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Food’s Future is getting “Better Better”, led by WhatIf Foods and Chris Langwallner

The Future of food is getting “Better Better” thanks to WhatIf Foods and Chris Langwallner.

WhatIF Foods believes in a better better.

Tasty, delicious foods that are better for our bodies, better for our taste buds and farmer buds alike. Better for degraded lands, our eco-systems and naturally… better for cows.

Today I had the chance to have a conversation (via zoom) with WhatIF Food’s Chris Langwallner to talk about inspiration, their foods, their flavors and the science and technology making it all happen.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full conversation visit our YouTube channel.

Today we are here with Chris Langwallner from What If Foods. Thanks for joining us today.

Absolute pleasure. I cannot thank you enough. It’s fantastic to be here and letting our story get out a little bit. So thank you very much. I’m excited because it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

 

 

We’re talking about plant-based foods, we’re talking about planet based foods and for a “better-better” world. I’m hoping you’ll clarify that for us.

 

I look forward to it. Yes, it’s all about a planet based food company. It’s all about regenerating. It’s all about reconnecting to communities, restoring the greater land, and making sure that we are replenishing the nutrients we need on a day-to-day basis.

 

What inspired you to get into plant-based food?

 

To be honest with you, as a planet based company I think what really inspired me to get into a better way of doing things is actually a call out of my grandfather.

He has been always saying, leave this planet a better world than how you found it. When I was a young boy, I couldn’t understand. It was too abstract. I couldn’t really get my head around. But as I was then working in the industry for 20, 25 years you look behind the scenes, and you see how food is being manufactured on large scale and how profitability over shadows a lot of decision making.

And on the other flip side of the coin, there is a community out there, about 2.6 billion people. This planet makes a direct income or an indirect income from farming activities. And the vast majority, more than two thirds of these people are the poorest of the poor. And we are leaving them behind. And that’s not fair to them because what we have on the plates has been harvested by them.

They take care of their land. And if we leave them behind in the current state of affairs We’ll see many tears in their eyes. And it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be totally different. And hence my strife was really to look at the planetary health and its affairs as well as humanity overall.

And thinking about that must be a better way of doing things and how can we improve it, not incrementally, but really make a system change. And here we are basically inspired by my grandfather. 

On your website, you take some very science-based heavy content and you make it fun and easy.  Talk about that process.

 

It’s a team effort. Honestly, there’s a huge team behind the scenes that works tirelessly on improving our communication and our style and our tone. But the essence of it all is that we understand that Gen Zs and today’s youth are essentially those consumer groups that are on this planet.

Probably the first sort of generation that is fully educated in sustainability. And they have their ability today by one click of a button to really look behind the scenes and understand whether or not there is BS or whether or not there’s transparency, there’s honesty, and there is a different approach to things.

So that is one aspect of things. So we wanted to really make sure we are speaking to the youth on this planet. The second aspect of it all is that, You open your social media feeds today, or you open a media channel, you switch on your television and you are bombarded with bad news, after bad news.

And quite frankly, I have worked in universities and with students and I have been shocked by the fact that people, young guys, talk to me, ‘Hey, I don’t care about sustainability. I don’t care about our planet because it’s so crappy. Everything is so bad. I might as well just enjoy the time span I have on this planet.’

 

And I was shocked in contrast to what my grandfather told me. Today’s youth, some of them, not all, a fraction of them think like that. Or in other words I met this young girl and she says, I don’t know if I want to have children. Because I don’t know whether or not I would like to give birth to people that then inherit a planet that is so hot.

And all of that together was just making me restless and I wanted to really change things and and take this finite time span that I have on this planet to try as hard as I possibly can to leave it better than I found it. And that’s what I strive for. Hence we’re speaking with a fun and engaging voice.

We are speaking with colors and we are speaking with cartoons so that we basically get this heavy message across in an uplifting way and saying, Hey, you can be part of something. That actually does the opposite. It’s not grim. Yes. If we change, we can make this. We’re a better place and here we are.

Thanks for the call out. The credit goes to my team.

 

As we segue into the products themselves, what I wanna highlight is this BamNut Is that the nickname for the Bambara Groundnut?

 

Yeah, so we came up with Bamnut as a short version, as an acronym for the Bambara Ground Nut, which in reality is a legume, a legume that helps us fix nitrogen organically in soils that are essentially degraded and left behind by intensive agriculture.

The Bamnut word came about in Singapore. We actually did not quite know when we started using it. We didn’t quite know how the Americans would pronounce it. And then we found out, alright, it’s the Bamnut. So it all turned out to be so witty and entertaining and just perfect fit for a “better, better” to be honest.

