Reflections from the Editors
The 2010s in Review
Editor’s Note: To honor the close of the 2010s—the decade in which Life & Thyme was born—Editor in Chief Antonio Diaz and Senior Editor Stef Ferrari reflect on hundreds of stories published and recall the details of a select few.
DTLA’s Grand Central Market: Adele Yellin’s Labor of Love
By Gianna Hughes
When we began working on season one of The Migrant Kitchen, we met so many incredible people who not only inspired us to create the show, but were instrumental in helping us to pull it off, logistically-speaking. One of those folks was a Los Angeles legend named Adele Yellin, who owned Grand Central Market, a major location for our shoot. When I moved from New York to L.A., the Market was one of the first places that truly captivated me. The wealth of stories we found within its walls, the diversity of cultures and foods, and the breadth of humanity was absolutely stunning to me. I knew we could expect to find powerful narratives inside; it was a true representation of the city, all somehow contained under one roof. But what I didn’t anticipate was how compelling its behind-the-scenes would turn out to be. In the hands of correspondent/Associate Editor Gianna Hughes, Yellin’s history came to life in a way that gave context and texture to this meaningful institution. We learned how and why she and her late husband Ira dedicated their lives to cultivating the Market, to fostering the kind of environment that allowed immigrant-run businesses to not only exist, but thrive over the course of decades and generations.
The Art of Hosting
By Tyler Wells
Originally published in the 2015 Winter issue of the print magazine, this piece had an approachability and amusing voice, issued from a man I knew well to be a consummate host—as I had been a regular in his coffee shop. To have Tyler Wells’ expert (and hilarious) advice delivered directly to L&T readers was a gift that season.
But later, when we shared it on the digital site in December of 2016, it took on a new meaning. It felt like the reminder I needed right then—that we could laugh at things, that we could live in a world that didn’t take itself too seriously, and that at the end of the day, frills could (and should) be set aside when welcoming in friends and family. That hosting isn’t about timing the turkey and mashed potatoes just right—those things can produce anxiety and frankly, I didn’t quite know where to fit more of that feeling into my life during those days. Instead, he tells us, “Don’t force it, don’t micromanage the experience, and for chrissake, don’t try to make some crazy spread of food and drink that you can’t pull off effortlessly.”
Wells’ piece was permission to re-engage with loved ones and do it in the most real and genuine way possible. His advice seemed more profound somehow—to invite people “who should know each other” was a call to build community. And while he advocates for simplicity, he reminds readers that detail and intention are still important. Maybe I was reading everything a bit more metaphorically in those days, but I found his words applicable to the world well beyond dinner parties—and a good reminder about the importance of living and gathering just the same.
Disaster & Relief
By Katie Bell
When Katie Bell told me about the flood that had occurred at Agern, the Michelin-starred restaurant in iconic Grand Central Terminal where she was employed, I was devastated for the team. I have known Bell for a long time, and I knew how much went into bringing that restaurant to life. From the food to the fixtures to the staff training meticulously carried out in advance of opening, no detail went without a level of dedication that bordered on fanatical. But that was the magic of the place, and the many out there just like it. It was a reminder that restaurants—those places of refuge and restoration for so many—are subject to disaster and the need for support. It also reminded me that when pushed, this industry knows better than any how to take care of fellow human beings, even beyond clientele. It’s an industry of people who take care of one another. From the restaurants’ efforts to place employees in other restaurants, to neighboring establishments that leapt to make space for displaced workers and diners alike, reading Bell’s account was a reminder of why I fell in love with this business in the first place.
Doyenne: Female Force in Food
Contributor: Deepi Ahluwalia in collaboration with Life & Thyme editors
This is a hard story to classify, but an impossible one to leave out of this list. As a published piece, longtime contributor Deepi Ahluwalia gave us a punch in the gut. A good reason to get up and remember that we are still part of something great in this country, at a time when her own feelings echoed so many of our own, troubled by the future and the uncertainty of it all. Ahluwalia expresses her “numbing sadness” here, and yet it was in her words—and her work collaborating with Life & Thyme on Doyenne to create a photographic exhibit featuring many of L.A.’s most prominent female chefs—that we found inspiration. The event, held at the Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A., was a great success raising over $10,000 for the Los Angeles chapter of Planned Parenthood. It was a moment in which we saw our power reflected not just on screen or in photographs, but in person, in the flesh and blood, and firing neurons of like-minded folks who wanted to be a part of hopeful solutions. Her words and her work, coupled with that of the chefs who donated their time and talent, was galvanizing. For me, Doyenne was a turning point not only in my political outlook and experience with activism, but in terms of understanding what our platform and our community at Life & Thyme could be capable of accomplishing.
The Manhattan: A Toast to the Timeless
By Stef Ferrari
I wanted to select one of my own stories for this list, not out of hubris but rather of gratitude. Over the course of my years with Life & Thyme, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with an astounding amount of human beings, each of whom touched, shaped and informed the way I see and approach the world and the relationships I have within it. It was truly impossible to choose any single piece that would encapsulate the impact these writings have had on me, so in the end, I just picked something I really enjoyed writing. Antonio Diaz and I have tackled many stories together, in what we refer to as an “AD/SF Production.” I handle the words while he manages the tricky business of taking accompanying photos. I’m always in awe of what he does, and I like to think I hold up my end of the bargain alright too. We’ve covered countless figures and friends, chefs and restaurants and organizations with all manner of impact in the food industry.
