Cousins Maine Lobster is not your typical lobster offering. You won’t find them serving hot, buttered lobster over a white tablecloth with champagne and caviar. Instead, you’ll find them slinging out traditional, buttered and toasted split-top rolls filled with chilled Maine lobster meat from their 19 food trucks, the way owners (and cousins) Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac say it should be.Read More
Today’s successful brands all seem to have a number of highly successful characteristics in common. Maybe they’ve positioned themselves as “the first”, maybe they’re focused on being healthy, or being authentic, or maybe they just have a great story. But these brands usually tend to have another attribute in common; they’ve got some money to get started.
But sometimes, brands have just the right combination of successful attributes to become booming businesses.
SeaSnax, for example, began as a mother-father team who just wanted to give their daughter a better alternative to the unhealthy, high-sodium, corn oil-laden seaweed snacks that were already on the market. According to Entrepreneur, Jin Jun began experimenting in her kitchen and soon had the first snack approved by her seaweed-loving toddler, combining the flavors of seaweed, olive oil, and salt.
At that point, Jun and her husband found a manufacturing facility to make the snacks. They maxed out their credit cards to pay for their first orders.
"They really thought we were crazy and that we were wasting our time and money," Jun says.
It wasn’t easy from the get-go. Jun and her snacks were rejected from every farmer’s market in LA. She was on the phone six hours a day trying to sell the snacks, only sleeping 3 hours a day until she was able to get her snacks on the shelves at a local Whole Foods. Then, Yahoo featured SeaSnax as one of the "10 healthiest snacks" on their homepage.
Today, SeaSnax are sold at 6,000 stores around the world and have expanded to include an array of different flavors and items like seaweed flakes and a salad mix.
This year, the company is on track to do $10 million in sales. The trick to their success?Authenticity.
"It was a combination of sincerity and naivety. We were able to build a very loyal customer following… because I hear time and time again that people can trust us," Jun says. "My daughter sets the bar. If I wouldn't feed it to my daughter, I wouldn't feed it to a customer."
SeaSnax doesn't even really have a marketing plan.
“[W]hat has worked for our brand is our sincerity and our willingness to share and give. We don't spend a whole lot of money on fancy shows or websites or paying for Facebook likes. Everything we've ever done is not advertised, it's done quietly and humbly.”
For more on this story, visit “Entrepreneur.”Read More
On this episode of Food as a Lifestyle, we glimpse into the homelife of esteemed Four Seasons Executive Chef, Cyrille Pannier. Part love story, part biopic, and all food porn, this episode illustrates Chef Pannier’s passion both in and out of the kitchen.
We begin with the story of Cyrille and his wife, Callie. Cyrille devised an intricate plan to win Callie over back when they were both working at the Four Seasons. Callie remembers seeing “this white chef’s hat popping into the sales office.” Then, weeks later she was invited to a dinner party... and, well, the rest is history. Today, the two are married and live in Los Angeles with their young daughter, Eloise.
Eloise is a bright, energetic soul who takes after her father in the kitchen. Self-proclaimed “princess chef,” Eloise is the master of tart decorating. You can watch her traipse through the farmer’s market with her parents, smelling the fresh fruits and vegetables to select the best ingredients.
Watch the episode above to learn more about Chef Cyrille and how his kitchen life and his homelife compare!
Not every brand is for everyone. Even though menu items catering to those with dietary restrictions like gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan have become more common, it still isn’t easy to find a menu that meets everyone’s dietary needs.
Often the restaurants that do offer these options can be pricy, especially for families. Not to mention, healthy grab-and-go concepts are hard to come by. Juices are often $9 a pop and salads can be $12+ at most fast casual restaurants.
Enter Everytable, the Cali-based brand with four stores near the LA area providing healthy, yet affordable prepackaged meals to the local market. Each Everytable store is priced according to their specific neighborhoods and the local demographic.
We sat down with Everytable’s co-founders Sam Polk and David Foster to learn why they started this unique concept, how it is standing out, and how they can offer a price-point that significantly below other restaurant brands.Read More
Nearly five miles south of the Hollywood sign, one can find Birch, a New American restaurant offering culinary-driven cocktails in a rustic setting. The name for this Los Angeles spot serves as a subtle homage to the hometown of its chef/owner, Brendan Collins, who grew up in Nottingham, England, near a copse of birch trees.