 

Because that’s a main ingredient in all of your food. Let’s talk about what is a BamNut. Why is it magical and unique?

 

I was walking through the world of agro food over the past 20 years, and I’ve always been hugely concerned about the massive speed of land degradation, particularly on arid land.

And that’s getting accelerated because of climate change; and the weather is changing; and the rains and the monsoons are not hitting regularly anymore. So it becomes increasingly more difficult to plant, the planting season to make sure that you are having the seeds in the ground before the rains hit them and so on and so forth.

So it becomes really challenging for folks. So land turpitation has always been a huge concern of mine because another, on the flip side of that, we are losing about 25 soccer fields worth of arid land every minute, while at the very same minute, the same amount of primary forests have been cut down.

So if you compare and contrast these two figures, what it tells me is that in order to make way for the old food industry, we actually cut primary forest and we leave land behind. And that is the wrong thing to do. That is one aspect of things. 

The other aspect of things is I had once the fantastic opportunity to have an interview with Dr. Roy Steiner of the Rockefeller Foundation. And he gave a casual shoutout and he said, nowhere in the world do we produce and consume enough legumes. And I was thinking, why does he say that? But then it’s quite obvious if you think it through, because we are depending so much on crops that the land that basically holds the crops is deprived from organic nitrogen fixing crops like the legumes, and in the absence of nitrogen being fixed through the legumes, we throw endless amounts of synthetic fertilizers on the ground in order to make up for it.

That’s an aspect of things that also worried me.  But today the input costs have gone through the roof is it unravels all over the world and it has gotten more and more expensive to do so the degrading of land in one pocket, I was basically going through my work with that sort of lens.

Then there’s this whole water issue. We are big time irrigating crops, but what does that do? It just slows down the loss of water tables because the moment we take water out of the ground, the water tables are collapsing. I have numbers for that. I had a business in India a long time ago, and it used to be 30 meters, and today it’s probably 90 to 120 meters.

So water is basically a huge issue. There was another lens through which I looked at, and then I was at a conference in Jakarta, and I happened to run into a scientist. He said to me that he works on the Bambara groundnut. It’s a complete crop.  I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. So what does that mean?”

And I started to really explore that much more deeper. And a complete crop turns out to be essentially a crop that has all micronutrients in the sort of right balance that we need. On top of it, it has all nine essential amino acids that we need. It has rich fatty acids, quality fatty acids, as well as car complex carbohydrates.  So fiber. 

You remember the forgotten macronutrient fibers for our microbiomes? So I got really inspired. So I looked up the amino acid profile and I saw it is rich in plutonic acid or spartic acid. So these are very cool amino acids in terms of generating nice flavors. And off I was; I organized the first couple of five kilos and the trial started, and that’s years and years ago.

In the meantime, the Bambara groundnut actually taught us a few lessons because it’s a very hearty nut and it really takes an effort to make cool products outta it.

 

It’s called a complete product, is that correct?

 

A complete food.  A complete crop or complete food crop.

 

Right now all of the products on your website are based from BamNut. I see Bam Nut milk. I see noodles with seasonings, and then there’s bundles and swag and all kinds of delicious things.

In the future, are we expanding that beyond or what’s the scope?

 

We would love to explore new categories as we build our business. There are so many occasions throughout the day where we can actually incorporate the bambara ground in exciting products, and we look forward to doing that.

Our focus right now is definitely our milk portfolio. It’s a wonderful product. I encourage everybody to have a little taste and Judge for yourself. We have a client in Los Angeles, a coffee roaster, who said ‘This is the closest thing to cow milk that I’ve ever seen in plant-based milk.’ 

We call it planet based milk. I have to say again, shout out to my team in the R&D side of things because they have established a wonderful product essentially with just three ingredients: that’s water, the bambara groundnut, not coconut oil. The rest is essentially technology behind the scenes that actually makes it foam nicely, very stable foam, small bubbles. So you can do latte art. 

Our Airy [flavor] is essentially the one that I would use for a nice drink, like a shake.

In between there is the Every Day [flavor] that goes essentially into my cereal in the morning. 

What are the flavors?

 

Today we are in the market with three different products.

The first one in a slightly black sort of packaging is the Barista. It has the richest mouthfeel. It is the creamiest. We have designed it to perform fantastic or be able to perform fantastic latte art. So it really goes into the cappuccino sort of an experience rather nicely.

I personally take it also for Boba tea. I might as well use the bambara groundnut and foam it up. 

