Felix and Native

If you have ever spent any time in Los Angeles, you know that the sprawl of the city is intense and getting from the westside to the eastside can be a nightmare.  So, if you reside on the west side then chances are slim to none that you will go to the eastside for a meal or anything for that matter.  For us, it is the weekends when we venture east as we hang on the west side.  East is really where more interesting food is being made.  Similar to NYC, if you live in the west village like we do, then the chances of going to Greenpoint for dinner during the week are not as high as going on a Saturday night.

Although in NYC, the number of good choices is a lot larger than the west side of LA yet that is changing.  Night Market opened up in Venice and it is so insanely crowded in there every night that you would think they are giving away the food for free.  It just points to the opportunity for more good restaurants on the west side.  We went to Felix and Native this week.  Felix is so crowded that you need to make a resy at least a month in advance and that is a new thing for LA.  Native is not crazy but it is also in Santa Monica where there are more choices but many of the choices have decent food but the vibe doesn’t compare.

Felix is a winner.  The chef, Evan Funke, has done a few things beforehand but what was memorable is he was the chef at Rustic Canyon that is one of the best places on the west side so nice to see him branch out to his own place.  The menu consists of salads, pizzas, plates of pasta and a few mains.  You can choose to share or not, we shared.  It is simple Italian dishes with well-sourced ingredients.  Here are a few highlights.  Squash blossoms stuffed with milk ricotta.

Pizza with mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, and parm.  The bread here is light, airy, and just delicious.  I might just order a pizza to go in the week ahead.  The dough is that good.

Spicy rigatoni with guanciale, fresh tomatoes, and pecorino.  We had a few kinds of pasta but this was the highlight.  We also had a salad with shaved fennel that was really well done.  The pork meatballs weren’t great.  They were deep fried and not sure why that was necessary.

Native, located in Santa Monica, has a solid menu using local ingredients from the farmers market and sourced farms throughout the region.  Nyesha Arrington is the chef, she is a local native, hence the name. Some of the dishes are layered while others are super simple.  The fish could not have been more simple and was perfectly cooked.

The vegetables are a mixture of flavors from melting leeks to romanesco with tahini to crushed rutabaga with creme fraiche.

Desserts are also unique.  Kabocha cake with a pepita toffee was light, flavorful and unique.

Both of these spots are winners and places I can go back to again and again….if I can get in.

 

 

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

The truth is, I have always wanted to run a small boutique inn, but instead of doing it as a business, I really do it for friends and family in the mountains and at the beach.  I get the opportunity to cook for everyone, plan meals from breakfast to dinner, keep the place stocked with the latest and greatest condiments and of course supply jigsaw puzzles to commune around, comfortable beds, thick towels and good music.  It is a joy

We have been up skiing for the last two weekends and I have been cooking up a storm.  These red wine braised short ribs is a winner.  The recipe is solid and could be used with different cuts of beef.  We had these ribs with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with an old red wine from France.  Not a bad way to spend an evening after a full day of skiing.

  • 5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs oregano
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 4 cups low-salt beef stock

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a large Dutch oven cover the bottom with vegetable oil.  Season the short ribs and brown on both sides in the pot, set aside.

Leave only a few tablespoons of the grease in the pot, pour out the rest, and then add the carrots, onions, and celery.  Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour and the tomato paste and mix until thoroughly mixed in, about 2 minutes.  Put the ribs and liquid that has accumulated on the plate into the pot.  Now add the entire bottle of wine.  Bring to a boil and then down to medium and let simmer and let sit 25 minutes.  The wine will boil down in half.

Put the herbs in spice bags.  I like just letting the spices seep in through the bag instead of picking them out in the end.  Add in the 4 cups of beef broth and bring to a boil, put on the lid and put in the oven, let it bake for 2 and a half hours.

Pull out the spice bags, serve on a platter or individual plates and spoon the sauce over the top.  Delish!

Just Get Started

I recently read a piece on an incredible entrepreneur, Stewart Resnick, who happens to be the biggest farmer in the United States.  He just has a knack for seeing holes and filling them with smart businesses.  He married a woman who happened to have an incredible understanding of marketing.  What they have built together is huge and for any entrepreneur, a truly worthwhile read whether you care about farming or not, it is about their journey.

One of the things that Resnick points to his success is in his first job at 13.  He went to work for the local Pharmacist and his job was to bring over to the mess in the storage closet.  He stood there and was almost paralyzed at the mess he saw and the boss came in and said to him “just get started”.

That has been ringing in my head since I read those words.  These days I have been reflecting on how I got to where I am.  There are many factors but those words brought out something to the foreground in my early working years.  It is one of the reasons I am a big fan of having as many jobs and experiences before you turn 30.

I had a job in high school and another one in college where the place was completely unorganized, and I just talked in and just got started.  I figured it out.  How to organize the mess.  When I ended up managing the Kings Plaza Cosmetic Department at Macy’s at 22 years old, nobody really gave me any direction.  I just started organizing and by doing that I figured out how to run a more efficient business.  I got zero direction as nobody really understood the cosmetic business but most of the higher-ups in the store who I reported to understood soft and hard goods which each have their own set of business nuances.

The best entrepreneurs I have ever met seem to just get started.  They see a void in the market, an opportunity, something that needs to be fixed, an evolution of a vertical that nobody else sees and they just get started.  Sure there is some thought but the reality is they just wake up one morning and start down a path until they figure it out.  I always wonder what it is I see in certain founders that I have backed from some an early stage and perhaps it is just that just get started attitude that I am drawn to.

