If you ask us what the best part of waking up early (-ish) on a Saturday morning is, we won’t hesitate to say: a farmer’s market trip! Our eyes and stomachs wake right up when we see a rainbow of edible treats. Bright reds from peak-season tomatoes and vibrant oranges from melons? Sign us up! The best part, though, is knowing where the produce comes from. We’re so passionate about this that we take a hyperlocal approach to catering Los Angeles, Chicago, and everywhere in between, too.
Maybe you’re asking yourself why does a hyperlocal approach matter? Or simply, what the heck does that mean?! You’re in the right place.
To us, eating local is way more than just eating foods at peak deliciousness – although it’s a pretty awesome reason. (Have you ever eaten a melon in August?! Go try it, we’ll wait. Good? Good.) Eating local is just one way we can support the environment, farmers in the region, and our local restaurants. It’s a multi-pronged approach to doing our part to support the richness of the food scene in each of our cities. After all, we’re all in this for the food!
First of all, what’s the big deal with the LA food scene?
Los Angeles is a perfect city to showcase exactly what we mean. In the last decade or so the kinds of food and how food is meant to be enjoyed put Los Angeles on the map. In 2017, Zagat rated Los Angeles as the number one most exciting food city in the country. Food industry people celebrate this time as a long overdue recognition of Los Angeles’ food prowess.
Step aside New York and San Francisco (jk, we still love you!). Folks like Jonathan Gold, the guy who made food critiquing a thing, and Anthony Bourdain, may he rest in delicious paradise, have credited a few different reasons for the renaissance.
The innovators behind the food
From bacon-wrapped hot dogs and tacos to pho and Korean barbeque, you can eat the world without ever leaving LA. Anthony Bourdain mused on Reddit about the variety and quality of the establishments that had popped up in the last decade.
For a city that’s pretty well known (you know, for things like beaches and Hollywood), Bourdain claimed that Los Angeles was an underrated food city. His reasoning? It certainly was once famous for its wealth of restaurants. But, in his own words, LA sort of fell off the map in the food world. The style of European restaurants that made places like New York stand out were nowhere to be found in LA.
Los Angeles has always been the epicenter of the aforementioned tacos, Korean foods, and other cuisines that you might find in strip malls and food trucks. And that’s exactly why Bourdain and other critics began to recognize LA for having what other cities do not. LA is not playing by the usual rules – and that’s what makes it stand out among the pack.
Today, young chefs in Los Angeles come from a diversity of backgrounds. Many of these prominent contemporary chefs grew up in first-generation households. These food-lovers learned the tricks of the trade on the job and now marry technical skills with traditional recipes they grew up with. The result is some of the most creative food out there.
Innovative Los Angeles chefs have redefined the city’s food scene for a restaurant renaissance that’s reawakened the city. Food has become a blend of the traditional recipes that LA has always been known for fused with a first-generation cultural experience.
The laboratory they make it all happen in
If you’re anything like us, we’ll travel far and wide to a food truck, strip mall, or a white tablecloth spot anywhere between El Segundo and East LA. Sometimes you’ve got to wait in some traffic to taste some of the best food in the city. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you get what’s so incredible about the LA food scene. It’s a culmination of creativity, culinary innovation, and a hefty dose of passion.
You’ve probably jumped on the Korean taco or a matcha-filled croissant train. Or how about those wildly popular egg sandwiches on pillowy milk bread from Konbi? Or even a killer homemade sausage sandwich from Seoul Sausage’s food truck, made famous by Food Network (find ‘em in your Chewse catering Los Angeles 😉 ). You’ll find it all right here in the city that made matcha lattes famous.
The theme here is that the creativity found in Los Angeles’ food scene knows no bounds. What an ARRI film camera is to the film industry, a flat-top griddle is to a chef. For the chef, a griddle is the canvas. It’s where the magic happens! A griddle can be set-up anywhere, and we mean anywhere.
Gourmet food trucks as we know them today originally took off in Los Angeles. The reason? Setting up a food truck is much less expensive than a restaurant. It requires less space, cheaper rent, and less people to operate. Food trucks were, and still are, a way for chefs to experiment with the cuisines and techniques they’re passionate about – without the pressure of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. It’s also a way to gain a cult-following; to get their name and food out there then eventually set-up a bigger space afforded by a permanent restaurant.
The same goes for strip malls. LA is home to strip malls where law offices, tanning salons, and restaurants share the same parking lot and coexist in errands running-heaven. You’ll probably have the best pho, sushi, tacos, Creole (we could go on), that you’ve ever had – until the next strip mall you go to.
Jonathan Gold, award-winning LA Times ex-food critic, explained that the restaurant renaissance we now see is because of lower-rent spaces like those found in strip malls and food trucks. It’s a no-brainer: cheaper rent frees up funds for more groundbreaking, and dangerously tasty, experimentation.
