If you keep tabs on the culinary world, chances are you’ve heard of Ari Taymor, ESIA BA ’07—his LA restaurant was recently named Best New Restaurant by Bon Appétit.
We caught up with Ari to find out about his work and his journey as a chef—part of which he credits to GW: “Without the confidence and wisdom of some of my professors,” he says, “I’m not sure I would have ended up where I am.” Find out what else Ari had to say in our “Five Questions” series:
GW: Bon Appétit just gave you a rave review and named your restaurant, Alma, Best New Restaurant in America 2013. What was your reaction upon learning the news?
AT: Utter shock. While we are very proud of our restaurant and knew we were in consideration, it was outside of the realm of possibility—or so I thought. I felt very honored, humbled and lucky.
GW: What made you realize your passion for cooking?
AT: My passion came about from becoming interested in public health and nutrition. I also took a medical anthropology class with Barbara Miller while at GW, where I started to become interested in how food interacts as medicine, history and culture. From there, the more time I spent in kitchens, on farms, and at markets, the more I loved it.
GW: Your path to the culinary world is somewhat unconventional. How did this help lead you to where you are now?
AT: I feel that my alternative path has given me a perspective and interest in the wider world. It is important to maintain a connection to both the local and global communities, and understand that at the end of the day, it’s just food. It has allowed me to stay inspired and to look to other mediums for inspiration, whether it’s art or literature or something else. I have had formative experiences outside of kitchens and I love that I can straddle both worlds.
GW: What has been the most challenging aspect of opening a restaurant? The most rewarding?
AT: The greatest challenge is motivating and teaching a staff to understand the vision; to get everyone unified and on the same path. To instill a sense of ownership and personal connection to the food and service is essential, and one of the hardest things to do. The biggest success is our garden and community outreach—two pillars of the restaurant that are as important as the food. Ashleigh Parsons, my co-owner, teaches nutrition and cooking to at-risk kids at a charter school, and to see that side of our business grow is amazing.
GW: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs?
AT: My advice would be to find a vision that is authentic to you, and to remain persistent in pursuit of that vision. Don’t look to trends or market data, but rather, tell your story. It may not be the most profitable plan, but, to me, it has the most value.
Learn more about Ari and his work at Alma by reading the full review in Bon Appétit!