhood destination for upscale Franco-American cuisine.
Never one to stay somewhere for too long, Jubran soon left Lasher’s to pursue opportunities in Puerto Rico (she speaks fluent Spanish) and then spent several years cooking with Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken at Border Grill (where she experimented with their daily specials). Before long, though, she returned to Long Beach as executive chef at Lasher’s, in charge of revamping the aging menu and creating fresh seasonal specials.
“I bounced around because I always wanted to learn more,” Jubran says of her career. “You can’t stay somewhere and learn if there’s no one teaching you.”
Owned by front-of-house experts Ray and Lynn Lasher, their namesake restaurant was a comfort food staple, known for Jubran’s crafted dishes like its homestyle meatloaf and specials like fried green tomatoes until it closed in 2012. When The Attic moved into the former Lasher’s location, it kept Jubran in the kitchen, becoming one of the longest waits for a table in town on the merit of her creative Southern-style menu (yes, the mac and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, one of the city’s most Instagrammed dishes, was her idea too).
Jubran was already back up in L.A., managing all the catering and cafe operations for LACMA, when Ray Lasher called saying he came across a prime location for them in Belmont Shore. Would she like to become a partner in a new Lasher’s concept?
“I love learning from everybody else but it was time to do something for me,” she says. “It’s either you take that leap of faith or you sit on the couch and wonder what would have happened. I took that leap of faith and said let’s do it.”
Lasher’s Kitchen might look more like a wine bar than a full-on restaurant, yet it’s secretly home to some of Jubran’s most exciting work yet. With a lifetime of travel under her belt (she served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm), a fascinatingly diverse SoCal upbringing (her mom is Filipina, her stepdad Mexican) and now the freedom to use a career’s-worth of cooking techniques in her own kitchen – Lasher’s has become a playground where Jubran is proving she can do so much more than meatloaf and Mac and Cheetos (though the meatloaf remains a menu option).
“It’s world cuisine comfort food,” she says of her vision for Lasher’s Kitchen. “We do get some flack from people who want us to serve things like burgers or Mediterranean food, but if I wanted to be like Open Sesame or Simmzy’s then what is the point? We want to have our own identity here.”
Instead of copying what’s already on Second Street, her ever-changing, chef-driven, farm-to-table menu pulls from all corners of the culinary universe. The cioppino, which was once a special at the original Lasher’s, is a dense, herbal stew of ethically sourced fish and shellfish. A pork belly dish that braises the fatty meat for 24-hours until it’s so crispy and soft, a simple touch of the fork sends it falling into the crispy potato cake and cherry-cola demi glace below. Inspired by her mother, the French cigar appetizer is like a Filipino lumpia, deep fried, savory pastry-filled with a chicken and bacon ragout. And that’s not even mentioning the daily specials, which riff on the chef’s love of clams, wine and uncommon proteins (a few weeks ago it was a grilled quail with fall cous cous).
At brunch, you can get an old-school taste of The Attic’s Southern flair with Jubran’s fried green tomato Benedict, her spicy house andouille sausage and those flaky buttery biscuits. There’s also weekly pancake flavors, a new monte cristo sandwich (with the egg on the outside!) and a prime rib hash that’s even better with the Cajun hollandaise.
A new item, the loco moco Benedict, is the culmination of Jubran’s skill, experience and versatility — Hawaiian flavors (in the form of Spam, pork belly and sweet bread) combine with a poached egg for a classicly plated American brunch dish to make yet another chef Roq creation that tastes as good as it looks.
“I’m always dreaming about what’s the next special going to be, what does the next season’s menu look like?” Jubran says. “It’s always a blank slate for me. Every day.”
Lasher’s Kitchen, 5295 E. 2nd Street Long Beach; 562-343-7228; lasherskitchen.com
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.