Next Wave of Multi-media

If you don’t get California Sunday Magazine, I highly recommend the subscribing to this media outlet. Long form stories by a wide range of impressive journalists who write true stories of interesting life stories, stories of people in today’s world across the globe.  That includes a gay men’s choir that has traveled in the South with the hopes that there will be less hatred, to the community of people living in the post world of the California fires, to teens and social media.  On top of the publication, there is Pop-Up Magazine which are live performances in theaters across the country where these journalists, authors, and artists read their stories and each is mixed with music and visuals creating a unique multimedia experience.

I went for the first time two years ago (note that I said first time because I will go again and again) in Brooklyn when they first began these performances.  It has grown.  I saw it again this past week in downtown LA.  The stories were different, the journalists and artists were different and even when the show went to NYC the following week, there were a few new ones in the mix.  It is ever changing.

In LA, we went with my brother, my sister-in-law and my nieces who are a senior and sophomore in high school.  They loved it.  The pieces are thought-provoking and they stick with you for days.  Hats off to Douglas McGray, the co-founder, and editor-in-chief in creating a platform and elevating it in new ways to explore interesting topics and concepts in print and venues.

Will This Time Be Different?

Here we are again, watching a community, family, and friends destroyed by a random act of violence by an unhinged person who was able to walk into a store and buy a gun that can kill a lot of people quickly.  I don’t understand why we all don’t want to stop this.  That it seems to be ok that 33,000 gun deaths are year is a price we seem willing to pay.  The trail of people who have known these victims as friends or were family that has been left to grieve continues to grow.

Each time we become numb to the media circus around these tragedies.  I hope I never had to witness one in the media again but they keep coming.  Will this time be different?

I am extremely impressed with the survivors of the Florida shootings this past week who have quickly galvanized around this by shouting out no more.  They are taking to the streets, they are taking it straight to the Government with speeches and social media.  These people get how to play the media game and they are using social media as a foundation to push for change.  Many of these kids are also almost if not already at voting age.  They have the ability to round up their peers across this country to say we are not going to let this happen again, we are going to call out the corruption of gun lobbyists in Government, we are going to get behind new politicians who want to lead the next generation with new laws, fewer pay-offs and people who actually represent their constituencies vs themselves.  They are already putting together a march on March 24th in Washington.  If this galvanizes all high school students and more around one issue, that will cut across party lines, that will be a sight to behold.

I just feel that among these young adults who can run circles around everyone on social media, the articles that are being written, the conversations that seem to be taking place, and where we have got to in Government, that perhaps, just perhaps, this time will be different.

Embracing the Unknown, Jessica Koslow, SQIRL, Podcast #54

Jessica Koslow is the owner and chef of SQIRL, one of L.A.’s most popular cafes that has led to a cookbook, a jam company, a pop-up venture in New York City, and soon enough, a much-anticipated second location on L.A.’s West Side. Jessica and I sat down and talked a lot about a question that comes up for many entrepreneurs: ‘how do you make that big leap out of security, and into starting your business?

Here is the transcript below.

Joanne: I’m Joanne Wilson and this is Positively Gotham Gal. Small, meaningful conversations with women entrepreneurs about their approach to life, business, and everything in between.
Joanna: Jessica Koslow is the owner, visionary, and chef and everything else behind Sqirl, one of LA’s most popular cafes that started with the jam company and led to a cookbook and they’ve had a pop-up venture in New York City and soon enough a much anticipated second location on LA’s Westside. Jessica and I sat down and talked a lot about a question that comes up for many entrepreneurs, how do you make that big leap out of security into starting your own business? So, you came on the scene with a jelly. You know? Out of nowhere.


Jessica: It’s true, it’s true.

Joanne: I mean, it is true. It’s like, “a jelly?”

Jessica: It’s really humbling to say that, too. You know?

Joanna: I mean, it’s pretty amazing. You know?

Jessica: Right.

Joanna: And then like everyone is like Sqirl, Sqirl, Sqirl. Have you been to Sqirl? You know? Have you seen the lines at Sqirl? It’s just like, who is this girl? But let’s go back, back. Where did you grow up?

Jessica: I grew up here. I grew up in Southern California, in Long Beach, California and I grew up figure skating since the age of 5.

Joanne: So, did you like ‘I, Tonya?’

Jessica: I loved ‘I Tonya.’ I was like did they superimpose Margot Robbie’s face on to Tonya’s body? Probably. Or someone else’s body? But it also brought me back to that point in time.

Joanne: And figure skating in Southern California?

Jessica: So, actually some of the best figure skaters in the world or in the United States are from Southern California.

Joanne: Who knew? Okay.

Jessica: Because this is a place that you do it because it’s a sport and you want to win not because it’s a pastime. So, if you’re into figure skating, you’re into it because your deep in.

Joanne: Okay. And how long do you keep that going for?

Jessica: I was skating until I was in college. I was on the US team for 4 years.

Joanne: Wow.

Jessica: And I never really understood what food was during that time. It was for fuel, it wasn’t to explore.

Joanne: So, it was a very different passion.

Jessica: Exactly.

Joanne: Yeah, it kept you going. Just as a complete sidebar, being in something that is a very structured female-oriented sport that you were in oh, not that there’s not men in figure skating, have you of course been watching this whole gymnastics thing that’s rolled out?

Jessica: You mean with the doctor?

Joanne: Yeah.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: How crazy?

Jessica: How sad?

Joanne: Beyond sad and all the people that were held accountable and did nothing about it.

