Journal

Thoughts, ramblings, and #BTS by the L&T Editorial Staff.

Off the Menu: Issue Five

By Stef Ferrari on Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Editor’s Note: Each week, Life & Thyme contributors are trotting the globe, taking in the sights and turning over all kinds of culinary stones for future stories. In our new weekly Off the Menu series, we ask for their favorite food-related finds from all over––and share them here.

Jim Sullivan, Photographer (San Diego); Jim on Instagram

The dumplings from Din Tai Fung are out of this world. The recipes come straight from their Shanghai location with the same attention to detail given to each dumpling. Just might be my favorite bite of food I’ve had in quite some time.

http://dintaifungusa.com/locations_us/

Carly DeFilippo, Writer (New York City); Carly on Instagram

The sticky bun at Tulie bakery in Salt Lake City! Flaky dough, crunchy caramel and toasted pecans. An addictive, just-sweet-enough treat for those who typically skew savory.

http://www.tuliebakery.com

Anne Watson, Photographer (Southern California); Anne on Instagram

If you love authentic Kansas City Style BBQ & find yourself in Santa Ana, California, then you definitely want to stop by Native Son Ale House (305 E. 4th Street #200) starting this Thursday, Jan 4th when Kanas City-born Chef & Marine Veteran Derrick Foster takes over the kitchen full-time with his award-winning Ember Barbecue. It’s hands-down some of the best BBQ I’ve ever tasted. In addition to traditional slow-smoked meats, he’s also created an awesome “snack menu” that includes his signature “Hogchos” (photo attached) which are his take on traditional nachos, using chicharron in place of tortilla chips, topped with pulled pork, smoked cheese sauce, pork jerky, pickled onion, sour cream, jalapenos and his housemade BBQ sauce. So amazing!

Ziza Bauer, Writer (Nashville & Los Angeles); Ziza on Instagram

Pasticceria Scaturchio in Naples, Italy. A classic little place near the Piazza S. Domenico Maggiore where you can stuff your face and love every minute of it.

http://www.scaturchio.it

Katrina Frederick, Photographer (Los Angeles); Katrina on Instagram

I have been reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson––an historic narrative of the planning and execution of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. I love the inclusion of menus from elaborate dinners to celebrate the occasion, many of which have courses devoted to cigarettes and cigars.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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Off the Menu: Issue Four

By Stef Ferrari on Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Editor’s Note: Each week, Life & Thyme contributors are trotting the globe, taking in the sights and turning over all kinds of culinary stones for future stories. In our new weekly Off the Menu series, we ask for their favorite food-related finds from all over––and share them here.

Antonio Diaz: Founder (Los Angeles); Antonio on Instagram

Brunch at Los Angeles’ Republique. Chef Walter Manzke is a genius with local ingredients and I don’t know any other chef in LA that personally visits a different farmers market every single day.

www.republiquela.com

 

Jim Sullivan: Photographer (San Diego); Jim on Instagram

Brunch at the James Beard Award-winning restaurant The Workshop in Palm Springs, California, is outstanding. A great way to spend Sunday morning with family and friends.

http://workshoppalmsprings.com

 

Anne Watson: Photographer (Southern California); Anne on Instagram

This year our family discovered The Wagyu Shop, an online source that just launched in 2017 for buying some of the world’s best beef, delivered straight to your doorstep. Both American Wagyu primal cuts (like the Flank & Tri Tip pictured below) as well as Japanese A5 Wagyu steaks. We indulged in the Tri Tip for our family’s Christmas dinner at The Watson Ranch this week — prepared sous vide & then seared, it was sublime.  The marbling on every cut of this beef is unreal – melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  Perfect for anyone who loves & appreciates good beef – and great for special occasions. They deliver via FedEx Priority Overnight, so there’s even time to still get some before New Year’s!

https://www.wagyushop.com/

 

Stef Ferrari, Senior Editor (New York City); Stef on Instagram

While it’s not a book about food, per se, yoga teacher* Andrea Marcum’s Close to Om has been high on my anticipated reads list for some time. Everyone, everywhere, in every culture seems to be talking about mindfulness these days, but this book actually makes it seem like balance is an achievable thing, and that extends to the way we do everything––including eating and sharing meals with loved ones. Packed with useful, practical information, written with plenty of wit and levity, it’s a great start-the-year-right read, whether you’re a yogi or not.

Close to Om: Stretching Yoga from Your Mat to Your Life by Andrea Marcum

*If you happen to live in L.A., seek one of Marcum’s near-daily yoga classes.

 

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Off the Menu: Issue Three–Grab & Go Gifts

By Stef Ferrari on Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Editor’s Note: Each week, Life & Thyme contributors are trotting the globe, taking in the sights and turning over all kinds of culinary stones for future stories. In our new weekly Off the Menu series, we ask for their favorite food-related finds from all over––and share them here.

