On a rare rainy night in Los Angeles last week, the cozy cookbook shop Now Serving in Chinatown's Far East Plaza hosted a talk about the new cookbook Community Table: Recipes for an Ecological Food Future.
Makeup artist Michelle Mungcal and husband Ken Concepcion, former chef de cuisine at Cut, opened the shop a little over a year ago. Since then it has become a haven for chefs, home cooks, cookbook collectors and food lovers alike. New and old cookbooks as well as kitchen wares and ceramics line the walls and the large table at the center of the store.
It’s the only cookbook shop in L.A. and, because of its specificity, is the place where chefs and writers tour their cookbooks. Over the last few months, chefs such as Rene Redzepi and David Zilber of Copenhagen's Noma, Yotam Ottolenghi of London's Ottolenghi and Ignacio Mattos of Estela in New York City have come to sign books and meet their readers.
What's so special about Now Serving is that its size creates an intimate atmosphere where fans literally are close to the chefs and bakers who inspire them.
Community is created instantly. Last Wednesday night was just that kind of cozy gathering. Evan Marks, founder and director of the Ecology Center, Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms and Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project, and chef Rich Mead of Farmhouse at Roger's Gardens gathered for a discussion moderated by writer-educator Julie Wolfson.
The panelists discussed themes such as buying organically, supporting local farmers, respecting animals and the importance of diversity in crops. The conversation began with Marks’ quote from the book: “Things start when you get your hands dirty.”
It was a night about collaboration between farmers, chefs and those who support their local farmers. Concepcion noted, “Sustainability in dining only goes as far as being a spoke in the wheel of our entire ecosystem. It’s not just the farmers or the chefs who need to buy into the idea; the dining public has the power to influence Big Ag and large corporations as well.”
That message came through in the night’s offerings. The book itself grew out of a series of long table–style dinners that used sustainably farmed produce and brought together community members to share meals. Chef Mead created bites that Mungcal passed around that included Rye Goods bread made with Tehachapi grains, spread with herb butter from the cookbook and radishes from Weiser Farms.
The overwhelming feeling of the night was the shared love for the farmers market. In L.A. it is the space where farmers and cooks meet, where growers hear feedback about their produce, and where chefs learn about what is coming into season or waning out. Now Serving is an extension of that mentality — it is a space where home cooks and chef go to find ways that inspire them to use their produce and be involved further in the food community of L.A.
Now Serving Cookbook and Culinary Shop, 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown; (213) 395-0627, nowservingla.com.