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, what’s also interesting is West figure skating we never had a doctor. There was never, again, because I was on the US team, there were I mean there were hoops that we had to go to but there was never like a specific physician. Maybe it’s different now but I can’t even imagine in our sport but in gymnastics to have that happen is appalling and sad and I have been watching it.

Joanne: Yeah, yeah. Well, he got…

Jessica: Did he get life in… I mean, he’s never…

Joanne: 175 years.

Jessica: Yeah, he’s never seeing the light of day.

Joanne: No, ever again. He doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: He actually deserves worse than that.

Jessica: Yeah. He does. But I feel that Judicial System frowns upon death these days so, you know, but I’m sure the rest of his life in prison is pretty much like death.

Joanne: Yeah, I think that’s actually a better way than death.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: So, go back, so, figure skating all the way through High School?

Jessica: Yeah, all the way through High School, some of college.

Joanne: And where do you go to college?

Jessica: I went to undergraduate in Brandeis in Massachusetts.

Joanne: In Massachusetts, right.

Jessica: So, I moved across country.

Joanne: Much colder there.

Jessica: Very, very cold and I was skating there as well and then stopped and once I finally stopped, I started…

Joanne: And why did you stop?

Jessica: Well, I think two things. One is that I did a sport that no longer exists in the world. It’s called school figures and they’re intricate Figure 8 patterns in the ice and I won nationals and I won the last us competition in the world at the time. I think they’ve kind of brought it back to life but it’s really more of a pastime now. So, that was like 2000 and once that ended that focus had to be put into something else and that was food.

Joanne: And were you contemplating your plan be at that point or had that been in the works somehow at all?

Jessica: No, you know, when you’re like 20, plan B is plan A. You know?

Joanne: Right, right. It’s just an evolution.

Jessica: And I still think I’m going through that, wow, have I really thought about a plan B? Now, I really need to think about plan B and plan C. What does that look like? But, yeah, maybe I’m still 20 inside.

Joanne: I think we all are to be perfectly honest with you.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: As someone who is much older than you…So, skating ended…

Jessica: And I met a friend in Massachusetts who owns a cranberry farm and we would go out to Carver Mass and see the bog and pick…

Joanne: Very Massachusetts.

Jessica: So Massachusetts. But it was really this, it was a beautiful moment of seeing what I could do or explore outside the world of what I thought was my future and I always, also my mom is a single mother, she’s a physician, and she always was very strongly in favor of higher education and so, because of that, that was really a plan B. That was, the back end was look, as much as your figure skating, your schooling is just as important if not more so. So, get in there and get to cracking.

Joanne: Nice Jewish mother.

Jessica: Yes, nice Jewish mother.

Joanne: Exactly. And so was your mom a cook? Was she into cooking?

Jessica: No, it was like the opposite my mom. My mom like burned steaks and potatoes are really overly salted and, you know, the thing that she’s really great at tapioca pudding from box.

Joanne: Okay. It works.

Jessica: Cornbeef that came out of a bag but everything else was like, keep it away.

Joanne: That’s hilarious. And so, you saw these cranberries…

Jessica: Yeah and it’s not so much that. The cranberries might be a metaphor for the change of my life. You know? And starting to really dig into food systems and exploring what food was for me.

Joanne: And is that how you went about it in terms of educating yourself? You know, what is food? How is it helping?

Jessica: Mhmm and also just what does it mean to be food from Massachusetts? What does it mean to be food from California? As I kept coming back here to go to school, or after Massachusetts I moved to D.C. and then to Atlanta and, you know, I went a number of places in the United States.

Joanne: And did you work in restaurants along the way?

Jessica: Yeah, I did. After grad school, I was in grad school in D.C. and I moved to Atlanta and…

Joanne: And what was your grad school?

Jessica: It was media theory. I went to Georgetown and I did media theory.

Joanne: And climbed steps.

Jessica: Yeah, I climbed a lot of steps. Yeah. I felt really out of place in D. C. because it’s so political.

Joanne: It’s a weird place.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: I mean, I grew up outside D. C.

Jessica: I see.

Joanne: So, then you left?

Jessica: I left Georgetown and moved to Atlanta and once I got to Atlanta I said, I’m out, like I have been kind of under the mom thumb, kind of doing the path that I thought I was supposed to take…

Joanne: If you were going to be in the food world?

Jessica: Well, if I was going to be an academic.

Joanne: Okay. So, you went after the Academia originally?

Jessica: Yeah and then afterwards I started cooking in kitchens and my mom was like, I put you through higher education, I’m giving her an accent she really doesn’t have by the way, but, you know, like the mom, I’ve given my life to put you through schooling and this is how you are repaying me? Your $10 an hour job working as a pastry cook? And I couldn’t have been happier.

Joanne: At the end of the day that is what mothers want. I just want you kids to be happy.

Jessica: Right, right. But, I don’t know, my mom wants to show me around.

Jessica: Now she can.

Joanne: Now she can.

Jessica: Now she can. Now, the whole thing was, you know, I believed in you the whole way, and I’m like you kind of, maybe. But underneath it all, I think she’s just worried.

Joanne: Yeah.

Jessica: She was worried about, look, this is a path of unknown, this is a challenging future for you. What is your next step? How are you going to make this climb from being a $10 an hour pastry cook to maybe having something that is your own? And I felt like I needed to be honest and let those things evolve. I needed to figure out how to develop the idea and what was really passionate for me and turn that into a tangible thing.

Joanne: Was your mother entrepreneurial?