This week’s edition is all about last––last––minute gifts.

Stef Ferrari: Senior Editor (NYC); Stef on Instagram

Subscriptions! At the last minute, there’s nothing better than being able to purchase a subscription for someone and have the gift in your inbox instantly. I usually try to dress up the presentation, print out a confirmation/explanation of the service and still have something to wrap up. For example, a coffee subscription paired with a mug, or an olive oil subscription tied to a loaf of good bread with a bow.

A few of my favorites:

Nudo Olive Oil: Allows you to actually adopt an olive tree in Italy, from which oil will be produced and delivered to your recipient throughout the course of the year!

Saloonbox: For the boozers in your brood. This subscription sends mix-ready ingredients and instructions for a new cocktail every time.

Mistobox: Sleep in––let the professionals do the work. Varying length subscriptions of hand-selected, roasted-to-order coffee.

And see below for awesome wine options from Pour This…

Katrina Frederick: Assistant Editor; Katrina on Instagram

I’m putting bulbs of black garlic from Obis One in my food-loving family members’ stockings. A nice alternative to coal!

Anne Watson: Photographer (Southern California); Anne on Instagram

I’ve recently fallen in love with Made In Cookware. This line of American-made premium stainless cookware launched this fall and is an affordable option for home cooks who are looking for professional-grade pots and/or pans at home-cook prices. I particularly love my 10″ fry pan for searing meats as well as cooking vegetables. A great last-minute gift idea for anyone who loves to cook.

https://madeincookware.com

Jim Sullivan: Photographer (San Diego); Jim on Instagram

My favorite cookbook of 2017. A great addition for any foodie :)

Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables

Carly DeFillipo: Writer (NYC); Carly on Instagram

The peak ice collection from W&P Design*. These silicone ice trays (with stabilizing steel frames) bring high-quality cocktail bar ice to the home freezer. What’s the most fun is that even your foodi’est friends likely haven’t made this purchase, and it will instantly upgrade all their drinks—from seltzer to stiff cocktails and beyond. (They even sell them on Amazon for a truly last-minute shipping option!)

*Transparency / Disclaimer: I work for W&P Design…but I’m also giving these to all my friends because I think they’re such a great gift.

Ashley Ragovin: Writer* (Los Angeles); Ashley on Instagram

Pour This is for sure the greatest wine membership on planet earth, and your mom / brother / impossible sister-in-law / boss / neighbor who loves good wine will really appreciate bottles from actual farmers and passionate people around the world. These wines are rooted in community, pleasure, and people. Shameless plug, yes! But great gift idea nonetheless!? Also happy to offer Life & Thyme readers 10% off their purchases with the code LT10.

https://www.pour-this.com/pages/gift-membership

*Ashley is the curator/proprietor behind Pour This

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The Migrant Kitchen: Lighting the Scene

By Austin Straub on Monday, December 18th, 2017

Editor’s Note: Austin Straub is a Los Angeles-based cinematographer and also one of Life & Thyme’s filmmakers. He was the Director of Photography for two episodes of our Emmy-winning show, The Migrant Kitchen. Stream the full second season on KCET.org.


 

Hey! I’m Austin Straub, and I was brought in to DP 2 episodes of the second season of The Migrant Kitchen. Today, I wanted to peel back the curtain a bit and talk about some of the lighting techniques we utilized on the show.

This season, each episode averaged 6 interviews, which kept Ben Hunter (DP of Episodes 1+4) and myself on our toes to make sure each one felt cohesive to the whole, yet placed each character in an environment that reflected them.

One of our main decisions going into this show was to light these interviews with naturally motivated light. We wanted to make sure these interviews didn’t “look lit”. Each space we walked into, we’d first scout a background that we found most interesting, and one that gave us enough space to set up. Then we’d look for where the light was coming from. Most of the time, what a window was letting in just wasn’t enough for us to work with, but that reference gave us a starting point to begin a lighting setup. Our rule was to make sure the light we added appeared to be coming from the existing sources.

In terms of our lighting package, we kept things pretty slim. We usually used only one key light (more on that later) and a couple of black solids to create some contrast or to block light that was spilling in from places that may negatively influence the image. For instance, most of these interviews ran 2 hours long, so we needed to make sure the sun wouldn’t slowly creep into areas we didn’t want it.

For our key light, we used a new LED source from Digital Sputnik (nerd fact: the same lights used to light STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE) The great thing about this light is that it’s completely color tunable. This worked out great for our style of lighting, because we could look at the existing light in the room, and match this light exactly to the natural light, which allowed us to make the windows just a bit brighter without weird color temperature-mixing issues. 99% of the time, we didn’t point this light directly at our subject. Part of our kit was a 2-foot by 4-foot white bounce card. We’d position this just off frame, and then kick the light into this. That gave us a nice, soft, large source for the light to scatter from (real world example: when the sun is hitting the side of a building opposite of the one you’re in, there’s still plenty of light coming through your window). In addition to the Sputnik, we usually kept some 1-foot by 1-foot LED panels around in case we needed to hide one in the background to light up areas of the scene – but most of our setups didn’t require these!

