To enjoy the company of Chef Tara Thomas immediately becomes a whirlwind of conversation filled with laughter, wit, and contagious civic pride focusing upon exciting new developments in her beloved downtown Los Angeles. A fifth-generation Los Angleno, she is a living textbook of knowledge, with enthralling tales of political, cultural, and business elite as well as an uncommon familiarity and appreciation for the city’s many historic, architectural and cultural institutions. Since 1992, her significant presence and contributions have been felt in the re-emerging downtown area first with the opening of her own 410 Boyd, for years a favorite of the arts district residents then with her corporate catering enterprise, named by Los Angeles Downtown News as “Best Caterer” for the duration of her entire tenure at “The Boyd” introduced her cooking to the business districts of downtown Los Angeles, eventually leading her, in 1997, to open her crown jewel, TRAXX, uniquely located in historic Union Station.
TRAXX, rapidly approaching its fourteenth year in business, is now considered an institution in the Los Angeles restaurant community. It is an honor shared by few other venues. Tara has remained a critically acclaimed and highly successful restaurateur throughout the years and one of the few founding chefs to helm a restaurant that has had such longevity. TRAXX continues to gain plaudits from not only local publications (Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Los Angeles Weekly and The Downtown News) but also national publications as well (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Bon Appetit). Tara has been a regular feature on national television, radio and webcasts. Growing with rapidly changing times, she is embracing new social media networking and is in the process of launching a revised website which is scheduled to “go live” mid-April; this will give TRAXX the platform to incorporate a “Chef’s Blog” interfacing on a daily basis with outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, among others. TRAXX has consistently maintained four-star reviews on sites such as Yelp, Opentable and Citysearch.
Tara has been sought out by and had the privilege of cooking for many political luminaries on national, state and civic levels. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Vice-President Al Gore and Senator Barbara Boxer chose her, above all others, to cater their private receptions downtown. She has hosted every living governor of California either at Traxx or at private homes, as well as many other state leaders based in Sacramento. On the civic level, Tara has, over the years, hosted virtually every elected official from mayors to the council members, the board of supervisors, city and district attorneys, and controllers. She has the good fortune to count many of them as personal friends.
Tara credits her years of experience with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company for cultivating her philosophies of restaurant management and exacting standards for food and service quality. In 1997, her experiences culminated in the opening of TRAXX at Union Station, her destination restaurant, thus realizing a dream come true amidst one of LA’s prized historic landmarks – an uncommon cocoon of tranquil beauty and serenity, tucked neatly into the heart of one of America’s largest intermodal passenger terminals.
Prior to her experience with Ritz-Carlton, Tara graduated with honors from the California Culinary Academy. Her career began with a two-year apprenticeship at the 5-star, 5-diamond Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. She traveled to Italy, cooking at the venerable Trattoria Blasut, in Lavoriano, eventually returning home to California to head the in-house entertaining divisions of both Domaine Carneros and Calera Wineries. After being a key member of the opening team at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, she relocated to Los Angeles in 1992 to open 410 Boyd and was subsequently tapped to conceptualize and oversee TRAXX as a first phase in the redevelopment of Union Station.
Tara’s accomplishments underscore a vital rebirth of downtown’s institutions, both new and old. With an influx of newcomers via the continued expansion of public transport into Union Station, as well as Disney Hall, MOCA, the Music Center, the City of Angels Cathedral, Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre a new-found following of admirers are discovering TRAXX. “Downtown has a very special place in my heart,” says Tara, “so it’s not only inspirational, but also fitting, for me to be in Union Station, the traditional yet continually evolving gateway to the city.”
Actively involved and committed to her community, Tara Thomas shines as a visible symbol of civic pride and ingenuity, bringing to TRAXX an elegant, sophisticated menu of international cuisine, symbolic not only of the many lives that have passed through the historic station, but also capturing the cosmopolitan mix of peoples that comprise Los Angeles. With evolving menus, reflective of the seasons’ availability, as well as the creative inspirations of a talented and resourceful chef, Tara Thomas and TRAXX stand as testament to both commitment and quality, as well as the increasing possibilities of downtown LA as a unique and vital destination, full of entertainment, music, theatre, art, and exciting dining.