Jessica: I mean, she’s a dermatologist. She has two offices. I would say so, yeah.

Joanne: Yeah, 100% and your father? Do you have a relationship with him?

Jessica: I don’t have a relationship with him and I would say he’s probably not entrepreneurial.

Joanne: Okay.

Jessica: I’m more interested in his family. His parents had grocery stores in Richmond, Virginia called Koslow’s and they also, my grandfather was the head of Rich Foods. So, he did all of the canning and packaging and they always said don’t get into this business.

Joanne: Well, you know, there’s so many people in the Chinese food business that are the second generation of Chinese food restaurant owners that have been told the same thing.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: I mean, usually what you see is what you end up being.

Jessica: And what’s so funny is it almost skips a generation because these kids, my father and my aunt, they see how hard my grandparents worked and how maybe they weren’t home all the time or that struggle of just the operations and so they’re like, I’m out, I’m not, that is definitely not my path. I’m like, wait a minute, that’s beautiful.

Joanne: Right. That looks great.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: That looks phenomenal. So, was L. A.  in the forecast? Or just, you know, you threw out a dart and that’s where you ended up?

Jessica: It was New York next and New York was, I got scared. I left food and I got a job at Fox as a digital producer and worked on every American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance and 24 and it was just something totally else. I don’t know how this landed on my plate. My background in academics and a little luck landed me at News Corp. So, I got my job transferred out to L. A. after a couple years in New York and the job kept me here where I was working in the offices here and then I started cooking again at night. So, I was baking at night for this place called The Village Bakery and I was doing their midnight shift from midnight to 8 a.m., go home and sleep a couple hours, and then I would end up at the Fox lot.

Joanne: Wow.

Jessica: Yeah. And that was obviously not going to work forever.

Joanne: But you obviously had this insane passion for cooking or you wouldn’t have beaten the hell out of your body like that.

Jessica: Yeah and I also think that there is, I know how many people are dealing with this, this moment okay I’m in a role that pays me really well, I have benefits, maybe I have health care, but this isn’t what I want to do or I know there’s something more for me.

Joanne: Oh, yes.

Jessica: I know so many of these, I mean, I have so many friends in this boat who are like, how do you make that leap out of security?

Joanne: It’s hard.

Jessica: It is hard.

Joanne: It’s hard to dive into that, you know, into the pool head-first. It also, I see people who are like I paid off my student debts and I’m just going to go and do what it is I’m passionate about for a while. And, you know, this whole concept of, you know, 50 is the new 30 or 40 is the new 20 …

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: I mean, it’s bullshit.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: Because at the end of the day we are still at that age and there’s a point where you start to have a mortgage, you get married, you start to have children, and, you know, you can’t afford to just, you know, not pay the rent.

Jessica: Exactly.

Joanne: Or put food on the table.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: And so, there is a point where I think that we become more creative and there’s more opportunities and, you know, you get up every day, you should love what you do.

Jessica: Yeah and that was a moment where, once I left Fox, I paid, even when I started Sqirl and I started the jam company, I paid myself $500 a month for about a year-and-a-half. I had saved enough money that, I at least wanted to give myself a salary to make myself feel bad I was worthwhile, that I was taking that leap into this thing.

Joanne: That’s great advice, by the way.

Jessica: Yeah, I think so. You should feel valued by yourself. Even if it’s $500.

Joanne: It doesn’t make any difference, it’s I’m getting paid for my value. I completely agree.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: Because, you know, sometimes founders spend years and don’t make a penny.

Jessica: Or they just put it all back in the company and even today I still, all the checks that come in, even if they are for me or an appearance or something I’m doing, it all goes into Sqirl. I own it 100%.

Joanne: Right.

Jessica: I don’t have any investors there and yet I see it somehow. You know?

Joanne: Right.

Jessica:   I think giving yourself a value when you go, when you start is really important to keep your morale up about what you’re doing.

Joanne: I totally agree, I think that’s amazing.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: So, here you were working basically 20 hours a day and sleeping four, maybe.

Jessica: There was definitely some like, is that a rainbow?

Joanne: And so, at what point did you say, Okay, when I walk in this week on Friday, I’m resigning and here’s where I’m going?

Jessica: Well, it was actually the other way around where I was let go and the reason why…

Joanne: Well, that actually makes life easier.

Jessica: It made it but, that was, it was also this time where it was 2010 and it was the height of the recession and Fox had gone through three layoffs and they were like going through their fourth and so it was basically the entire office shuttered afterwards. I have a friend that just left her post at New York Magazine and I’m like, good for you that you just made that decision to leave.

Joanne: Yeah, golden handcuffs are tough.

Jessica: They are tough.

Joanne: They are tough.

Jessica: So, having them sawed-off was really the best thing that happened to me.

Joanne: I had the same experience. I was fired and then it was like I’m never returning to that industry.

Jessica: Look at me now.

Joanne: Yeah, I was like I’m never going back.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: Because it sent me in a completely different trajectory. So, Fox Did you a solid.

Jessica: They did me a solid and what’s so funny is, my manager, she loved me and I love her. I knew that this was a decision that was based around here financial cuts and even today like they’ll be something that happens on Facebook and she’ll be like I’m so proud of you. You know?

Joanne: That’s great.

Jessica: You know that it was the right thing.

Joanne: Right, it had to get done.

Jessica: It had to.

Joanne: So, where were you? You were laid off.

Jessica: I was laid off and I was just like, all right, well, thanks for making a decision and I’m just going to go cook. So, I cooked, I moved to Australia, I started, I was staging in Australia at a place called Dench, and then I came back.

