5 Years of Sweet Gratitude

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Tucked away in a corner of Santa Monica Place, now at the entrance of the Metro’s final stop, is a room full of gratitude. We opened five years ago as part of a larger collection of shops and restaurants, weathering changes in landscapes, tenancy and projects around us. A half a decade later (!), we share the space with our long-term friends and small business neighbors at Curious Palate and Venokado and can only reflect with great affection, looking forward to the future with sweet anticipation.

Hadley and I opened Gourmandise after an intense 6-week buildout. You helped us unpack boxes, hang pots on the wall and pick up produce at the farmers market. And brought us chocolate. Lots of chocolate. You also brought us your curiosity, questions and mutual love of butter and all things seasonal. The first year was one of chaos; a baby was born, instructors moved onwards and upwards and our calendar grew thanks to your feedback and delicious ideas.

Year two was one of discovery; our feet felt more planted and our Follow That Chef series grew with Laura Avery’s help. Ruth Kennison, our fearless Chocolatier, was entering a new and exciting phase in her career, forging ahead as a leader in chocolate education and research with her Chocolate Project. Chris held down the savory classes and series and Kirsten’s boundless energy exuded in her raw and vegan courses.

In 2013, the grain movement began to pick up speed, and we hopped onto the grain train. We began by exploring the return of heritage grains to California with the help of friends like Sonoko Sakai and Grist & Toll, sweet Rose, Anson Mills and farmers like Alex Weiser. Fully vested and armed with a passionate pursuit of discovery, we were entering the wheat wormhole that keeps delighting us with every new variety discovered and technique perfected.

2014 was a year of great growth. We witnessed our students branching out- opening bakeries, restaurants and food trucks, bottling sauces and winning competitions through our Business of Food class. Our partnerships with organizations like Food Forward and L.A.Kitchen grew, as did our staff and roster of culinary instructors. We hosted a Grain Conference (still pinching myself, witnessing the power of bakers and farmers in a room together) and developed our Bean to Bar Chocolate workshops with the help of Dandelion Chocolate. Roxana Jullapat sweetened the pot with her whole grain baking classes and courses taught en espanol.

Last year was a challenge and one of re-birth and innovation. Hadley crossed the pond to pursue studies in Slow Food and a dear old friend and former Fox colleague Sabrina Ironside joined me to grow the business. You can thank Sabrina for the new website, the stocked storefront carrying kitchen staples from rolling pins to really great baking chocolate and salts and our new logo (who knew that copper and blue went so well together)? Chef instructors from Jess Hilton to Carol Cotner Thompson and May Hennemann joined our crew and emboldended our curriculum to include Cali cuisine, Modern Mexican and Sushi, to name a few. John Pitblado left his post at Surfas and created our collection of regional American cuisine classes (who in L.A. hasn’t made legendary fried chicken recipe yet)?

Throughout these changes and movements, the one constant source of inspiration and energy was you. You, sweet readers, are 12,000 strong. Your words of wisdom and encouragement have made this space what it is. Your desire to grow, explore, get your hands in sourdough, learn to cradle a knife correctly and delve into the world of sustainability had fed our creativity. The momentum of Gourmandise is due in great part to your craving to learn the art of crafting food. We are so grateful that you have chosen to cook, bake, read, absorb and walk the market with us.

We hope you will join us tomorrow (Friday) for a full day and evening of free demonstrations and tastings as we celebrate our 5 year birthday and the opening of the Expo metro line. You can check out the lineup here, but just show up anytime. I’ll make some extra pie for you.

Words can’t describe how I feel in this moment, so I’ll leave you with this: Have a delicious day. Filled with chocolate and love and discovery.