I have my little trick with the barista. I actually froth it in the frother and I put my espresso shot into the frother with the barista together. So I froth it together. But that is just me. I just like it that way. 

Then we have the purple package, which is our Everyday. My wife uses it in baking. We do make cakes, like traditional Austria style, and we totally use only the Everyday [flavor] for that.

Friends of mine [pour] it into their cereals in the morning. It’s a little bit richer, earthy, nutty in character because we do tend to roast the nuts a little bit stronger in the process of making it.

Last but not least, we have our Airy [flavor], which is the lightest one of it all. It is the mint colored package. It is the one that people take into milkshakes and protein shakes. 

 

Let’s move on to Noodles

 

We wanted to create technologies that help us regenerate what’s broken. And today a large portion of all ramen that is being consumed on a day-to-day basis globally is deep fried in palm oil. Palm oil leaves huge banks of land degraded behind, particularly after the third cycle of palm plantations being grown.

We see the aftermath of the palm plantation industry essentially now in Southeast Asia. Therefore we were alerted when we started this project to basically say no to frying and no to deep frying and no, to essentially dehydrating instant noodles or ramen using that sort of process.

So we invented a technology that actually took that sort of challenge away. We invented an industrial scale air frying technology. Once you actually don’t fry anymore, you save about 20% of the space because 20% of palm oil is [based] in the noodle product of classic ramen.  That’s what it absorbs in the frying process. 

So if you don’t deep fry, you save 20%. Now nutrients will survive. Now colors may survive.  Then we replaced all the palm oil with the Bambara. 

We started to actually say, how can we bring color and different flavors and textures on the plates of consumers? And we created these four different products with the four different colors, which is essentially the black one, which is charcoal driven, moringa is green, pumpkin is orange and the original is yellow.

So four different options, all the same philosophy. 

The backbone of making it is the same, but then we add different nutrients to it to have fun, and then we add fancy seasonings to it, which makes just a nice flavor experience as well.

 

 

Our audience is passionate, hungry, curious, foodies. What does it actually taste like?

 

I’m extremely proud of our Noodles because even without the seasonings, you can cook them up and eat them and you will have a wonderful experience.

Try and contrast that with other ramen that you find in the market, and you will come back to our offering immediately because they’re just tasting nice. 

So our starting point of then adding the seasonings to it, like hot and spicy, or the mushrooms is an easy undertaking. It is actually an easy sort of concept to work with because if you have a neutral and nice taste to start with from the noodle base, you can build interesting flavor profiles on top.

Rather than having to use heavy flavors to mask off-flavor from a product base, or not so nice processes or even crappy raw materials. We don’t have that challenge. 

We also decided very early on to keep the salt at a minimum to stay away from any flavor enhancers. No MSG,  we’ve tried to keep it as clean as we possibly can.

We’ve tried to use as much spice as we can access.  No flavoring and stuff like that. I’ve been in that industry for over 20 years.  We thought let’s stay honest, to the product as well, to the noodles as well. And that has been a fantastic journey.

Our “Original, is a hot and sweet, hot and spicy pairing.  In Southeast Asia, it’s based on wok cooking. That’s my personal favorite. I eat it on salads with a little bit of a balsamico dressing

We have with Sesame Garlic, many kids who go for a green one. 

Pumpkin with the traditional Indian curry offer a great pairing. Watch out, it comes hot and spicy.  Typical Indian flavors. 

Last but not least is our charcoal with mushrooms. It’s fantastic for, if you go out to have a beer and come home and wanna have a bite, go for it. It’s a good one. 

How did you decide which flavors to choose? Was it a lot of trial and error?

 

There’s a lot of trial and error. There’s a lot of pairing up with our noodles.

What we have tried to do is really look into what are the best pairings for these sort of flavors.

From that point of view, we also wanted to stay with our seasonings. We wanted to stay essentially planet based.  None of our ingredients have any animal derived products in it.

You look at the charcoal, you cook it up, you eat it, you give it to a chef, let him experiment around. 

We had a Spanish chef take our charcoal and put it into a paella. All of a sudden there was a totally different sort of recipe.

The way we actually derived the final products has also a lot to do with people that actually use it day-to-day in the kitchen and learn from them.

 

What’s the future of WhatIf foods?

 

We are going to enter new categories of food and we are gonna expand our existing categories with new products. 

But I probably would love to use the opportunity to take you along on a more philosophical sort of journey for WhatIf foods and what comes hopefully in the next couple of years to come, because I think we have a better opportunity that needs doubling down now.

