Cecconi’s – one of Los Angeles cult-favorite restaurants. Anyone who is a proper Angeleno has set foot in the establishment either to indulge in the restaurant’s many fine wines or even better, their famed truffle pizza. The restaurant conveniently located on Melrose and Robertson, just a few steps away from other popular restaurants like Catch and Craig’s, has been around since 2009 and is a part of Soho House Co.
And it’s no other than a Swede from Gothenburg, heading the establishment.
Sara Fahlgren, General Manager at Cecconi’s came to the United States five years ago to open up Soho House in Chicago. From Chicago, she made her way to Soho House in Los Angeles, until she finally was given full reign at Cecconi’s West Hollywood.
I sat down with Sara to find out how she had made her way from the west coast in Sweden, to the west coast in the United States, skyrocketing through the hospitality industry in such a short amount of time.
You have made an astonishing career climb in the hospitality industry. Factoring in the struggle of moving to another country makes it all the more admirable but how did you first get started in the hospitality industry?
My first job in the hospitality industry was at the 5-star hotel, Elite Plaza Hotel in Gothenburg, Sweden. I was 15 and worked there on weekends and during the summers.
I would mainly work mornings and room service. Our head chef at the time, Bjorn Tagesson, used to always call us “frukost flingor” [breakfast cereal] I loved it there! Working at a beautiful hotel like the Plaza was really special.
Why did you decide to move to the United States?
I lived in London for 5 years, working for Soho House & Co, when the offer to move to the states presented itself. I first moved to Chicago and opened Soho House Chicago, lived there for one year and LOVED it. Chicago and the midwest people are just wonderful.
I’m happy Chicago was my first stop in the U.S. After one year living there, I was offered to come and work in L.A. to head a new project at Soho House West Hollywood, called Nava. I was there for 3 years but last year in September, my director, Thomas Lennard, offered me the job as the General Manager at Cecconi’s. I was thrilled but so nervous!
What changes have you brought to Cecconi’s, and how would you like to see it grow under your command?
When I first started, we added the plant-based section on our menu, something that I think is so important and also close to my heart. Not only is this a health-based decision, but it’s also important for our environment. We don’t need to eat red meat the way we are, and for an establishment like Cecconi’s, I think it’s important to lead by example.
Cecconi’s has been open for more than 10 years. That’s pretty extraordinary for any restaurant, especially in L.A. For me, it’s so important to be a humble and good neighbor, support where we can and collaborate where possible. I’ve been doing small events with Nike on Melrose, Cycle House, La Peer Hotel and Gelato Festival. Since I took over I have joined the West Hollywood Design District where I’m on the board together with such an amazing group of people. I also recently joined the board at Swedish American Chambers Of Commerce, Los Angeles chapter.
How has being an immigrant impacted your career in the United States?
I would say only for the better. The opportunities in hospitality and working for Soho House & Co have only made me a better and stronger manager and individual.
When I took the job as GM here at Cecconi’s, I was so nervous but in the best possible way. The team here is incredible, they welcomed me with open arms.
What do you miss most about Sweden?
Easy – my family and my childhood friends. I normally go back twice a year, and they all come and visit me here as well. This past Christmas and New Year I had my family here, it was so nice! It’s always such a treat having them here.
I also really miss the seafood on the west coast in Gothenburg. My first stop when I get back is Feskekyrkan, where I get the best crayfish there is, and also Sjobaren in Haga, where the have THE best fish soup.
What do you love about Los Angeles?
The weather. I mean, being able to wake up in the morning and go for a walk or run in perfect weather pretty much every day is such a blessing.
I remind my self every day that I’m very lucky to be living here. I love the west Hollywood area and I walk everywhere. To work, grocery shopping, my spinning classes, and any errands I run.
I also love the fact that the whole city has cities within itself. Spending the day on the beach in Malibu or having 3 dinners on a Sunday night can feel like a small vacation in your own city.
How does the work mentality and corporate world differ in the United States vs Sweden?
In the industry I am in, the hours are the biggest difference compared to Sweden. A normal day for me is around 12h and can get up to 15/16h. It’s hard but if you love something, it doesn’t really matter.
Another big thing I feel is that the hospitality business here in LA is more respected than it is in for example Gothenburg. When I worked in Sweden, I could get comments like; ‘but what do you really wanna do?’ as if the restaurant business was not a pit stop in the wait for something else.
I love what I do and I’ve worked very hard to be in the position that I am in today but here in LA the industry is also better respected compared to Gothenburg.
Cecconi’s is an Italian restaurant but can we expect any Swedish/Italian fusions in the near future?
My head chef, Fabio is the boss in the kitchen and I trust him 100% so I will leave the recipe-making and cooking to him. I’m good at the eating part so I think I will stay away with any of my Swedish infusion
To visit Cecconi’s:
8764 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Monday – Thursday 8 am – 12 am
Friday 8 am – 1 am
Saturday 9 am – 1 am
Sunday 9 am – 11 pm
Happy hour: Tuesday to Saturday from 3 pm to 6 pm
In addition to running Swedes in the States, Natalie is also on the Board of Directors for the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce, Chicago, and a Digital Strategy & Marketing Consultant.
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