DS1 Set by Digital Sputnik

So that about does it for our lighting, now let’s move to the camera package! This season, we shot on the RED Epic-W. This camera shoots RAW video, which allowed us a ton of flexibility in post-production to correct any color balance issues we might encounter on set. Due to the fast-paced nature of some of our days filming in the kitchens, we often didn’t have time (or space!) to bring in additional lighting, so the extra wiggle room our images gave us also allowed us to focus first on capturing the moment and secondarily on the settings. However, all that RAW goodness comes at a cost! As beautiful as the 8K video (that’s about 35 megapixels for you photographers out there) was looking, we ended up shooting about 75 hours of footage which weighed in at a hefty 50 TERABYTES (no, that’s not a typo). Since there are very few 8K displays are out in the wild, it’s impractical to actually display that full image. However, we were finishing in 4K, which allowed us to stay framed wider on our plated food shots and interviews, and then punch into it in the edit for close-ups without sacrificing resolution. In addition, scaling footage down eliminates noise, which made our low-light situations even more forgiving.

So, now that the technical details are out of the way, I wanted to talk about a few specifics on my favorite interviews from the series! Here they are, along with some handy diagrams!

NAKUL – Badmaash

This interview is probably my favorite, but it wasn’t without its struggles. At the time of our shoot, Badmaash was getting some new neighbors! Unfortunately for us, that meant stopping this interview every 5 minutes to hold for the guys next door to stop drilling into the wall. About halfway through the interview, we realized we wouldn’t be able to finish before we needed to move on for the day, so we paused everything and took detailed photos and notes of our exact setup. Two weeks later, we came back in and set up the shot nearly identically (except for some rogue drinks in the background that got shuffled).

ARJUN – Badmaash

This interview was quite the problem from the beginning! We wanted to shoot both brothers in the dining room of Badmaash, but we didn’t want to have them look too similar, so we decided to move upstairs for Arjun’s. The overhead lights here are warm-tone, which is great for nighttime, but clashed pretty badly with the daytime light that was pouring in from behind. We tried almost every lighting angle imaginable, even giving up on natural motivation, but nothing looked quite right. We finally walked our bounce card just off frame to the left – and in the space, almost behind Arjun – and that little bit of light created a pretty believable wrap around his face. We used a bit of netting (called a double) off frame to the right to soften up some of the natural light hitting his neck, and topped it off with an additional bounce card next to Tim (the director/interviewer) to give us a bit more fill on his face. In the end, I think we ended up with an interview that contrasts Nakul’s, but still compliments it aesthetically.

CHARLES – Omotenashi

We got lucky the day we shot the Tsubaki interviews. LA was blessed with some long-lasting cloud cover which gave us some great soft light in their dining room. Ben and I decided to play around with traditional composition here and “shortsight” this interview by having Charles look off screen away from the “longer” side of our frame. We implemented a really simple setup here: Sputnik into our bounce just off frame right, and a black solid just off frame left to create some contrast.

SEIICHI – Omotenashi

This last one is just for fun, because it’s basically all natural. I feel like this is where the dynamic range of the RED really shines. We used our white card pretty far out of frame to bounce some light onto his shirt a bit so it didn’t fall too dark into the shadows, but this is all pure sun. It’s also one of the few interviews that we did standing up! We had a really interesting setup ready to go a couple hours before this with Seiichi sitting in the back of his work truck, but the parking lot was just too noisy for us to use, so we scrapped that unfortunately, but quickly found this frame in the fish market. I think it ended up looking really great!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll check out all of the episodes of Season 2 of The Migrant Kitchen, now streaming at KCET.org.

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Off the Menu: Issue Two

By Stef Ferrari on Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Editor’s Note: Each week, Life & Thyme contributors are trotting the globe, taking in the sights and turning over all kinds of culinary stones for future stories. In our new weekly Off the Menu series, we ask for their favorite food-related finds from all over––and share them here.




Deepi Ahluwalia, Photographer/Writer (LA); Deepi on Instagram

New on the menu this week at Gracias Madre: Pumpkin Flan. A melt-in-your-mouth moment to linger over, this dessert hits all the right notes for the season with its cool touch and warm flavors. Candied squash, burnt sugar caramel and pecans are composed in Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert’s creamy vegan creation, bringing some serious winter cheer to the palate.