Joanne: Okay.  And where is that? Is it in Sydney? Melbourne?

Jessica: Melbourne, yeah.

Joanne: I mean, it’s interesting, I mean, that you say Australia because your food is very reminiscent of Australian food.

Jessica: We get that, we have so many Aussies that come in…

Joanne: That doesn’t surprise me and we were down there years ago but there’s something about your food that is very clean and healthy and interesting to flavor palates that, to  me, remind me of Australia.

Jessica: You know, to the States, daytime eating wasn’t really a thing. You know? We were kind of stuck in the same like hollandaise pancakes, french toast but when I got to Australia, I was like, wow, everyone’s really about like vibrant all day eating and hangs. I was like, this is a different scenario than in the States. It was in the back of my mind as all right there’s so many parallels to California whether it’s the light, the produce, some of the produce.

Joanne: The sky.

Jessica: The sky, the sun. It did impact how, I was like, wow, there’s all of these places, like the local, where’s the local here? And at the time, when I opened, well, I opened the cafe in 2012.

Joanne: Okay.

Jessica: The local didn’t really exist. It was a corporate coffee shop called Intelligentsia in Silverlake.

Joanne: Right. And also Silver Lake was just starting to become a mecca for new living.

Jessica: It’s true. I mean, I dug a hole from Greenpoint where I was living and I popped up in Silverlake.

Joanne: So, you opened up, you found this place which is the tiniest little spot.

Jessica: I know. It is.

Joanne: And you also didn’t make it that you’re going to have this full on restaurant with tons of people to sit. It was sit on the corner, sit out on the bench. If you’re lucky you can grab three or four stools that are available here.

Jessica: Yeah, it’s true.

Joanne: And you come in and get your food and you hang out with, you know, out on the streets.

Jessica: Yeah, it was, it’s 800 square feet inside. It’s probably 1000 square feet all in. I found it on Craigslist. it was $10,000 to buy out the business and it was $2,500 a month for rent and I…

Joanne: Which is amazing.

Jessica: It’s amazing and also terrifying.

Joanne: Right.

Jessica: How can I afford this, you know? I was just making jams at the time and in my head I was saying, look, I’m 7 minutes from my home to work. That is a quality of life that is hard to find in Los Angeles, to find a place that’s close to home that you can live your life and be in the restaurant industry is pretty pretty rare.

Joanne: Yeah.

Jessica: So, I’m going to take it. And at first, I, my first accountant said look, by the end of the year you’re going to be done. You’re not going to make it.

Joanne: How uplifting.

Jessica: How uplifting. I know. Maybe it wasn’t like that, maybe I’m giving her like the dark, like that dark…

Joanne: Accounting side to her?


Jessica: Yeah, yeah. But it was definitely a moment of, okay, doing this beautiful product of jam is not enough. As many classes as I taught, as many relationships that I went over within my community of farmers and chefs, it wasn’t enough.

Joanne: Right.

Jessica: And so, at that point in 2012, I knew that I needed to figure out how to evolve and I also think a scary thing or an interesting thing is that having the jar allows you to hide behind your product. like, I didn’t have to be on Yelp, I didn’t have to be out in the open and talking to people, having people walk through the door and give you an automatic judgement. I mean, that is what everyone does these days and you have to be ready to be a 4 or 3 or 2 star. You know?


Joanne: Yeah. But you also did something else a lot of women don’t do and they should do, is you didn’t call it by your name. Because you can’t…

Jessica: You call me by your name, I’ll call you by mine.

Joanne: Exactly because you called it Sqirl and you can sell Sqirl. Like the woman behind Tate’s, the cookies, her story is she originally was called her name and she had these terrible investors and they completely hosed her but she had the building and the whole thing crumbled, no pun intended, and she came back and she put the name Tate’s and she said it was literally just a complete game changer for my mind because my name wasn’t on that door anymore.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: It was Tate’s. It was like this company, it was mine but it was this different kind of an umbrella.

Jessica: Yeah. I think there’s something powerful about figuring out why you why you name something, what you do.

Joanne: How did you come up with Sqirl?

Jessica: Sqirl is, squirreling things away is an old-time preserving term and it’s a girl who’s squirreling.

Joanne: Okay.

Jessica: So, the spelling is a little off other. The other backstory is that my…

Joanne: Which is the ingenious, by the way.

Jessica: Yeah, yeah because then, you know, you get a lot of jokes, I love squirrel, is there a squirrel in here. You’re like, oh, God, I can’t. But it does take it away from the animal and kind of puts it into an action.

Joanne: Completely.

Jessica: And that was good when for the cafe as something that is preserving California produce and fermenting California produce and being a part of this community. It feels like the right name for the cafe.

Joanne: And so you went from the jams, you open the cafe, and how soon did you become profitable?

Jessica: The cafe became profitable by May of 2013. So, when I opened the cafe, I had a partner. The guys who have go get ’em tiger were doing the coffee in the front and then they left in May and I took over the entire thing.

Joanne: And boom.

Jessica: And boom. Yeah and I think they’re, now they have a number of places and they’re profitable as well but we needed each other to kind of get our ideas about who we are, what we wanted behind us.

Joanne: Right.

Jessica: And, actually, it was a really great, I think it’s hard to have a partner in a space like that…

Joanne: I think it’s very hard.