What I’m talking about is really the cost of the way we are making everything right from originating bambara groundnut, with partnering farming communities in all parts of Ghana. Encouraging them, making the ingredients ourselves, and then making the food applications, making the food, and then basically taking it to retail all the way through to Manhattan and other parts of the US.

So it’s that entire regenerative value chain that we have created and what that actually represents to us is an opportunity to really explore the intersection between soil health and restoring the soil that has been once degraded from intensive agriculture. 

It is that intersection of renewable energy because the Bambara groundnut now grows in a shell and hence the shell has energy in there and can be used in order to fire up essentially for power.

If you do that smartly, you generate biochar. With biochar, you then actually sequester carbon from the atmosphere into the soils permanently for hundreds, if not a thousand years to come.

 And last but not least, another intersection is wellbeing for consumers. We call them “Better Believers” as well as farming communities because we work with them directly.

We are proud of the fact that we have increased profit, not income; profit of farmers who work with us by 300%. 

At 2.5 acres, these farmers are permanently uplifted above the poverty line. That’s the intersection we really wanna double down to. Again, soil health, renewable energy, carbon sequestration.

Well-being for both the better believers as consumers, as well as the farming communities. Its possible and we’re looking forward to doing that on a large scale. If we wanna fulfill the demand that we hopefully can create, then we will probably need about 20,000 farmers to do that in the next five to ten years to come.

And then generate all the energy that we need internally to be there for carbon zero.  Even further carbon or maybe even participate in the carbon market through certificates. That’s our next challenge. That’s where we wanna go.

 

Find more about What If Foods on their website

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Performance and Spirit:  ‘Lovers and Other Strangers’ at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio Fri-Sat nights only thru Feb 2024

 

Performance and Spirit Stand out with  “Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio.“Lovers and Other Strangers” runs at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio Fri-Sat nights only through February 2024.  The Taylor Acting Studio is an indie theater that hosts actors workshops, classes and shows at 2401 W. Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, CA.  

Cast attends Grand Opening of play “Lovers and Other Strangers” at The Taylor Studio, Los Angeles, CA, February 17th, 2024

 

Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Starring cast of Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

For those unaware of “indie theater”, it’s a typical “black box” theater.  What it lacks in production budget, it makes up for in spirit and talent.  It’s a place where you discover hidden gems.  And tonight, we found several.

Singer Vanessa Bejine attends Grand Opening of play "Lovers and Other Strangers" at The Taylor Studio, Los Angeles, CA, February 17th, 2024

Singer Vanessa Bejine attends Grand Opening of play “Lovers and Other Strangers” at The Taylor Studio, Los Angeles, CA, February 17th, 2024

The concern was how well would a risque 1970s sex comedy play in LA’s woke 2024.

Let’s find out… 

Lovers and Other Strangers at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

I didn’t walk into the show thinking of it as a “Girls Night Out”, but tonight it definitely played in that direction.    The packed theater was 70% women, who laughed, giggled and gasped throughout.

“Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Charly Taylor, Bradley Holzer, “Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Scene 1: Brenda & Jerry

Starring Charly Taylor, Bradley Holzer

What if your best and worst date was the same date?  Holzer’s “Jerry” tries to make his date night a little sexier while Taylor’s Brenda terrorizes him with naive or not-so-much wishy-washy responses.   

Taylor’s Brenda is electric as she walks on stage against Holzer’s kinetic energy.  It’s a high energy, flirty scene that stays fresh thanks to the performer’s chemistry. 

Painfully relatable.  Hilarious.  And it sets the tone for the night.  Laughing. Squirming. Following these characters through a maze of love, romance, disgust, bitterness.  

Phillip Latini, Elizabeth Kyokwijuka

Scene 2: Hal & Cathay

Starring Phillip Latini, Elizabeth Kyokwijuka

Do you love dialogue?  Phillip Latini and Elizabeth Kyokwijuka clearly love their dialogue and are having so much fun.  

Like a tennis match where they volley their bleeding hearts (and heartache) back and forth.  Heartbreak, swing, betrayal, swing, jealousy, embrace. Then repeat.  Latini offers a sneering performance demanding Kyokwijuka’s intensity and delicious she delivers. Great scene!

Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio

Scene 3: Johnny & Wilma

Starring Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina

If you’ve seen Kuzmina’s work on the big screen before you know how easily she holds her stage presence.  

