One of Los Angeles’s most talked-about restaurants is back in the spotlight, as Alma continues its residency at The Standard Hotel in Hollywood.
Combining the concept of a “moving pop-up” dinner with the focus on locally sourced products, Alma is a visionary approach to food that has reverberated through LA’s dining scene, crowning the restaurant with seven awards in just four years since its opening. Alma’s vegetable-driven and minimalistic exquisite dishes, orchestrated in a painting-like perfection, owe their success to the restaurant’s philosophy, rooted in local and sustainable sourcing.
“While our menu and style has evolved over the past three years, the one constant has always been sourcing locally,” co-founder Ashleigh Parsons explains. “Whether we’re doing a collaborative dinner with a chef in NYC or a residency at The Standard, we are constantly thinking about how to source sustainably and locally.” Not only that; there’s also a secret ingredient that keeps foodies coming back for more – a more sentimental longing that echoes back the memories of the past hidden behind each immaculately presented bite: the feeling of nostalgia.
Storytelling through food is very much what’s on Alma’s plate, and it all goes back to the restaurant’s early days. Ari Taymor, co-founder and chef, explains, “When Alma first opened, the food was very derivative. As I started to explore my own voice, a lot of memories and emotions came exploding back to me. The more I focused on those, the easier creating dishes [became].” Translating memories into food, combined with traditional cooking methods, such as slow-cooking and curling, was a natural transition for Alma, whose dishes go beyond your regular grub, as they are an expression of a very specific time and place. It therefore comes as no surprise that the restaurant’s signature dish, Frozen Summer, is a wistful sign of affection for Ari’s past memories. “The place [where] I fell in love for the first time was at summer camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” he recalls. “In the summertime, there are wildflowers blooming everywhere. There was always a smell that I would associate with those fields, and only later did I realize that it was wild chamomile. So, every summer we do a dish that features chamomile, licorice and other wild herbs, and it is called Frozen Summer. It reminds me of what it was like to lose myself for the first time.”
Combining sentiment with sustainability and social awareness not only adds an extra flavor to Alma’s dishes (who wouldn’t want a bite of romance, lovingly wrapped in fresh spices), it’s what places the restaurant at the forefront of LA’s cooking scene and makes them active members of their community, both in and out of the restaurant. Their focus on local agriculture, stemming from Ari’s interest in public health, which taught him that access to clean food went hand in hand with income level, and their deeply rooted community spirit were a setting stone for Alma’s Community Outreach program. Led by a team of women committed to using education as a way of challenging the current food system, Alma partners with schools in low-income neighborhoods across LA to teach students about the importance of food-sourcing. Ashleigh, the driving force behind the initiative, sees this not only as an opportunity to cultivate the community spirit but as a way of improving the overall quality of life in underprivileged areas, all through the power of a shared meal.
The idea of making quality dining accessible to all ties in with the recent changes in Alma’s a la carte menu, which now brims with more affordable, yet still five-star quality, options. Perhaps it’s Alma’s beginnings as a pop-up in Venice and Silver Lake before its brick-and-mortar presence in downtown LA that made Ari and Ashleigh want to give back to those who helped them earn their success. “We are fortunate to work with local farmers, artists and photographers who have become our friends, our Alma family,” Ashleigh recalls. “The constant dedication of our team and [our] belief in the importance of a place like Alma has allowed it to evolve into what it is today.”
What does the future have in store for LA’s favorite restaurant? In true Alma style, the focus is not on where but on how. With no immediate plans for a permanent residency, the goal is to continue growing and evolving as a brand. With Alma’s philosophy as unique as its impeccably presented dishes, we have no doubt that the future is looking bright.