Walter Manzke’s love of food began early, as a child growing up in San Diego surrounded by freshly-grown fruits and vegetables from his family’s backyard. His career in restaurants came later, when a fortuitous meeting with Patina’s Joachim Splichal brought him to Los Angeles and first exposed him to the world of fine-dining. He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming sous chef atSplichal’s Pinot Bistro before departing on a two-year sabbatical that took him through some of the best kitchens in Europe, culminating in a one-year stint with Alain Ducasse at his storied Louis XV, in Monaco.
Returning to LA full of inspiration and experience, Manzke remained by Splichal’s side, serving for five years as Patina’s Chef de Cuisine, and garnering his first three-star review from the Los Angeles Times.He left shortly thereafter to explore opportunities outside of Los Angeles, and with his wife and fellow chef Margarita had a wildly successful run in Carmel with three critically-acclaimed restaurants: Bouchée, Cantinetta Luca, and L’Auberge Carmel.
On their return to LA, in 2006, Walter accepted a position as the Chef of the revamped Bastide, where his cooking met with raves from critics and the public alike. His second three-star Times review arrived shortly thereafter. The buzz followed him to his next posting, as the Chef of Church & State in Downtown LA. Another three-star review followed, along with a ‘Rising Star’ award from StarChefs.
It was there that Walter and Margarita – who also worked at the restaurant – further honed their shared vision for the restaurant they wanted to open together. This vision culminated in RÉPUBLIQUE, which opened in November 2013 in partnership with restaurateur Bill Chait.
The remodel of such an historic space was not without delays, and Walter made use of the extra time by bringing to life an entirely different concept he’d developed years before: a taqueria using the highest- quality ingredients and informed by the culinary traditions of Baja, central Mexico and even East LA. This concept would become Petty Cash, which opened on Beverly Boulevard in mid-2013 and in 2015expanded to a second location in Downtown LA’s Arts District.
Walter and Margarita also used the time to finalize the design and concept of a new project in Manila, where Margarita and her family are from. In the years since, Wildflour – a bakery & café which is a joint
project of the Manzkes and Margarita’s sister, Ana – has flourished, expanding to five locations that collectively employ over 400 people. Earlier this year, the group opened the Farmacy, a soda-fountain and ice cream store, and have two more locations slated to open in the next 12 months. In early 2015,the group was awarded the ‘Restaurateurs of the Year’ award by Esquire Philippines.
Back in Los Angeles, the remodel of the old Campanile space was finally completed in the fall of 2013, and RÉPUBLIQUE opened its doors in December of that same year. Since then, the restaurant hasappeared on many ‘best-of’ lists, and was awarded Los Angeles Magazine’s ‘Best New Restaurant’ for2014. With its ever-changing menus full of direct-from-the-market produce, service from an engaged and passionate staff, and the dramatic, cathedral-like space, the Manzkes appear to have yet another hit on their hands.
And yet, despite the number of irons in his proverbial fire, Chef Manzke can still be found almost every night right in front of the literal one, finishing plates at the kitchen pass and chatting with guests in the dining room.