Running Birch’s bar program is Gaby Mlynarczyk — the beverage director with over 20 years of experience who also keeps a blog, Loving Cup, to help demystify drink making for the home bartender. In this episode of "Across the Bar," host Paul Barron has a chance to chat and learn from Mlynarczyk, a New Jersey-born and UK-raised fashion-student-accidentally-turned-bartender extraordinaire.
“Bartending was something I just fell into, naturally...,” said Mlynarczyk. “Thirty years ago… I was in fashion school and it was really important for us to have, like... the trendiest and newest...instead I was always hitting the flea markets and thrift shops. So, I didn’t need to make a lot of money but definitely needed to have an allowance for clothing,” explained the ingredient-driven Birch bartender about the motives that drove her to her current profession.
Her approach? She likes to get inspiration from what ingredients are being used back of house and turn those ideas into creative and tasty cocktails. Initially, the inspiration came from wanting to be a pastry chef, but later on, Mlynarczyk was able to forge a creative outlet while improving her financial situation by working front of house and making thoughtful cocktails.
Cocktail No. 1: #3
It’s a variation on a Negroni that is perfect for the winter months. It’s light and considered an apéritif. The ingredients are: Fords Gin, bitters, sweet white vermouth infused with golden and red beets, shiso, and poured over a large block of ice. The drink is finalized with a garnish of carrot flower, edible disco dust, and shiso essence. None of Mlynarczyk’s drinks have names, but this one you can find as #3 in Birch’s drink menu.
Cocktail No. 2: #1
The flavors of the second drink that Mlynarczyk demonstrated for us are inspired by a Thai coconut soup. While the presentation of the cocktail is fairly unconventional, using a Chinese take-out rice box in place for the glass served next to a Chinese fortune cookie, the execution of the drink is simple. This cocktail is a variation on a Mai Tai, a classic tiki-style drink, but Mlynarczyk makes a coconut butter orgeat for it instead of using an almond or brown rice orgeat base. It is the first drink listed in the menu and apparently a very popular one with the Birch crowd. The ingredients are: coconut butter orgeat, five spice rum, dry curaçao, and pickled kumquats. It’s garnished with a Chinese flower and broccoli. To finish it off, it is sprayed by a mint mist, traditional Mai Tai ingredient.
Cocktail No. 3: 004
Lastly, Mlynarczyk shows host Paul Barron how to prepare the final drink, which is based on a Scaffa, “an old-school after dinner drink.” Scaffa-style drinks do not contain water/ice and are a mixture of a liquor and liqueurs and/or bitters. Ingredients used: Irish whiskey, Drambuie, old-spiced rum, honey, bitters. At Birch, this drink is served with a glass smoked with burning frankincense, an edible ingredient used as a purifier.
Watch the episode to learn more!
While some consumers may believe fast food is a fast track to unhealthy eating, The Organic Coup hatched a new idea when it comes to chicken. This brand became the first USDA certified organic fast food restaurant, confirmed by their certifying agency, CCOF.
"We were shocked to find out we were first," founder Erica Welton said.
This concept was inspired by the team's years of working at Costco Wholesale, and the push for social change in foodservice became the foundation of the business. The name began as a typo for the word "coop," but "coup" was also fitting: coup is defined as a takeover, and that's exactly what this restaurant is doing — taking over the fast food industry with a new, organic attitude, proving that fast food has the potential to be good food.
"We want to serve the highest-quality product at a fair price," Welton said. "I'm also a mom of two young boys. [I'm] very passionate about what goes into my kids' food. Chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and as a food buyer for Costco, learning more and more about what is getting put into our food — it was scary."
Organic efforts could become complex, but The Organic Coup's operation is simple.
"We are not going to be a restaurant that has 50 items on the menu," Welton said.
The Coup Signature Sandwich is made up of chicken sourced locally from Mary's Free Range Organic Air-Chilled Chicken. The breasts are soaked in buttermilk, hand-breaded, and fried in coconut oil — honestly, the most expensive oil they could choose, but it is low in cholesterol and high in vitamin A. The menu also consists of a wrap and a bowl, and all buns are toasted and wraps are steamed to order.