Gracias Madre
8905 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069



Carly DeFilippo,Writer (NYC); Carly on Instagram

We’ve all tried a Grilled Romaine Caesar and maybe even a Kale Caesar…but a Fire-Roasted Cabbage Caesar salad? At Leuca in The William Vale Hotel, Chef Anthony Ricco elevates the humble cabbage by roasting it over an open flame. Tossed with crunchy breadcrumbs and a bright, lemony Caesar dressing—and adorned with fresh anchovies—this overlooked cruciferous veg finally escapes from its sauerkraut status. An absolute must-try if you’re ever swinging through Williamsburg, Brooklyn! (Photo Credit: Noah Fecks)

Leuca
The William Vale Hotel
111 N 12th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249


jim sullivan, Photographer (SD); Jim on Instagram

Drift Magazine: Fresh off the printers––the Mexico City issue. Drift is a print magazine that focuses on the coffee culture in different cities around the globe. The current issue is special to my heart as I have spent alot of time in the CDMX and come to love that city.


Hector Pacheco, L&T Biz Dev (LA); Hector on Instagram

Architect turned pastry chef, 3-D printing for the win. More.


Katrina Frederick, Photographer (LA); Katrina on Instagram

After an endless parade of pastry, Mokonuts makes for a welcome change of pace in Paris. With no breakfast menu, the owner makes whatever she has on hand. For us that meant a spice-heavy Lebanese “pizza” with lebneh and a bowl of incredible granola with creative fruits and fresh thyme. The owner herself is inspiring — Japan-born, lived many years in France and San Francisco, studied law, and came back to Paris to open up this flavor Eden. After it all, there are still sweets to wash it all down: the best cookies in town. Good luck choosing between tahini and classic chocolate chip!

Mokonuts
5 Rue Saint-Bernard
75011 Paris, France


Ashley Ragovin, Writer (LA); Ashley on Instagram

Cafe Stella Wine Bar in Silverlake might just have the best list in the city right now for drinking great wine. It’s a thoughtful selection of great winemakers around the world, wines made honestly and with integrity. The bottle list has many hidden gems, but the glass pour offerings are just as enticing, and the space feels so good. Jesse, Ross, and Zach are  true hospitalitarians, let them steer!

Cafe Stella
3923 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029


Elena Valeriote,Writer (Cali); Elena on Instagram

This Molasses Triple Chocolate Cookie recipe by Averie Cooks. I’ve been baking these cookies for years because I love the way they fill the kitchen with the rich, warm aroma of molasses, ginger and chocolate––and they hold up well when I get heavy-handed with the portion of dark chocolate chunks.


Stef Ferrari, Sr. Editor; Stef on Instagram

The first time I tasted this babka, it was a bit of a scene. It was a stormy autumn afternoon, and I stopped in just to say hello to my friend and L&T writer, Jessica Quinn. Of course, I couldn’t leave without tasting something––so I took a slice of chocolate babka to go. As I stepped out, I thought I’d take just one quick bite before beginning my wet walk home, but within a few minutes, I found myself flattening against a building for cover––but still getting soaked––all so I could continue eating this magical thing.

Some bites are custardy and flakey, others crisp and caramelized and crunching with dark sugar. There’s a hurricane of quality chocolate and butter in every inch; this babka is so good I hesitate to tell people about it, especially given its limited availability––Poppy’s is only open to the public Saturdays and Sunday.

But then I realize, the world needs to know. Rain or shine.

Poppy’s Catering
243 Degraw St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231

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Letter from the Founder

By Antonio Diaz on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

We have reached a turning point in America that has been a long time coming. It’s a reckoning that will hopefully cleanse our culture of the deplorable, destructive behavior that has become so deeply rooted––and even normalized––in our capitalist society, where dollar signs and displays of power often take precedence over people. I mention capitalism intentionally; we’re a country founded on the principle that anyone can make it to the top through pure hustle. As an entrepreneur and founder, I respect that.

The playing field is not always level when it comes to policy, economic or environmental perspectives, but of all the many obstacles, inappropriate behavior on the part of peers, colleagues or bosses should not be among them. Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to build the next big thing, or a server trying to get by, we’re all just trying to hustle, earn a living and climb that mountain. The working environment is sacred to me; it’s the steam room that powers our society, a place that should be encouraging of new talent and ideas, and a setting for achievements that benefit us all, thanks to the hard work of others willing to share their knowledge, professionalism and work ethic.

But when a wrench is thrown into that cog—whether harassment, sexism, racism, or any form of oppression or misconduct—it undermines everything American life stands for; it creates trauma and unnecessary pain, and threatens the entire life of a business (along with the livelihoods of those that work under it) all for the personal gratification of one individual’s despicable interests.

Despite recent allegations that implicate a common, extremely corrosive theme across many kitchens––one hushed for so long–– it is my experience in documenting food culture for half a decade, that the majority of the industry represents a loving and supportive community. One that thrives on and celebrates diversity. And that is the community I fell in love with. That’s the one that inspires us to do the work we do every day.

But the sad truth is most celebrated chefs continue to look a certain way, when the diversity is what makes this industry work and for cuisine itself to exist. By exalting one individual over the many people involved in helping them achieve their own dreams, we’re placing the power solely in their hands––and that has proved to be a very dangerous recipe.