But this quirky piece was something I wrote in an almost stream-of-consciousness moment, sitting at a bar I frequented while living in Nashville, and missing my home in New York. It didn’t exactly have a ton of journalistic value, and yet when I sent it to Antonio with an inquiry—Is this worth publishing?—he not only gave me an enthusiastic green light, but offered to shoot the photos himself. I adored the way they came out, and years later as a Christmas gift he had the hero image printed and framed for me. It sits now above my desk, a reminder not only to observe and enjoy quitting time when it comes, but of my colleague and friend, and what makes this work we do so special—the people involved.
Bringing Food Back to the Kitchen
By Amanda Ryan
The concept for Life & Thyme existed since 2010 somewhere in my brain and on a napkin—although it was nowhere near what L&T has become today (that’s a good thing). But it wasn’t until the fall of 2012 that I launched the site in earnest with little experience and a ragtag team of Los Angeles county creatives that were dissatisfied with the status quo.
The oldest (live) posting in our archives is one by a friend of mine, Amanda Ryan, entitled Bringing Food Back to the Kitchen. Written as an op-ed in 2012, it highlights Ryan’s frustration of the lack of cooking at home and the rise of obesity in America. After reading this article seven years later, the sentiments still ring true today, but it also foreshadows a constant curiosity and hunger to question everything around us that sparked this entire publication in the first place.
And I’m here to tell you that that curiosity and hunger still remains today.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
Film by Nathan Sage
Los Angeles’ Handsome Coffee was the first specialty café that I stepped into that introduced me to third wave coffee which later became an obsession and passion in my life. Handsome no longer exists today (it was bought by Blue Bottle Coffee in 2014), but I still attribute much of Life & Thyme’s early venture into filmmaking to a little short film on this famous Arts District café in collaboration with filmmaker Nathan Sage. It’s still one of my favorite short films we’ve done and helped spark Life & Thyme’s film production arm.
A Morning of Coffee & Instagram
In the beginning, I knew building an in-person presence for Life & Thyme would be key to get the word out about who we are and what we are about. We hosted several dinners, both in Los Angeles and San Francisco, to begin fostering community around the dinner table, but it wasn’t until early 2014 when we hosted an Instagram meetup in L.A. that introduced us to the power of social media and the value of partnering with coffee shops. The concept was simple and cost-effective: meet at a local coffee shop to exchange ideas and meet our fellow community.
Our relationship with coffee and cafés continues today through our Over Coffee morning series, a more intellectual and expert-focused panel series at cafés around Los Angeles. But I think we’re overdue for a casual hang with no set agenda other than to get to know our readers and members over a cup of coffee.
In Conversation With Dominique Crenn
By Antonio Diaz
I am biased on this one because it’s an interview I was adamant in conducting simply because Dominique Crenn is one of my culinary heroes. In the past seven years, I have met countless incredible minds pushing the boundaries of food culture, but Crenn ranked at the top as one of the most thoughtful, genuine and wise chefs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Her words come with purpose and experience, not just from working in kitchens, but of life experiences that shape her courage and ideology on humanity.
Coffee in Crisis, Part One: A Changing Climate
By Oren Peleg
Food media can be a tricky thing to navigate. It’s often muddled by luxury, privilege and trend pieces, leaving little room for any substantive journalism. When the opportunity came for Life & Thyme to dispatch a team to Central America to learn more about coffee farmers in Guatemala, we knew this would be our chance to investigate coffee through the lens of climate change and economic turmoil. Correspondent Oren Peleg’s reporting gave us (and our readers) insight into the dire state of the coffee industry and the potential demise of our beloved morning cup. It sparked a whole theme dedicated to coffee for Life & Thyme Post and an Over Coffee panel event with expert voices, but more importantly, it helped L&T explore daunting topics like climate change through a much more focused lens.
The Sustenance of Space: Part 1
By Gianna Hughes
It’s one thing to be invited to a coveted restaurant where the menu will transcend your taste buds into ecstasy, but when NASA invites you to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to speak with their scientists about how they’re growing food in space (and later on Mars), I nearly had an out of body experience. I had grown accustomed to hearing chefs and farmers romanticize how our food is grown, how it is cooked, and which culture is being honored. At NASA, growing vegetables on the International Space Station, in transit to Mars and then later on Mars, is not seen as a form of farming subsistence or romantic storytelling but a solution to a very human problem (we all have to eat) and a logistical problem (once on Mars, Amazon Prime won’t magically come and deliver more food to the astronauts). Growing vegetables has been interlinked with humans since the start of our species, so I am happy to report we will continue growing them on the final frontier.
The Migrant Kitchen
From our humble beginnings shooting short films in kitchens and coffee shops with barebone gear to accepting an Emmy (three years in a row, thank you very much) for a TV docu-series in Los Angeles, The Migrant Kitchen is really a culmination of everything we at Life & Thyme have been working toward. The show, which chronicles immigrant stories through restaurants and food, is easily one of my proudest achievements and most challenging by far. With three seasons under our belt (and a fourth in the works), this show has taught us that American cuisine is immigrant cuisine and the politics around race and culture will always be intersected with the food we eat today.