PRESIDENT & CEO
Alan Nathan is no stranger to the restaurant and nightlife scene of Los Angeles. As president and CEO of Choice Hospitality Group, Nathan pioneers new hospitality concepts tailored to the locale, including his most recent undertaking, West Hollywood’s Estrella. Nathan’s Sunset Boulevard restaurant pays homage to the bohemian aesthetic of Laurel Canyon in the 1960s and ‘70s, offering a casual neighborhood-focused destination rooted by exceptional service. “Estrella brings back the fine-dining steps of service without the stiffness of white tablecloths,” says Nathan. The restaurant’s space emulates the bungalows of ‘60s rockers, incorporating a multitude of artful vintage design themes into one cohesive and inviting space.
Flower power informs not only the look and feel of Estrella, but its menu, too. “The food is American with a little adventure, very approachable yet influential,” says Nathan. A focus on authenticity drives every aspect of Estrella, with local bounties filling the kitchen, inspirational finds adorning every wall, and warm smiles on every face.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nathan moved with his family in 1979 to La Jolla, CA. Prior to launching Choice, Nathan worked in Los Angeles for more than 10 years, establishing himself as one of the city’s leading nightlife promoters. After fine-tuning his skills in the nightclub and restaurant industries, Nathan ventured to pursue his dream of developing his own venue, “to create a place where all the senses come together.”
Upon forming Choice, Nathan and his team’s first venue was Tengu, a highly popular Pan-Asian and sushi restaurant in Westwood Village, in 1999. Choice has since created and operated almost 20 other cutting-edge venues: Fuel bar in Hollywood (2000); Cuban-themed Nacional nightclub in Hollywood (2002); The Ivar nightclub in Hollywood (2002); Paladar Bistro Cubano in Hollywood (2003); Lincoln Steakhouse Americana in Santa Monica (2004); Venice Cantina (2005); Holly’s lounge in Hollywood (2006); Holly’s West in Santa Monica (2006); Tengu Santa Monica (2006); The Vanguard nightclub (2009); Playhouse Hollywood nightclub (2009); Lexington Social House in Hollywood (2011); and Agency boutique nightclub in Hollywood (2011).
In 2004, Choice Hospitality Group took on the F&B operations at the W Los Angeles – Westwood, managing banquets, catering, and in-room dining as well as the food service for Whiskey Blue bar and two critically acclaimed restaurants, NINETHIRTY and The Backyard, for more than a decade. Recently Choice ventured into the world of fast-casual dining, opening the health and flavor-focused Sweetfin Poké in Santa Monica in 2015, serving diverse Hawaiian soul food with a California flair.
Venturing again into West Hollywood, Nathan and his team bring Laurel Canyon’s eclectic musical and theatrical history to the modern age at Estrella. “Estrella’s location is what gave it life,” Nathan says. “We go into locations we feel we can add value to.” The rest is, quite literally, history.
Nathan spends his time taking in the culinary and entertainment spoils found throughout the Hollywood Hills, where he resides, and also enjoys a challenging round of golf and a tranquil yoga session.
Having grown up in California in the 1970s, Dakota Weiss feels a strong connection, both culinary and emotional, to Choice Hospitality Group’s Sunset Strip restaurant, Estrella. Inspired by the bohemian rock-and-roll days of Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Estrella’s kitchen mimics Executive Chef Weiss’s own upbringing. “Everything is made in-house from fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients,” she says. “There’s no fluff, no words you can’t pronounce—just good cuisine that people crave.”
Weiss’s menu contributes to the restaurant’s atmosphere of “hippie home” by focusing on shareable items, including small plates and family-style dinners. “The food evokes the comforting feeling you get when you go to a small get-together at a friend’s house. It’s fun, and it’s a little whimsical.”
As part owner, Weiss plays a role in all of the restaurant’s operations, but her primary focus is creating breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that are healthy, nutritious, and approachable but also inspiring and adventurous, such as a hearty midday Cobb salad with roasted Peking duck instead of chicken.