In response to such allegations, our Senior Editor wrote the words, “let’s be an industry of inclusiveness and inspiration, of empathy and support, and of community.” This is a philosophy on which Life & Thyme prides itself—from our work on The Migrant Kitchen to Doyenne: Female Force in Food. But we can still do better. We can all do better. We shouldn’t just tip the pedestal built for those offending individuals in the first place—we need to build new ones for those that haven’t even been given a chance, trailblaze for a different type of pioneer, leadership and generation. If all you’re picking are apples and those apples are bad apples, maybe try shaking the orange tree.

Yes, we will continue to document white male chefs, but we will consciously invest even more in highlighting the success (and struggles) of women, of immigrants, of people of every shade and color and sexual orientation, and the unsung heroes of our beloved industry. The playing field may not be equal for everyone––but we need to give them a chance to play the damn game in the first place.

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Off the Menu: Issue One

By Stef Ferrari on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Editor’s Note: Each week, Life & Thyme contributors are trotting the globe, taking in the sights and turning over all kinds of culinary stones for future stories. In our new weekly Off the Menu series, we ask for their favorite food-related finds from all over––and share them here.

“Adriatico Mar in Venice, Italy’s Dorsoduro neighborhood. Yes, please. Stop in for €3 spritzes and stay for their wine selection. Feels so far from the typical overwhelming tourist bubble that Venice can be.”

Adriatico Mar, Calle Crosera, 3771, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy

Ziza Bauer, Writer (Nashville & Los Angeles) Ziza on Instagram

“The breakfast sandwich line-up at Littleneck Outpost in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. From their best-in-class avocado toast to a leaning-tower-of-Pisa-esque mushroom and egg on focaccia, this sunlight-drenched shop is equal parts charming and utterly delicious.”

128 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY 11222

Carly DeFilippo, Writer (New York City) Carly on Instagram

“My pick is from my trip home to New York for Thanksgiving. I live in California now, and I can barely put into words what a decadent comfort it was to have my mom’s Italian home cooking––in this instance, homemade sauce and meatballs with pasta.”

Jackie Bryant, Writer (San Diego) Jackie on Instagram

“La Guerrerense ceviche stand, Ensenada, Baja Mexico. Stopped by Sabina’s famous stand for a quick bite while down there for a shoot. I had the bacalao and pulpo ceviche tostada (pictured), as well as couple others. Her seafood is extremely fresh––minutes out of the water. Sabina is an icon in Baja cuisine, and her cart is always a must when stopping in Ensenada.”

Jim Sullivan, Photographer (San Diego) Jim on Instagram 

“I’ve developed a serious addiction to Erickson Woodworks food photography shooting surfaces over the past year, and can’t say enough about the amazing custom boards that Ginny Erickson and her team handcraft in her studio in Orange, California. Everything from faux finishes of marble and concrete, to reclaimed vintage woods, and custom colorful plasters––anything you can dream up, Ginny can create. I even challenged her with a crazy “dream-surface” this year: splatter paint. And she nailed it (pictured above). I think these surfaces are fantastic to have on-hand not only for professional photographers, but for chefs, bloggers, home cooks, or really anyone who wants to take their food photos to the next level.”

Anne Watson, Photographer (Southern California) Anne on Instagram

 

“The Buffalo Milk Caramelle Pasta at Don Angie, a new West Village spot with an emphasis on ‘modern’ Italian cuisine. The dish is served with persimmon and black sesame, and is as gorgeous as photos suggest––and even more delicious. Not pictured here because…well, Instagram has more than got it covered.”

Don Angie, 103 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014

Stef Ferrari, Senior Editor (New York City) Stef on Instagram

 

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Glitter & Onions: A Night of Firsts.

By Stef Ferrari on Sunday, July 23rd, 2017


“So, take a bite of the burger, and then a bite of this,” Antonio instructs, handing me a miniature green pepper that looks like it’s been shrunken for service at Alice’s tea party. Less than a mile away, a party of another kind is taking place—the Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards reception. People there are in three piece suits and bow ties, sequined dresses and stilettos. They’re taking advantage of the open bar, serving themselves from chafing dishes of roasted chicken and clinking glasses brimming with complimentary bubbly. They’re standing on a red carpet, earnestly handing out and receiving congratulations—it’s a well-deserved celebration for hard-working and talented TV professionals. And it’s one we’ve just left.

When it came our time to get in line for a bite, we realized the three of us had barely eaten all day. There were nerves and errands and ceremony prep to contend with––for me, a last-minute manicure, a MacGyver-ing of my strapless dress to make sure it’d stay put (safety pins to the rescue). But suddenly, we were ravenous.

