I sat down with Chef Akasha for a piece on DineLA.com. The Q&A focuses on her efforts to make her Culver City restaurant eco-friendly. But we also wound up chatting about everything from vegetarians to gay men and feng shui. You can check out the interview here, and below are a few extras just for Grubtrotters readers:
Jenny: There are so many people that claim to be green for marketing purposes. How can consumers tell who’s for real?
Akasha: I think consumers have a sixth sense about things. All of a sudden the Cheesecake Factory went green? Look, they’re not a green restaurant. If they went green, it’s better for everyone because it means the products are going to be available. But I think the consumer likes to feel it’s authentic. The green consumer is usually someone that reads a lot, that does a lot of research. And we have to deliver on the food and service, or forget it. You can have a green restaurant, and if the food is bad, and the service is bad, nobody is coming back a second time. They’re just not. Our policy is to treat everybody like they’re the president of Sony.
Jenny: Are the prices higher than they would be if you were not mostly organic?
Akasha: Our prices aren’t any higher than anyone else that has the same kind of restaurant, the same kind of experience. Our preparation is very simple. It’s not fancy shmancy food. Most people tell us we’re reasonable. When you’re using quality ingredients and doing really nice food…And I mean, look at how cool the crowd is. The demographic of our customer is the Whole Foods shopper.
Jenny: Did you have any interesting experiences getting the restaurant open?
Akasha: We filmed eight months of construction and what we went through getting this place open on TLC’s “Flip That Restaurant.” I think that show is one of the reasons we’re so busy. I’ve had a lot of PR, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s funny, I never really understood why I liked restaurants so much until I opened my own. I know it sounds almost stupid to say, but I never really understood how the whole experience is why people come back again and again. I feel like the experience people have here is truly wonderful and unique.
Jenny: Have you had celebrities eating here?
Akasha: Celebrities come in here, especially at night. The lighting is much darker. People don’t even know they’re in the room. They’re not bothered. Ed Norton came in, Mario Van Peoples, Amy Smart was in, Rachael Leigh Cook, Rachel McAdams. It’s real low key. Billy Baldwin was in.
Jenny: What are your most popular dishes?
Akasha: The short ribs, the scallops, the onion rings, the pear salad with goji berries. The salmon, too. The turkey burger. You know how many people order this turkey burger at night? I almost didn’t put it on the menu at night, and my friend said, you should really put it on the menu. You’re a neighborhood restaurant.
Jenny: Do restaurants wind up wasting a lot of food?
Akasha: We sell a lot of food. We don’t waste any food. Every single vegetable peeling gets made into stock. We buy the whole chickens for the entrée at night. We cut it up and use all the bones in stock.
Jenny: Are your customers as green as you are?
Akasha: We’re not here to tell people you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You should only eat this, you should only use recycled paper goods. Don’t take a paper cup to go. Take five minutes to bring in a real mug. Because not everybody’s going to do that. I’ve been through that. I was real fanatical when I was younger. You can’t do it. You just have to give the options because this is a business. It’s actually a war on a daily basis. It’s a battlefield back there on a Saturday night.