Jessica: Because there’s so many different ideas about like how to operate, especially how to be welcoming to people, like your idea of front of house service might be very different than someone who only has done like cafe culture. So, as someone who worked in fine dining, I know and respect and expect a certain level of service versus kind of what I was getting when it was this co-thing but it was a very beautiful time of growth that even like the customers who are still coming in like they revel in that moment. You know?

Joanne: I’m sure.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: Yeah, I think that for anyone being in the space with multiple partners is very, very difficult and we’re going to see more of that because, you know…

Jessica: And it’s something that I just, that’s why I’ve turned down any kind of like Grand Central Market or, it’s just, it’s hard.

Joanne: It is very hard and, you know, the retail brick-and-mortar space is becoming much more difficult to draw in a customer and so how do you become something that is concept oriented that is curated with a variety of brands versus one so that people are continuing to come.

Jessica: Right.

Joanne: You know? Food always draws, right? People have got to eat.

Jessica: Right.

Joanne: People don’t have to shop.

Jessica: It’s true. Although, man, I went to Juicy today. I got like two side salads and I love Travis and I think his food is really clean and classic and I know where it comes from and it’s one of the very few restaurants that I go to in Los Angeles because I trust it. But it was $15 for like these two scoops of side salad. I was like, this is also a challenge, is how do we feed people in the future at a price that brings people in?

Joanne: Well, you know, we can look at, which is the one, is it Local, that they charge different prices in Beverly Hills than they charge in, you know, East L.A.?

Jessica: Oh, really?

Joanne: Yeah. It’s a fast dine, you know, like fast-casual.

Jessica: I don’t know what that is.

Joanne: And I love that.

Jessica: I love that, too. That’s great.

Joanne: Because that speaks to my social side which is, you know, we know…

Jessica: Know your clientele.

Joanne: Right, know your clientele and understand if your rent is going to be $1,000 in East L.A. and $5,000 a month in Beverly Hills then you can serve the same product but the prices should be accordingly to the audience so that everybody can have healthy food. You know?

Jessica: Interesting.

Joanne: It’s just an interesting thought box.

Jessica: I like that.

Joanne: Yeah.

Jessica: I want to know what that place is because I don’t know, I’m like I need to go there tomorrow.

Joanne: I’ll look it up and I’ll remember. It’s great and I remember reading about it.  they just raised money and I reached out to him because I had written about him and he emailed me and said thank you so much. I said, listen, I love what you’re doing, I mean to me that’s a brand-new paradigm.

Jessica: That’s great.

Joanne: And I think it’s really intelligent.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: And then they’re raising money but he’s out of my price range but I said, you know, I only wish you success because to me that is, that makes us more of a community build as, you know, I had our kids in the school.

Jessica: Because people in East L.A. can also afford to eat it.

Joanne: Exactly.

Jessica: And they can experience what people in Beverly Hills are eating.

Joanne: And they can experience healthy, good food.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: You know, I think that’s really important. So, Sqirl’s now been open for…

Jessica: I mean, Sqirl started in 2011 in March.

Joanne: Right.

Jessica: So, we’re coming up on 7 years.

Joanne: Seven years and in between you wrote a cookbook.

Jessica: I did, yeah, and I have another one coming out next year.

Joanne: And you sell your products, your consumer products, your jams to, I mean, I’ve seen them all over the place.

Jessica: Yep.

Joanne: So, you have really two separate businesses.

Jessica: Yeah, I do.

Joanne: Are you making all the jams here still?

Jessica: We do.

Joanne: That’s great.

Jessica: We still make them all so we control that product from start to finish. I think it would be interesting to have a smaller line that we co-pack that’s for hotels and restaurants.

Joanne: Right. But you need to…

Jessica: Well, that’s different.

Joanne: That’s a different story, right. So, a different level and a different business.

Jessica: And that’s what’s so, people are always like why don’t you do the small jars? And you’re like, it’s another layer.

Joanne: Yeah, it is another layer.

Jessica: You know? And every layer takes a little time.

Joanne: And every layer needs people that are attentive to it 24/7.

Jessica: Yeah. That’s true.

Joanne: So, you can’t just have the same people do the same thing.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: You need to bring in another person to oversee that or it ends up not what you want it to be.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: So, that’s a whole thing too.

Jessica: So, recently we’ve taken over the entire building…

Joanne: Right.

Jessica: At Sqirl so instead of just having 800 square feet we have 5000 now.

Joanne: Which is a huge difference.

Jessica: Which is a huge difference but that…

Joanne: I’ll have to go back down and take a look.

Jessica: Yeah, but that’s why, and I don’t know if the last time you were there I had the next door space?

Joanne: You were talking to me that you were about to literally sign that week on the next door space.

Jessica: Wow. Well, it’s been a while since you’ve been over.

Joanne: Yeah.

Jessica: Because that’s been, but now we’re doing Sqirl Away.

Joanne: That’s great.

Jessica: So next to Sqirl is Sqirl Away which is more of like a convenience, take out, everything is pretty done. But, you know, we’ve taken, we’ve gone, we started small with what we could afford and since then we’ve evolved and it’s kind of been amazing to see that evolution of what Sqirl is.

Joanne: Which is amazing and what’s really amazing is you still own 100% of your business.

Jessica: It’s true.

Joanne: And I think when we spoke you were also talking to a variety of people that wanted to partner with you.

Jessica: For the next product. And I think also because of Sqirl Away, at the time I didn’t have enough finances to build out Sqirl Away, the second iteration, but now since I’ve waited a couple of years and gained the entire lower level of the building, I’m good.

Joanne: You’re good, that’s great.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: And there will be more.