“I say we skip this and go straight to In N Out,” Antonio had said as flash bulbs flickered around us, my familiar old friend looking like a totally new person with this sparkling statue in his hand. Ben’s responding grin was wordless perfection. A quick search dropped a digital pin on our virtual maps—pointing us point-nine miles away, and I set down the champagne flute after finishing off the last sip. We thanked our team at KCET and told them how honored we are to have collaborated with them. We said we couldn’t have done it without them. We let them know how grateful we are to have them as partners, and we meant every word. Then we walk-skipped to the parking garage, still dazed, still speaking in rapid fire and running on pure adrenaline. We rhapsodized about the moment it happened, the feeling leading up, the other winners and nominees we respect so much, and then we were off.

“Grilled or raw?” Ben asks from the driver’s seat when we’re next in line, and suddenly the way in which my onions are to be cooked is my most important consideration in the world. I’ve somehow never had this burger despite nearly ten years as an on-again, off-again Californian, and the pressure is on for the second time tonight. Grilled is my decision, and ten minutes later, I decide I was not wrong.

We situate at a picnic table, separated from our Emmy statues for the first time since they were handed to us a few hours before. We leave them in the car, not wanting to draw attention (or to tarnish their pristine figures). To our right is a table with a young Latino family, the parents helping to make burger bites more manageable for their little ones. On our left, a few high schoolers swap shakes and swipe at cell phones screens. Here, no one gives a damn who designed my dress or what project we might do next. We’re in our own little world, just another part of the local ecosystem of Los Angeles—the city that was subject and inspiration for our now award-winning documentary.

None of it matters the moment we sit down. We toast our burgers with toasted buns, we pass around packets of ketchup and start our individual preparations. We each finally take our first bites, and everything slows down a little. We lean back. We loosen up. We laugh easy.

I listen to my two friends discuss the kinds of roller coasters they like. We talk about recent dates we’ve been on, a new restaurant in town, family vacations on the horizon and the deadlines for our next projects. I steal fries from them both (straight up from Antonio, animal-style from Ben). I relish in my grilled onion selection, snap into the spicy pepper as instructed (sage direction), and nudge a rogue slice of tomato back into place. I spend at least three napkins before the burger disappears, and it’s possible I’ve never been more satisfied. A solid introductory visit, indeed—a night full of happy firsts.

Of the moments that I’ll remember from this night––and there are many––this is the one that will live without photographic evidence or fanfare or a commemorative trophy. Friends and Instagram followers will find it hard to believe that I stopped snapping photos for even a second, but there on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, at a picnic table in the still-warm July night air, there was a sacred space. Just three good friends, three fast burgers—and a few dozen other folks getting their mid-summer Saturday fix.

We share this incredible award with the people that participated in our documentary series—who let us into their lives so we could tell their stories—and those who are, as we speak and celebrate, in kitchens all over the country, serving food to communities and representing their vibrant, invaluable cultures.

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We The People

By Antonio Diaz on Monday, January 30th, 2017

My parents immigrated to the United States in the 70s from Mexico. It was a struggle, it was painful, and they left the life they knew for a chance of a better one. We’ve heard this story countless times—the American dream. But to fully grasp it and understand how emotional and complex this very notion really is, you would have to be an immigrant yourself or be a by-product of their struggle, like myself, a son of immigrants. I was born an American, in Los Angeles County, and constantly immersed in two worlds: American culture and Mexican culture. English and Spanish. Burgers and tacos.

To me, that is the America I love. One that isn’t one thing but a multitude of things. And people. And cultures. America was built on this foundation and will always be a nation of not just one thing. A nation that sets an example for democracy, humanitarian responsibility, and compassion for people. People! Real people with real lives, hopes, dreams and loved ones. These men, women and children are not mere line items on a piece of paper to be shipped back to a country where they may face persecution, but real people that were born into this world just like the rest of us with human rights.

Immigration policy for a country as large and powerful as the United States will never be easy but it should never jeopardize human respect, much less be barbaric in its action, which is what we faced in just this past weekend. Our very own constitution and the fabric of our democracy is at risk, but if history is any indication, it will prevail in the power of the people. Not government, not policy–but people.

At Life & Thyme, we may cover the luxury of eating, we may celebrate the food industry and things that are delicious, but our stories have always been rooted in the people. It is our mission to expand the conversations of civil, political and environmental issues on our platform because you do not need to look far to find them linked to the food industry—whether in America or abroad. To enjoy the food we eat, we must first care for those that grew it or prepared it.

The Migrant Kitchen, our docu-series highlighting the struggles and achievements of immigrants in Los Angeles’ food industry, was only the beginning in this new direction. We will continue on this journalistic path while also exploring campaigns to raise awareness and donations (including opening our own pocket books) for important organizations that fight against injustice, like ACLU.

We are also open to your ideas that explore these stories or campaigns benefitting groups that face similar injustice, inequality and humanitarian struggle. Feel free to reach out to us; we are here to help.