Weiss thanks her mother for developing her appreciation for food; while growing up in Lancaster, CA, Weiss’s mother, suspense novelist Charmaine Coimbria, fed her family only organic and homemade meals sourced mostly from her own garden.
Though Weiss initially pursued a degree in international business, her heightened sense of taste drew her to spend more time baking in the café she worked at than attending classes. Deciding to pursue an education which aligned with her passion, Weiss left New Mexico State University and enrolled at Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona, graduating top of her class. The chef began her career at Coyote Café in Santa Fe alongside Executive Chef Jeff Drew, then followed opportunity to Atlanta, working under Executive Chef Bruno Menard at the Ritz-Carlton. “He taught me how to cook with all my senses: First you see the plate, then you smell it, and then you taste it,” says Weiss.
Returning to her home state, Weiss worked as executive chef at Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, Sunset Tower Hotel’s Tower Bar, and Jer-ne at the Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey, at which she earned the title of “Best New Chef” by Angeleno magazine. Weiss also assisted Stephen Starr in the opening of Parc Restaurant in Philadelphia.
Choice Hospitality Group recruited Weiss in 2011—the same year she appeared on Bravo’s “Top Chef Texas”—to helm its W Los Angeles – Westwood restaurants NINETHIRTY and The Backyard. Two years later, she was named L.A.’s Hottest Chef by Eater.com. Expanding her culinary repertoire, Weiss open Dakota’s POP Parlor, her own brand of innovative gourmet popcorn—recognized by Food Network as one of the “Top 30 Popcorns to Try in America” and CBS Los Angeles as “Best Popcorn in LA”— which is sure to become a staple of Estrella’s adjoining MA Theater and lounge. Prior to opening Estrella, Weiss became consulting chef and part owner of Choice’s Sweetfin Poké, a fast-casual concept serving California-spun Hawaiian soul food that opened in 2015.
When this downtown L.A. resident is not busy in the kitchen, she enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and her two French bulldogs.
Partner and Creative Director
Situated on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, Estrella owes much of its vivacious substance to Brett Nestadt, partner and creative director for Choice Hospitality Group. Nestadt orchestrates the restaurant’s design, décor, and branding, helping to create a service-oriented restaurant and lounge harkening back to the raucous and psychedelic 1960s and ‘70s in Laurel Canyon. “Estrella recalls that formative era in peoples’ minds,” Nestadt says. “It brings to fruition life in Laurel Canyon in the days of Zappa, Mitchell, and Mama Cass.”
Recreating the California bungalows of ‘60s artists, Nestadt ensures Estrella welcomes guests into another time, rooted in the tenets of comfort, service, and curated experiences. “Hospitality is all about entertaining people,” he explains. “Like movies, it gives you a few hours to give someone the feelings you want them to leave with, pulling together décor, music, food, and ambiance to do so.”
Nestadt moved to Los Angeles in 2007 from his birthplace of Johannesburg, South Africa, to pursue a career in the film industry. He attended the University of Southern California, at which he was president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, graduating with a degree in international relations and global business. Nestadt found success in Hollywood, initially working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in post-production, assisting in the releases of “Skyfall,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and “21 Jump Street.” Nestadt later worked as part of the creative development team at Millennium Entertainment and Scott Free Productions.
Nestadt originally collaborated with Choice Hospitality Group President Alan Nathan, also a native of Johannesburg, to develop a music festival in their hometown. Instead, Nestadt’s passion for novel hospitality concepts and health-conscious fast food led the duo, in conjunction with Partner Seth Cohen and Chef Dakota Weiss, to create Sweetfin Poké, a fast-casual establishment dishing out creative California takes on classic Hawaiian soul foods that launched in 2015. Nathan then brought Nestadt on board the Choice team, applying the film buff’s creative vision to experiential hospitality venues. Estrella’s comfortable atmosphere and inspiring kitchen and bar showcase Nestadt’s imaginative creativity in its embodiment of the nonconformist sights, sounds, and feelings of 1960s and ‘70s Laurel Canyon.
Nestadt lives in the Hills, near Laurel Canyon and Estrella. Outside of work, he enjoys keeping active through exercise and yoga, as well as finding relaxation and inspiration in literature, music, and film.