Jessica: So, time, if you’ve got time then it’s on your side.

Joanne: I think that most people don’t think about that.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: Right? I mean, I’ve known so many founders that five or six years in, you know, all of the sudden boom and these things don’t happen overnight and when you own them by yourself and you take time to build the platform oh, which you’ve done, you know, going to the next level certainly is difficult but because you own it you have a very different conversation with people that want to be involved with you.

Jessica: So, I have a lot of friends who are also incredible female entrepreneurs and they, male entrepreneurs as well, and every start January they do kind of a lay of the land for their year plan and or five year plan and that’s something like I don’t do. I have this idea about where I want to go but I don’t do that component of the work and I wonder maybe this would have happened a lot sooner if I had taken the, you know, would of could of.

Joanne: Yeah but here you are.

Jessica: Yeah.

Joanne: You know? You’ve got a wonderful, profitable business. You’re looking to grow, you know, in a new area in L.A. and, you know, you have jams on shelves, you have a cookbook, you’re in magazines, and anyone that’s in the food world knows who you are and knows what you’ve done with that restaurant, and in many ways what you’ve done is what a lot of people that you talked about earlier that aren’t happy in their business life and really want to do something and, you know, the romantic vision is to do what you’ve done.

Jessica: Yeah. Also, my industry, people tend to push, I have to open something else, I have to open, what’s my next thing, what’s my next thing.

Joanne: Yes, they do and that’s a big mistake.

Jessica: And it is a big mistake. I have, there are a lot of people that I really love and I’m like, man, you moved so fast can you find that next location and, you know, why are you, like, fish sandwiches on the pier? Really? You can do better.

Joanne: Well, that’s interesting because I think that in the end most of them end up dying because out of that and the amount of people that are coming to talk to me about their businesses, we’re like, wait a second, your profitable, building a nice business, why are you raising money exactly because this isn’t a billion-dollar idea, you know, maybe it’s a 5 or a 10 or a 50 million dollar idea. So, why don’t you just grow it because no one else is doing what you are doing? And they’re just like, oh, people have said that. It’s like you don’t want to deal with an investor if you don’t have to. Anyway, thank you so much for coming on our show today.

Jessica: Thank you.

Joanne: I mean, it’s really amazing what you’ve done and it all started with the jam.

Jessica: The jelly.

Joanne: The jelly, all right.

Jessica: Thanks for having me.

Joanne: Our thanks to Jessica for joining us on the podcast this today. You can check out Sqirl by visiting them in Silverlake or going to their website at sqirlla.com and, by the way, it is sqirlla .com.

Cupcake, Jigsaw Puzzles and the brain

When our kids were young, for their birthdays, I’d take cupcakes to their classes with plenty of candies, icings and such for each kid to decorate their own cupcake.  I was always fascinated to see how each kid decorated their cupcake.  Some were simple, just icing and one candy perfectly placed on the top.  Others were masterpieces of perfection and others attempted to make sure that every single item I brought ended up on their cupcake.  Each represented the kid in so many ways.  I am sure the teacher probably nodded yep to herself (it happened to be a woman each time).

We have been doing jigsaw puzzles over the years at the beach and on the mountain skiing.  It is a fun backdrop to gathering around the table, talking and working on something together.  I have been getting the finished pieces framed for the ski house as every ski house needs a full-on wall of cheesy stuff.  What is fascinating is how everyone’s brain thinks.

Some start off with separating the pieces by color, others by doing the entire circumference of the puzzle first, others just dig on it and figure it out as they go along.

How people think, how people behave, how people work on things as simple as a cupcake or a jigsaw says a lot about how their brain thinks.

NRA

I have written too many times about guns after innocent people have been killed by a lone crazed gunman.  We are the only civilized country in the world that is killing each other because of access to guns.  I understand we come from a culture where people brought up their families in areas far from others and having a gun was protection.  I understand that those guns were also used to kill for their meal.  I also understand today that only 3% of people in this country own a gun and in some states almost anyone can buy a gun easier than buying alcohol.  I don’t know the answer on how to separate the two but certainly Australia has figured it out as there has not been one mass shooting since they enacted an extremely strict law back in 1996.

What I do know is that the only reason we continue to see mass killings from one person with a gun in their hand or stupid killing in homes when a child finds a gun is in many ways similar to our opiate crisis.  It is about greed, cash and money in politicians pockets.  I know many non-profits and ventures funds who will not take cash from the Sackler family because that money to them is blood money.  All of those organizations who refused that cash are fine without it.  Why our politicians don’t have the wherewithal aka the guts to say no to NRA money is beyond me.  It speaks clearly to why we have an incompetent group running the White House and weak leaders in the House and Senate who can’t get anything done.  We got here through lobbyists who have put money into those hands to get their agendas passed and our elected officials have happily taken it.  The NRA’s agenda is to make money not keep anyone safe just as the Sackler’s agenda is to sell and market legalized heroin so that the purchases of more drugs continue and keep their pockets full of cash.  It is vile and it speaks to the sad state of affairs of our country.

No parent should have to worry about their kid going to school.  No person should have to worry that if they are in pain that the drug that they take to get through it will send them down an life of addiction.  This is not what our country should be about.  The saddest part of all of this, is that nobody in our Government will change a thing and we will continue to have mass killings in normal everyday places, we will continue to have an explosive opiate crisis and we will be having this same conversation over and over again.  Keep in mind that today opiates are killing more people than guns.  The only thing we can do is vote against politicians who take money from the NRA and others who are making America a place where we are killing each other for the sake of money.  Remember that recently Paul Ryan was given $500K from the Koch family after he passed the tax plan.