Tonight Kuzmina’s “Wilma” steals the scene in the first few moments with a quiet confidence and a misbehaving perfume bottle. Then like a cat and mouse game, she taunts, teases and plays Santoro’s Johnny until he can’t take it anymore.  He’s a mountain of a guy who’s gentle until he’s not.  When Santoro fires back it becomes a chess match. Physically, emotionally, psychologically.  Tossing and turning – the more they fight, the more their chemistry builds and what does that say about love?

Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt

Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt

Scene 4: Susan & Mike

 

Starring Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt

In tonight’s opening scene, Taylor is electric.  Now she visits us again. In this scene she shows another side  – calmly keeping pace while Wyatt takes the spotlight burning through his dialogue.   He bares his soul with vulnerability, angst, anger, desperation. 

Nathaniel Wyatt has leading man relatability.  Think Tom Hanks in 1984’s massive hit “Splash”.  If he and Charly Taylor aren’t pitching themselves (Hanks and Darryl Hannah, respectively) to the studios for a remake, the movie-loving world is missing out.

 

Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney

Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney

Scene 5: Bea, Frank, Rickie & Joan

 

Starring Eugenia Kuzmina, Sergio Lanza, Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney.

Throughout the night we’ve seen couples wrestling with every quirk and detail of relationships, healthy and not.  Here we see two married couples, one older, one younger – and how both couples are dealing with all of romance’s issues.

Sergio Lopez should win acclaim for his performance in this scene.  In a room full of bombastic characters, your eyes keep going back to him as he makes the subtlest of feelings quake the entire theater.

Sergio Lanza brings heart to the room and a baseline to Lopez’s reactions.  Lopez and Lanza should work together more often.  As Lanza’s internal boiling builds, he fills the room with emotion that all of the actors play off in the second half of the scene. The ensemble harmony is so flavorful and fun.  

Cue Jordan Whitney’s entrance who brings sunshine on a cloudy day.  Moments later, she informs Kuzmina’s performance in one of the highlights of the evening.

Eugenia Kuzmina reveals herself as a character actress

Eugenia Kuzmina reveals herself as a character actress. You know her best from several turns in Hollywood blockbusters, most notably gangsters and spies in big-budget Guy Ritchie movies.

But tonight she’s having a blast playing against type.  She’s moody and vulnerable.  Playing a lowly housewife with a lifetime of regrets. A woman in the audience goes from sobbing to full-on guffawing within seconds thanks to Kuzmina’s heartbreaking monologue in the second half of the scene.

One specific beat is so raw, honest, yet bitterly funny.  Kuzmina captures the mood.

It’s the perfect scene to end the show on.  

Eugenia Kuzmina

Eugenia Kuzmina

 

Indie Theater at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio is a fun date night

Why is indie theater important? Because in a town like LA, you can be sure these guys aren’t doing it for the money or the fame.  They’re performing for you tonight because they love it.

Director Jennifer Taylor Acting Studio

Director Jennifer Taylor from Taylor Acting Studio

Years ago, I was sitting in a black box theater and after the show I noticed an Oscar-winning filmmaker getting up from his seat in the back row.  On the walk out, I nudged him about why he was there.  He replied, “Eh, I had a tough week.  Got me cynical.  These kids helped remind me that I love storytelling.”  

Joe Winger at the premiere weekend

Joe Winger at the premiere weekend

If you love storytelling, give indie theater a try.  Pick a restaurant within walking distance.  Make it as date night.

Los Angeles’ A.O.C. Welcomes Celebrated Guest Sommelier Bobby Stuckey MS Feb 28

Los Angeles’ A.O.C. Welcomes Celebrated Guest Sommelier Bobby Stuckey MS Feb 28

Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin welcome the co-owner of Frasca Food & Wine and Scarpetta Wines to A.O.C. on 3rd Street for an evening showcasing his boutique wines.

Caroline Styne and Chef Suzanne Goin will host a special evening at A.O.C. on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, featuring James Beard Foundation award-winner Bobby Stuckey of Boulder’s Frasca Food & Wine and Scarpetta Wines.

Bobby will serve as Guest Sommelier, showcasing the imported wines of Murva and his own Scarpetta Wines.

Caroline Styne has curated wine flights to be enjoyed during dinner, and guests can also choose from featured bottles from Murva or the Scarpetta wine library.

Additionally, A.O.C. will offer a selection of Italian cheeses for wine pairings. The menu will be à la carte, and reservations for the event are encouraged.

“I am beyond excited to have my idol,

Bobby Stuckey, working the floor with us at A.O.C.”

Caroline Styne

“His charisma and dedication to outstanding hospitality are inspirational.”

This evening presents a rare opportunity to meet Bobby Stuckey, a highly talented and charismatic figure in the hospitality industry.