The restaurant also offers unique sauces, from spicy BBQ ranch, sesame ginger, mustard Vinaigrette, and more. Guests with a sweet tooth can also nibble on their organic popcorn, drizzled in caramel and with either white or dark chocolate.
More than about making fast food good food, The Organic Coup is about being good to the environment, too. Their chicken is air-chilled, a tactic used in Europe and Canada. Unlike the water chlorine bath method used in the United States, air-chilled facilities save 30,000 gallons of water every day.
The tables at the restaurant also have a touch of sustainability, as they are made from reclaimed wood (and were even built by Welton's father. All the restaurant's cleaning supplies and pest control are also organic certified. And to continue the education of their staff, The Organic Coup has a wall dedicated to going back to the basics, emphasizing the importance of non-GMO and hormone use.
"You know, I think it's very difficult to cheat Mother Nature, and in the end, there is always a price to pay. To disrupt such an old mentality on the way food was being brought to people just seemed like a lot of fun," Welton said.
Power to the chicken! Want to learn more about how this restaurant is rewriting fast food? Watch the full episode now.
LA Weekly claims it has proof that the Los Angeles food scene has surpassed New York in terms of superiority – at least when it comes to Chinese food. The proof is actually more opinion, but it does hold some water in regard to the trends impacting the industry.
The publication credits Anthony Bourdain for televising food from Shaanxi Province and its capital city of Xi’An – and raising LA’s profile. New York has been home to Xi’An Famous Foods, but Los Angeles now boasts a total of seven great Shaanxi restaurants – including two Shaanxi Gourmet locations, its counterpart, Xi’An Kitchen, Qin West, Xi An Tasty, and Shaanxi Garden – to New York’s one.
The attraction of Shaanxi-style food? It’s liked by most everyone, called by LA Weekly “one of the most approachable of all Chinese regional cuisines.” It’s spicy, but not too spicy, using vinegar to provide another flavor dimension.
The masses may be most attracted to the Chinese hamburger, made with lamb meat and green chilis and served on thick bread. LA Weekly says it just might be the “original hamburger.” Read more
By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor
Flavors can carry you to another place. They can help conjure memories of somewhere you have been or inspire you to travel somewhere. For example, the taste of vanilla can transport you to Tahiti or Mexico, lavender may take you to the south of France and sticky rice with mango is equated with Southeast Asia. At Wanderlust Creamery in Tarzana, California, memories or dreams come to life through ice cream. Every flavor tells a story of where the owners have been or where they want to go, and they aim to take customers on that journey.
Wanderlust Creamery is the creation of Adrienne Nicole Borlongan and her partner, JP Lopez. After studying food science at Cal State University Northridge, Adrienne, 30, aspired to work in Research and Development in food manufacturing. After an internship with The Cheesecake Factory, she realized she wanted more creative freedom. She went to work at restaurants and has been bartending for SBE Hospitality for the past few years. While Adrienne played with ingredients as a bartender, she also liked to play with flavors in her home kitchen on her free time. She began making macarons as gifts for her friends, playing with unique flavors.Read More
By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor
Camels. Kangaroos. Alligators. Rattlesnakes. When one thinks of animals such as these, they would surely expect to encounter them in cages at a zoo rather than on a dining plate. Yet amongst a growing number of Los Angeles based restaurants, exotics have become the choice ingredients with which to work with.
Once regarded as simply a novelty item or relegated to specific, regional types of cuisine, exotic ingredients such as emu, antelope, kangaroo, alligator, rattlesnake and camel have become all the rage amongst chefs and consumers alike and can be found anywhere from food trucks to fine dining establishments citywide.Read More
By Courtney Walsh, Foodable Contributor
More than 60% of restaurants close within their first year. Still more will shutter within the next three. In a world filled with so many new and interesting dining options, finding a unique and original concept is paramount to a restaurant’s success.
Dining concepts surrounding small plates, gluten free, molecular gastronomy and vegan options have all recently had their heyday and the food world is constantly searching for the next big craze.
But would anyone have expected that the next culinary trend would be kosher?Read More