Sad for all of us.

What is the Future of Food?

I sat down with a founder in the food space this past week and we lightly touched upon the future of food.   That includes everything from restaurants to kitchen appliances to what we consume.  Who would have thought that food would have been such a tremendous disruption point.  There has been a lot of capital put into new consumer products, delivery services, new fast casual restaurants, bio-science of protein products and more.  When major shifts are happening in verticals, there is always the first round of companies that push us in new directions but most of them fail.  It is the second round of companies that are usually the most interesting and have a higher rate of success.

Let’s start with delivery.  Kozmo proved that people want delivery back in the 90’s.  Unfortunately it was a different time and the amount of capital that had to deployed to make it work outside of NYC (where it was making money) was extremely difficult.  Fast forward to the last few years, we have seen the rise of food delivery services that are still struggling to make ends meet yet the demand is insanely high and will continue to grow.  Where this all lands, is up for discussion, but no doubt that food delivery (and any delivery) is here to stay.

People are starting to care more about what they put in their bodies.  The rise of new consumer products on your grocery shelves are gluten-free, vegan and short shelf-lives because of the fresh ingredients and from new food entrepreneurs vs. large enterprise companies such as Nestles and General Mills.  Generation Z is going to want those products more than anything else.  It is still insanely difficult to build a brand inside grocery when grocery chains still operate from something out of 1960.  From trucking to stocking the shelf to constant discounts, it is not a way to manage a business in 2018.  There are opportunities in this arena and many of these young companies are figuring out how to sell directly to the consumer so they can own that consumer although remember that 97% of the people still walk into the grocery store for their products.

The amount of new fast casual concepts grow daily.  Will we see those rise to the top and destroy the market share of McDonalds and TacoBell?  Time will tell but my gut tells me yes.  It will probably take awhile for many of these places to take over in the midwest but it is only a matter of time and of course capital to make that happen.  The customers in those regions read about all these places but nobody is serving them and they should.

How about the meat and fish products that are being recreated as plant based products.  Shrimp that tastes like shrimp, looks like shrimp but isn’t shrimp.  Is the future a T-bone that looks like a T-bone, tastes like a T-bone and actually has the texture of a T-bone?  There are certainly more than a few companies working on this.  My fear is if we get there, our country will be overrun by cattle.  If you ever driven across the US, it is unbelievable how many cows live here.

Smart appliances are evolving.  Soon your refrigerator will realize that you are out of butter based on how much you generally keep in your fridge and tell Suri or Alexa to order it and your robotic housekeeper, Rosie, will take the package when it comes and replace it in the fridge.  The only thing you will see is the bill unless of course you just use online checking and pay little attention to the funds that go in and out of your account.  Ovens are able to do everything from steam cooking to convection to just plain old baking.  What’s next?

The craziest thing I saw was the robot that is programmed to cook gourmet meals by simulating top chefs (ab0ve).  When will the cost come down to the price where everyone will have their own personal computerized chef that comes with a toque monogrammed with the family name.

The food space is changing.  Ten years from now we will all be eating, shopping and consuming everything in the food space in a completely different way….or perhaps not.  Only time will tell.

Soccer

Kathy Carter is running for the Presidency fo the United Soccer Association.  It was brought to my attention from a women’s online platform that I am part of.   If Carter won, she would be the first female to ever oversee this organization.  From what I have read, Kathy started playing soccer at 7 and has continued through college and her adult life.  To see a woman at the head of a major sports organization would certainly be a positive direction for the sports world.  She appears to have the chops currently being the President of Soccer United Marketing.

What made me think of this is that when our kids were young, and we lived in the burbs, I ran the soccer division.  I was the only woman coach so overseeing a group of pumped up Dad’s took on another set of issues.  Let’s start out with that these kids were 4-6.

I was a camper and I always loved the competition of the games.  I also played intramural sports in high school, coached kids from elementary school to junior high school while running the back office of the Montgomery County Recreation Department.  We ran a variety of sports for after school activities in over 20 schools from soccer to flag football to basketball.  Most of the coaches were either kids like me or parents.  So I was not new to the management of the sports world.

Overall, the soccer program ran seamlessly but there was one particular game that I coached that still sticks in my mind.  Perhaps after all those years of coaching kids was the reason I was undefeated because I certainly did not have a stacked team.  Emily was 5.  Two men were coaching the opposing team.  There were two kids on their team that they kept yelling at them by shouting their names over and over and over throughout the game.  “Get the ball to the goal, run, run, run, score score”.  My kids were shell-shocked at the tone of these coaches (fathers) voices and so was I.

I went over to the men and asked them to put it in check and that it was not appropriate to yell at these kids like this.  They were not happy with me.  They stopped although it wasn’t easy for them.  In the end, we won the game.  I went over to shake their hands and I was thinking this guy it not going to shake my hand but perhaps he will punch me in the face?  He shook my hand, begrudgingly and barely looked me in the eye. Trust me he was pissed.  Fred was aghast.  He was thinking about smacking those guys around.  I am 100% positive that if I was a male playing against them it would have taken on a very different tone.

So, when I read that Kathy Carter is running for President of the United Soccer Association, my brain immediately went back to the kids days of soccer where I had to deal with unacceptable male egos.  Their behavior certainly makes a direct impact on their sons who are now in their mid to late 20’s.  Teaching young men to respect the other gender on the other side of the table needs to start very young and I can tell you it certainly did not start out on the playing field that day.