Antonio
Founder of Life & Thyme

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So you want to start a magazine

By Antonio Diaz on Sunday, January 15th, 2017
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In October, Life & Thyme will turn five. Five! What once was a creative outlet for a band of creatives feeling unfilled at their day jobs to a real media company with a thriving community, contributors from around the globe, and profit & loss to worry about.

I mention the last part (P&L) because Life & Thyme is bootstrapped, has taken on zero outside investment, and its primary focus is to be a business. Without it being a business, I would not have had the chance to resign from the previous company I co-founded and L&T wouldn’t be here today. This is not to say that it’s all peaches and cream over here at L&T-land. On the contrary, it’s chaotic, it’s not perfect, and we are constantly scrambling. Think of a bustling restaurant. On the front-end, the drinks are flowing, the people are laughing, and the food is coming out—maybe a little late—but it’s forgivable because it’s delicious. In the kitchen, it’s like a bomb went off: the cooks are sweating, the time is ticking, and it’s a game of catch up but never sacrificing quality.

And I love it.

The stress, the long hours, and the scrappiness of it all. But like I said, we’re not perfect and there isn’t a fancy office with a loaded snack bar and bean bags to lounge on (we primarily work remotely). What we do have is freedom. Freedom to tackle any story we want, freedom to work with anyone we want to work with, and freedom to work how we want to work. This freedom can only function if there are smart decisions being made on the business end, in which they are oftentimes refined through time and experience.

Building a boutique media company from the ground up for the past 4+ years means we now know a thing or two about publishing and its business side. We are learning everyday and the element of survival is there. Like all startups, the odds are heavily against you—you will most likely fail than succeed. And when you’re building a media company, add on the wild west nature of it all and the advertising rat race game. Suffice to say, it’s not pretty and not for the faint of heart.

So when i’m asked for advice from bright-eyed creatives wanting to start a “magazine” about a highly niche lifestyle, my response is usually “are you sure?”. If the answer is still yes, then here are just a few things that worked for us:

Don’t start in print. I can’t stress this enough. There is this romantic notion about starting a high quality print magazine that retails $21 on uncoated paper, beautiful photography, minimal design, and long-form stories about obscure concepts and lifestyles. The honeymoon phase usually lasts for about one issue. And then you realize you have a stockpile of books to sell, magazine distributors are stuck in the stone ages, and a ridiculous amount of upfront cash is needed for print production, fulfillment, distribution, e-commerce, building wholesale accounts (and following up), dealing with customs/international shipping, and legal fees that come with having a physical book out in the world. All that to say, if you’re prepared to walk that path, you better have customers lining up to buy your magazine on day one. Otherwise, every day that passes without sales, you are bleeding money. And this problem can quickly become an exponential problem after each issue because this is a volumes game.

Start online and build an audience. Life & Thyme didn’t start in print; we started with a website and we worked hard to build some sort of audience for two years before we went print.

(We first launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first issue. We raised a little over $20k. Aside from raising funds to bankroll our first issue, this was a good litmus test on whether or not there was interest in our magazine. Our most loyal followers were the primary backers).

Print isn’t dead, but let’s face it, it won’t make a highly lucrative business. If you haven’t noticed, we stopped producing our print magazine after six issues. Print was never our future but a stepping stone. There is something magical about print and a sense of validation. It is the best way to graduate from a “blog” to a “publication”. Almost like a badge of honor. It’s also a way to test the editorial team’s capabilities when it comes to working under deadlines and scrutinizing copy. That said, indie magazines cannot be sustained with print. If anything, it will drive your publication into the grave without diversification to offset the expense.

Diversify. Just like your retirement plan, diversify your revenue streams. This is where most small publications fail and disappear after a year or two. Yes, we’re a magazine, but the locomotive underneath it is an agency model in which Life & Thyme’s ragtag team is hired by brands for creative services (publishing, photography, and video). Sometimes, both the magazine and the agency side of things converge in the form of sponsorships like our recent series with KitchenAid.

Play nice with brands. Many indie publishers want to stick it to the man so they can be true artists and be proud to be independent. You know, the Brooklyn way! But here’s the thing, there is no pride in going hungry because you refused to parlay with brands wanting to be a part of your ecosystem. We embrace it, as long as our partners align with our ethos and philosophy. There is a difference between selling your soul versus fruitful partnerships that are mutually beneficial to you, the client, and your audience. Finding that right balance, coupled with the right creative, is what makes media’s advertising and sponsorship world so turbulent because it is ever so changing.

You’re a business, first. If you’re more of a writer, photographer, or simply a creative more than you are an entrepreneur, stop what you are doing and find a business partner. This is probably the biggest mistake indie publishers make: they are creative but not business-savvy.