WHEN:

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

5:30 – 10:00 p.m.

WHERE: A.O.C., 8700 W. 3rd Street Los Angeles, California 90049

Phone: 310.859.9859

Bobby Stuckey began his distinguished career in restaurants in his home state of Arizona, working his way from dishwasher to management, establishing his position as one of the leaders in the hospitality industry.

He joined the staff of The Little Nell restaurant in Aspen as a sommelier in 1995. During his five-year tenure, The Little Nell received numerous awards for wine and service, including Gourmet’s “Best Wine Service” Award; Mobile Travel Guide’s Five Star Hotel and Restaurant Rating; Wine Spectator’s Grand Award; and a nomination from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine Service.

In 2000, Stuckey moved west to work with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California.

Within his first year, Stuckey led the acclaimed restaurant’s team to earn the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine Service award and San Francisco Magazine recognized him as “Wine Director of the Year.”

The French Laundry received the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Service in 2003. It was during his tenure at The French Laundry where Bobby met his future business partner, chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson.

With the vision of opening a neighborhood restaurant reminiscent of the Italian frascas they had visited in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, Stuckey and Mackinnon Patterson opened their first restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, in August 2004, in Boulder, Colorado. Having researched and traveled throughout Italy many times, both were deeply inspired by this region in particular — the international influences of its cuisine, the profusion of local ingredients in its rustic yet elegant dishes, its passionate relationship between food and wine, and the gracious hospitality of the locals. Receiving his Master Sommelier Diploma in 2004, Stuckey has been bestowed with some of the restaurant and wine industrys’ highest honors such as James Beard Foundation nominations for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional, Outstanding Wine Service, and won the prestigious award for Outstanding Wine Service in 2013.

In 2007, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson launched Scarpetta Wines to produce Friulian white wines. They now produce over eight varietals. In January 2011, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson opened Pizzeria Locale Boulder, a full-service, contemporary pizzeria inspired by the traditional pizzerias of Naples, Italy located adjacent to sister restaurant Frasca with a similar attention to hospitality in a contemporary, laid back, interactive atmosphere. The partners also own and operate fast-fine versions of Pizzeria Locale Denver, with four locations in the Denver Metro area.

In the fall of 2017, Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson, along with partners Peter Hoglund, and Continuum Partners’ Mark Falcone, opened Tavernetta in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood. Located directly off the Union Station train platform, Tavernetta is inspired by Italy’s vast culinary traditions, with a menu that celebrates authentic regional classics from across the entire country in an approachable and welcoming environment. In December 2019, they opened Sunday Vinyl, a European-inspired wine bar & restaurant dedicated to providing the highest quality analog listening experience, adjacent to Tavernetta in downtown Denver.

Frasca Food and Wine celebrated 15 years in 2019 and the same year, under Bobby’s direction, the restaurant won the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Service (changed to Outstanding Hospitality for the 2020 Awards thanks to Bobby’s recommendation).

ABOUT SCARPETTA WINES:

Scarpetta — The drivers of Scarpetta Wine are Bobby Stuckey M.S. and Lachlan Patterson former chef de partie at The French Laundry. They conspired to open a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado and thanks to a fateful trip to the Alpine region of Italy they had their inspiration… the cuisine and culture of Friuli. Always digging deeper for Friulian inspiration, Bobby and Lachlan travel to the region several times a year, even taking their entire staff along for a week of eating, wine tasting and general Friuli-worship every summer. It was only natural that when Bobby and Lachlan dreamt about starting their own wine label they looked first to the beautiful whites of Friuli, and Scarpetta was born. Murva – Moraro and Mariano del Friuli, Isonzo – The wines produced by Alberto Pelos at Murva are pure and vibrant.  Alberto, who spent many years as winemaker at Vie di Romans, describes the vineyard soils that comprise Murva’s vineyards as dolomitic, with small pebbles rich in iron and aluminum, and a high sand and clay content (feretto). He farms 4 hectares of vineyards that he owns, and 1 hectare that he farms in the center of town which is part of a community outreach program to support troubled youth.  The Murva wines have distinct salinity and energy that are not to be missed by any lover of Northern Italian whites.