Eating local and reconnecting the food chain
So how do restaurants make it all happen? Los Angeles is unique in that the city has access to tons of farms, fresh produce, meats, and other local products for better quality food to experiment with. And hungry diners want it!
Top leaders note that the biggest change driving the food industry today is transparency. People want to know where their food is coming from. Today’s hungry diner is also an environmentally and socially-conscious one. They want to know that what they put into their body is sourced responsibly, ethically, and seasonal.
Eating local is a driving force of what’s elevating Los Angeles’ food scene. Seasonally-driven menus make it so that a restauranteur can’t find a locally-grown tomato in winter. (That’s probably a good thing because there’s nothing like an in-season tomato!) The focus on seasonal produce requires creativity, while at the same time, supports the local agricultural economy.
The shift away from year-round sourcing means people are more connected to their food than ever before. Out-of-season produce tends to be picked before ripeness, travel much further, and as a result, is much more expensive to the consumer. Direct-to-consumer produce and products allows consumers – restaurateurs and diners alike – to purchase food freshly picked, without all those pesky pesticides. It’s so much tastier, too.
Ever stop in the produce section, pick up a pepper just to see some shriveled up, less-than-colorful produce? It was probably picked before ripeness, sat on a truck for distribution, only to end up at your grocery store a couple weeks later.
Much of our produce is distributed across state lines, borders, and oceans. It’s estimated that the produce and products on a single plate of food can travel an average of 1,500 miles! A study done by the University of Michigan found that eating locally-grown food could save the equivalent carbon emissions of driving 1,000 miles.
It takes a lot of time and fuel to transport products each step of the way. From farm to packaging to distribution and finally, the consumer, everyday products can be world travelers. But a well-traveled piece of steak or packet of sugar isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Head to your local farmer’s market and see for yourself! The people tending the booth can share their growing practices, where their farm is, maybe even their farm dog’s name (optional). Or better yet, patron a restaurant that prioritizes local food sourcing! After all, great quality food doesn’t just start at the ground level, it starts with our stomachs.
The farm-to-table movement has taken the restaurant world by storm. Ever since Alice Waters pioneered the farm-to-table movement with Chez Panisse in Berkeley, diners everywhere are more conscientious of supporting the movement.
The proof is in the sustainably-sourced chocolate pudding. Publications like Eater release yearly lists predicting the top food trends for the upcoming year. For 2019, transparent practices, sustainability, hyper local, and farm-to-table eating ranked as continuing trends. Everywhere you go, restaurants and grocery stores are featuring locally sourced foods.
But eating local is only the beginning! Just like sourcing local produce and products helps the local agricultural economy, so does eating at locally-owned restaurants. Our Founder and CEO, Tracy Lawrence wrote in a piece for Medium that eating at local restaurants has a positive effect on the local economy. Local restaurants tend to source from local farms and purveyors, and provide jobs for people in the area. We sat down with one of our local restaurant catering Los Angeles partners to hear why sourcing locally is the backbone of their business.
Eat This Cafe’s hyperlocal approach to catering los angeles
What is Eat This Cafe’s story?
We went for a concept to make homemade sauces for unique flavors. We wanted it to be casual, all made from scratch, for unique flavors you can’t find anywhere else. For example, we source our bread from a bakery that makes it exclusively for us. We want to create value for clients who live and work around our restaurant. We do classics and favorites, but because of the ingredients, it’s special.
What drew you to the local purveyors you work with?
We’re all about supporting local! We’re a local business sourcing from local purveyors! Darius and I [Houman] grew up together in LA. Whenever possible, we want to keep it here. it’s better for the business and the community. Customers and can tell the difference when it’s good quality.
Can you talk about the relationships you have with your purveyors and why it’s significant?
Quality and price are one thing, but getting the best price is not the only decision. The relationship we create with our vendors is based on loyalty. We remain loyal with vendors to get the best products. Getting the best prices for the best products then gets passed to the customer. So we always take the extra time to build relationships. It can be tempting to lower quality to save money and increase margins for cost savings on popular items. But for us, especially our trademark sandwich, we don’t want to compromise the quality.
Some of the best restaurants in the world are here. People come back to us because of what we provide. If the quality is compromised, then we won’t be known for that.
Catering Los Angeles isn’t easy, but it’s worth it
Chewse exists because of local restaurants like Eat This Cafe. We don’t go for the Subways and Paneras of the world. Our restaurants’ ability to create strong relationships with local farmers and producers allows them to deliver mouth-watering, trend-setting food to your Los Angeles catering.
Our stomachs have the power to support local restaurants and farms. And the easiest way to do that is with Chewse! Take a look at what else we’ve got to offer – or if you’re ready, sign-up today! Say goodbye to generic sandwiches and hello to thoughtfully prepared dishes brought straight to your office.