Constantly evolve the creative. There is too much information being thrown at us on a daily basis, so media companies are constantly battling to cut through the noise with interesting content. This is where good creative and presentation plays a critical role. We are constantly pushing our creative boundaries and striving for better storytelling, no matter the medium. From our online stories and photography to our short films and our documentary, The Migrant Kitchen, we remain flexible so we can try new ideas—to diversify. Not only does this keeps your audience interested but it keeps your team interested too.

Plant seeds. Often. My job has become to meet people and to build relationships. This leads to partnerships, opportunities, and traction. Your connections are your currency. Value them, respect them, do favors for them, and maybe one day, you’ll have Netflix or Condé Nast knocking on your door because one chat led to another.

(From experience, I’m not sure if you can do the above without physically being in a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles or New York)

Involve and respect your community. Without our audience and without our amazing contributors, Life & Thyme would be a shell of a publication. We strive to lift up our community by  making them a part of our narrative, especially on our Instagram feed, where we cultivate the #lifeandthyme hashtag (with more than 450,000 photos). And when we’re not hiring writers and photographers for our own stories, we are often reaching out to our network of contributors to involve them in some of our client-based projects.

— AD
Founder of Life & Thyme

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Branching Out — The Plants Issue

By Stef Ferrari on Friday, December 9th, 2016

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As we here at Life & Thyme have taken steps to evolve the ways in which we present stories, we’ve made the decision to discontinue our print magazine, instead focusing our efforts and resources on creating dynamic, in-depth digital content. And while we’ve opted to step away from the physical magazine, our emphasis on a specific theme is something we will aim to represent through a collection of quarterly stories, curated seasonally around a central idea. Our first thematic exploration for our digital content released in the fourth quarter of 2016 is a simple one–plants.

In recent years, vegetation has seen a revival. A newfound respect for the roots, stems and leaves that have for so long been relegated to the far corners of our dinner dishes has been spurred by leading food world figures, like Dan Barber and Michael Pollan (among many). And here at Life & Thyme, it made us want to dig deeper, to really get the dirt on what makes the plant kingdom rule.

We started in perhaps the most obvious places–the kitchens of chefs who have made a career of championing vegetables, like Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen. And then we went out on a limb, speaking to some perhaps less commonly associated with soil-based ingredients: April Bloomfield, who first authored a book called A Girl and Her Pig and then followed up with A Girl and Her Greens offered an invaluable perspective into the plant world. And what started as a simple question to a set of British chefs about their favorite herbal selection became a sensory exploration of memory, taking us on a journey across time and place. We even attempted to understand how our meat-eating habits benefit from the leafy stuff–after all, we’ve now tasted the difference grass-fed beef and free-range, pastured eggs can make to flavor. We even came across cattle raised on spent whiskey mash–who could deny the perfection of that rib eye and rye pairing now?

Our investigation into the plant world has opened our eyes to the ways in which we interact with the earth, and how we can enjoy its delicate offerings when we only pause to appreciate them. We hope this collection of stories inspires you to branch out, too.

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Comfort and Love: The Morning After

By Stef Ferrari on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

At Life & Thyme, our business isn’t typically politics. We usually leave that to news sources established expressly for reporting and commenting on those complex topics. Rather, we focus on something far simpler—the inherent joy that culinary culture offers the world. 

But what we already knew, and what became increasingly stark while producing our recent documentary project, The Migrant Kitchen, is that culinary culture IS political. Not solely with respect to immigration—a topic so divisive and polarizing in this election—but in subjects across the ballot, and throughout history. Food has long been employed as a connector, as a foundation of economy in emerging new worlds, as a gesture of goodwill across borders, a mechanism of aid and support among allies, and in darker times, as a weapon of war. We’ve always chosen to use it as a lens.

In a few short weeks we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving, a commemoration exclusive to this great nation—one that has, despite claims to the contrary, been truly great since the day it was established. As tradition would have us do, we will invite one another to share a meal, to raise a glass in honor of that which we are each thankful. This year, that may feel especially difficult for many of us, as a specter of uncertainty looms over the future of our beloved country. 

It may be difficult to imagine what will come next. It’s clear what we cannot do, and that is change the outcome of this election, or reverse what negativity has come of it. But what we can do as a country, and what we will do at Life & Thyme, is continue to offer kindness and hope to our friends, our family, our neighbors––despite where they come from or what they believe. To give voices to those who aren’t heard, and to honor the efforts of every citizen, whether they’re fighting a war or fixing their family dinner. Because that is what makes America great today, just as it has since that first Thanksgiving meal.

At Life & Thyme, our ethos has always been to emphasize the positive, celebrate the efforts of a global community, and lift one another up in the most basic of ways. To show and share love through food is fundamentally human; it is something we have in common with every citizen of every nation.

Food is associated with comfort for a reason. It is our hope that today, we can all share a meal with those close to us, and whether we celebrate the outcome or mourn the results, we observe that only in the cultivation of love can we continue moving forward. 

Eat and be well, friends. 

SF

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