ABOUT THE LUCQUES GROUP:

With the opening of Lucques, their flagship restaurant, in 1998, James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef/Author Suzanne Goinand award-winning Restaurateur Caroline Styne planted the seeds for The Lucques Group, a Los Angeles hospitality company that comprises two fine dining restaurants – A.O.C. in both Los Angeles and Brentwood. Along with these culinary enterprises, the company also owns the Larder Baking Company and oversees Hollywood Bowl Food + Wine, which curates all the food and beverage outlets at L.A.’s iconic music venue. The duo also operates two new restaurants – Caldo Verde and Cara Cara, and the new Dahlia cocktail bar at the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel. The Lucques Group is dedicated to seasonally influenced cooking and focuses on sourcing local, organic produce from which Goin creates soulful dishes that are bold in flavor, vibrant, layered and complex.

Pasadena’s Newest: Pez Coastal Kitchen Brings Incredible Taste and Romance with Upscale sea and farm-to-table, seasonal California cuisine

Pasadena Newest Pez Coastal Kitchen brings Taste and Romance with upscale sea and farm-to-table, seasonal California cuisine

Executive Chef & Proprietor Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez proudly announce the official Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen, their new upscale seafood focused eatery in Pasadena on Thursday, February 15th, 2024!

Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen Thursday, February 15th

Executive Chef Proprietor Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez proudly announce the official Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen

Executive Chef Proprietor Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez proudly announce the official Grand Opening of Pez Coastal Kitchen // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Located on the corner of Union Street and North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena’s hottest culinary spot, Pez Coastal Kitchen promises a lively and innovative dining experience with a focus on sea and farm-to-table, seasonal California cuisine.

Pez Coastal Kitchen's Oysters on the Half Shell

Pez Coastal Kitchen’s Oysters on the Half Shell // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez are a dynamic husband and wife team that have made a significant impact in the hospitality industry. With their passion for culinary excellence and warm hospitality, they have created a signature name for themselves in the Los Angeles dining scene and beyond and they are now joined at Pez Coastal Kitchen in Pasadena with their magnetic team of top industry professionals Director of Operations Chris Mesa, Chef Joe Gillard, General Manager Brittany Player, and Bar Manager Mike Dane.

Pez Coastal Kitchen's Bar

Pez Coastal Kitchen’s Bar // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Chef Bret Thompson’s culinary journey began at the renowned California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where he then honed his skills at esteemed establishments such as Aqua in San Francisco, Roy’s in Hawaii, and Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, California.

Seeking international inspiration, Bret traveled to Spain to study under Chef Martin Berasategui at Restaurante Martin Berasategui, a Michelin 2-star establishment in Lasarte, Spain.

He further expanded his culinary repertoire in Lebanon at Atlas Café, then studied under Chef Bernard Loiseau at La Cote d’Or his Michelin 3-star restaurant in Saulieu, France, and then L’Arpege, Chef Alain Passard’s Michelin 3-star restaurant in Paris.

Throughout his career, Bret also had an extensive tenure with The Patina Group, working at multiple restaurants, running catering operations and ultimately becoming the Corporate Executive Chef overseeing all restaurant operations for the entire group.

Pez Coastal Kitchen's Dining Room

Pez Coastal Kitchen’s Dining Room // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

In 2007 to 2022, Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez owned Milk Ice Cream, and in 2015 they decided to embark on a new culinary adventure together as the proud owners of Pez Cantina, their seasonal, modern, coastal-inspired Mexican restaurant and bar, located in downtown Los Angeles which quickly became a beloved dining destination and in October 2021, they expanded with a new location in Montebello, California, LA Burrito Co.

Thompson and Thompson-Ramirez’s newest venture will continue their commitment to sea-to-table and farm-to-table cuisine, but as Chef Joe Gillard joins Executive Chef Bret Thompson in the kitchen, the focus at Pez Coastal Kitchen will be on innovative techniques such as curing, smoking, and the specialized dry-aging of seafood which will be a distinctive feature.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Rosemary Paloma

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Rosemary Paloma // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

This new concept will focus on seafood, but will also extend beyond, encompassing meat, poultry, and a unique emphasis on the curing and smoking of meats and seafood, known as Sea-cuterie.

Executive Chef Bret Thompson is excited to go back to his European roots.

“I’m excited to serve seasonal cuisine with a big seafood nuance.”

Executive Chef Bret Thompson

“We will be showcasing shellfish towers like you might see in the streets of Paris at the brasseries. We’ll also be doing whole fish fries, and we have a massive open ice area where guests can see all the fresh seafood, we will be serving each night including whole fish, shrimp, oysters, sea urchin, and whatever is in season.”

