6 Questions with Edmond J. Clinton III (Clifton’s Restaurant)

by Jessica on October 3, 2015

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The famous Clifton’s Cafeteria is on the verge of opening back up and the excitement is through the roof! Edmond J. Clinton III has just published a book about the story of Clifton’s. We just so happen to have him for a book talk and signing on October 11 at 4pm. We were lucky enough to pick his brain on a few things ranging from his favorite Clinfton’s dish to the process of writing the book. Take a look at his answers below and we can’t wait to see you on the 11th!

Q: After all these years, why was now the time to write and release a book on Clifton’s?

A: With all of the excitement of Clifton’s Cafeteria re-opening I wanted Los Angeles to know the story of my grandfather who was the man who started it all. His is a fascinating story. As the oldest grandchild of Clifford and Nelda Clinton, I felt it was time to step up and tell an insider’s account of the Clifton’s story. Having a full-time medical practice, it has taken me seven years to research and collect materials to contextualize Clifford Clinton’s important place in Los Angeles history.

Q: Why is Clifton’s important to the history of Los Angeles?

A: Clifton’s was a beacon of hope and a source of nourishing food in the Depression era. It continued its mission of providing healthful food for the body and soul throughout its life span. Because of the renown of the restaurant, Clifford Clinton was able to use his influence to uncover corruption in local government and set the city on a course of reform.

Q: Did you run into any challenges while working on the book?
How were those overcome?

A: The biggest challenge was to establish a timeline of events described in my grandfather’s unpublished memoirs in the context of Los Angeles history (which was complicated at best). This was helped immensely by the esteemed Los Angeles historian Tom Sitton who provided guidance and orientation in the evolution of this story. Dr. Sitton also wrote the Foreword to the book. Many hours of valuable research in libraries including the Huntington Library, USC and UCLA provided primary sources to support my efforts.

Q: What was your favorite part about working and being a part of Clifton’s?

A: I worked for Clifton’s during vacations in high school and college. I learned by doing with many associations with Clifton’s workers, managers, and my father, aunt, and uncle. In retrospect, these connections were very valuable in later life.

Q: What is your favorite dish served at Clifton’s?

A: Strawberry pie—without a doubt.

Q: Can you narrow it down to just one favorite memory of all the years of Clifton’s?  

A: No—there were so many! But, if I get really practical, I guess it was writing job descriptions during my college summer break with the assistance of my dear Aunt Jean who was in charge of food operations. That’s a skill I’ve used many, many times throughout my career—one you don’t learn in medical school.