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Seafood Tower

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Seafood Tower // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

The Pez Coastal Kitchen Menu starts off with Appetizers which include Chilled Beets with hazelnuts, burrata, winter greens and a hibiscus vinaigrette, the Pez Caesar prepared with gem lettuce, black kale, pepitas, colossal nori crisp, and white anchovies, Black Mussels a la Bouillabaisse with smoked pepper rouille and sesame griddle cake, and Crispy Sweetbreads Fritto Misto with a black lime aioli.

The Chilled Seafood and Crudos decadently spotlight Pez Coastal Kitchen’s seafood at its finest starting with a Chilled Seafood Tower for Two showcasing a ½ lobster, six jumbo shrimp, twelve oysters, four crab claws, and two scallop aguachile shooters, with a selection of sauces – black garlic aioli, mignonette, and salsa macha, Daily Oysters on the Half Shell, Dry-Aged Kingfish Crudo, Hokkaido Scallop Tartare, and Steelhead Trout Rillette served with American sturgeon caviar, forbidden rice cake, and pickled shallots.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Spaghetti alla Chitarra // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Pez Coastal Kitchen Entrees

The Entrees are recommended to be enjoyed family-style featuring Whole Fried Fish, Alaskan Halibut, Seared Jumbo Scallops served with a smoked ham-celery fritter and truffled apple salad, Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Prime Center Cut Filet of Ribeye with a green peppercorn demi and Pez fries, Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Manila clams, mussels, and uni nage, and Crispy Half-Chicken with chicken “lule”, petite roasted carrots and radish, apricot, sage, and carrot demi.

Pez Coastal Kitchen Veggies and Sides

And finally, a selection of exceptional Veggies and SidesPotato Gratin with bacon, gruyere, and cippolini onions, Yam Skins with green tahini, whipped feta and Marcona almonds, Hickory Smoked Cauliflower Steak with a spicy kumquat glaze, and shallot yogurt, and Brussels Sprouts with Red Boat caramel, seed crunch, and black garlic vinegar.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Citrus Olive Oil Cake

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Citrus Olive Oil Cake // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Dessert

Dessert is equally exciting with innovative delights such as Warm Chocolate Butterscotch Peanut Butter Cake with honeycomb ice cream, Citrus Olive Oil Cake served with mascarpone pistachio cream, limoncello granité, and strawberry, Mint Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sundae with Chocolate Strings, and Chai Spice Poached Pear with hazelnut crunch, tart yogurt, and blackberry compote.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Mint Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sundae

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Mint Chip Ice Cream Brownie Sundae // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Bar

Complementing the mouthwatering menu is the well-stocked Pez Coastal Kitchen Bar, a long contemporary bar with a stunning emerald marble bar top, high ceiling, and magnificent fans making it a haven for cocktail enthusiasts and diners alike.

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Matcha Sour

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Matcha Sour // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

Bar Manager Mike Dane has curated an exceptional cocktail program, featuring the Rosemary Paloma, Matcha Sour, Chartreuse Colada, and the signature Happy Wife, Happy Life comprised of Redemption High-Rye bourbon and Liquid Alchemist Apple Spice with a sugared apple crisp, along with an extensive selection of Premier Spirits, Wines, and Beers

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Lounge & Bar

Pez Coastal Kitchen, Lounge, Bar // Photo Credit: Jakob N. Layman

 

Pez Coastal Kitchen sits in a historical building that was built in 1896 and was completely transformed and redesigned by Margee Drews Design to exude a California-Mediterranean coastal feel across multiple spaces.

Guests enter a beautiful light and airy dining room with a stunning feature wall, large plush booths and banquettes with sleek wood tables surrounded by plush greenery, warm and welcoming lounge separated from the dining room by grand Mediterranean arches with high industrial ceilings and romantic Havana-style fans, a prominently placed cocktail bar and open kitchen.

drinks with friends, intimate dinners, group gatherings, or special events

Whether for drinks with friends, intimate dinners, group gatherings, or special events, Pez Coastal Kitchen promises an exceptional experience for all who walk through its doors!

 

As Co-Owners Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez continue to innovate and reinvent themselves, and Pez Coastal Kitchen in Pasadena promises a unique blend of California coastal cuisine, thoughtfully crafted cocktails, specially curated wines, and their dedication to excellence ensures an unforgettable dining experience that celebrates vibrant flavors and genuine hospitality.

The Pez Coastal Kitchen official Grand Opening is Thursday, February 15th, 2024.

Pez Coastal Kitchen will be open for Dinnerevery Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and every Friday and Saturday from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

For more information about Pez Coastal Kitchen or to make reservations, please call 626.210.0775 directly or visit www.PezPasadena.com.

About the Author
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: Joe@FlavRReport.com

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