SHOE OF CHOICE
San Diego, CA
THE WHOLE STORY
Where are you from / What’s your story?
I guess my “story” is 23 years of different people, places, and things impressing themselves on my brain. Which can get pretty complicated, so here’s a few things that stand out to me as having significant influence on who/where/how I am:
I grew up in lovely San Diego. I surfed a lot and spent most of my free time outdoors. My parents weren’t exactly hippies, but they met working for non-profits and pushed some pretty rad values on my brother and I. Money is just paper, after all.
Towards the end of high school I got sick a lot. I quit my sports teams, went to various doctors, and eventually discovered that I’m allergic to gluten. This is when I fell in love with food – I had to pay way more attention to what I was eating. I event started cooking meals for myself. At first it sucked, then it became interesting, and like anything in life, I eventually realized that the deeper I dove into food, the more meaningful it became. This new allergy-induced interest got serious in college. I read books, I worked in restaurants, I cooked for myself, and I cooked for my friends. I started two different food blogs and even ran a monthly pop-up restaurant for students in Isla Vista. It was epic, and people started telling me I was pretty good at it.
Towards the end of my senior year at UCSB, I realized that if I wanted to bail on a desk job and cook for a living, I needed to be seriously creative. Working in restaurants proved to me that chefs are a gnarly bunch that (in most cases) make no money and party a lot. I wasn’t super into partying, and I recognized the inherent social value of money, so I started experimenting with other ways to work with food.
I started bottling the sauces and spreads I cooked with, and sold them under the label “Rock Rose Provisions”. Eventually this caught on with the general public and I decided to focus this new “brand” on fancy culinary nut butters. Some were sweet, some were savory, and all of them were an easy sell to the Southern California well-to-do. I made my way into quite a few (~22) retail stores during the two years following graduation, but just recently decided to shift gears yet again.
“Nostrum” is my latest project, inspired by my days mixing drinks in craft cocktail bars and getting pissed off at all the squeeze bottles, pump sprays, and muddlers bartenders are expected to use these days. Being on the other side of the bar made me realize how much it can suck to make a great drink (or 20, when the bar is slammed), and I started reading cocktail books in hopes of finding an answer to my simplistic goals. I wanted to figure out how to prep out a delicious, fresh drink without all the fuss, and “shrubs” are what I came up with. There’s a lot to say about them, but in simplest form they are sweetened fruit vinegars inspired by colonial/seafaring recipes for fruit preservation (“shrub” is derived from an Arabic word for “drink”). Shrubs have made a comeback with the whole craft cocktail movement, and I started making “cold pressed” versions with raw local fruits, organic sugar, and organic raw apple cider vinegar. Basically proving consumers with the healthiest cocktail mixer on the market, and bartenders with a shortcut to a great drink. So far I’ve been focused on getting them into local bars and restaurants, and the feedback has been very positive.
What do you do? Do you consider yourself an athlete, public figure, shop owner – what’s the best way to describe what you do?
I work with food. I wouldn’t call myself a chef though. Maybe a craftsman. But I also end up doing a ton of marketing, copy writing, accounting, and other shit that you have to do when you’re running a tiny business by yourself. I guess I’m a jack-of-all-trades, which in modern times we refer to as business owner.
Favorite place to travel to?
Well I’ve been surfing since I was a kid, I speak Spanish fluently, and I love Latin culture and food. So anywhere south of the border.
How have you impacted the community/environment or thoughts on how to. eg: What’s the raddest thing you have ever done for the environment or community?
With my new project Nostrum, I’m working with local farms to source all my fruit and herbs. It’s pretty cool to meet people whole grow things and use their produce to create a totally different product with a label and UPC code. I usually use second-hand fruit (“#2s”) that farmers can’t bring to market because they don’t look as pretty, so in that sense I’m kind of a dumpster diver. But I’m cool with that, and so is my bottom line.
Who is someone you look up to?
My nuclear family. That’s 3 people but I don’t care. They are all so rad and beautiful and unique, and both my parents and my brother have had huge influences on who I am and what I believe in. My mom keeps me grounded and responsible, my dad inspires me and stokes my creativity, and my brother drives me to be an architect of my vision instead of a daydreamer.
What are your plans in the next couple years/ near future?
I want to build something and I love food. Those are the two main forces that push and pull me in different directions. Right now I’m pretty into this cocktail shrub thing, but I can’t say for sure it’s what I’ll be doing in two years. But for now I’m running with it.
Any sponsors or things to plug?
Not “sponsors” in the classic sense but I’ve had some really cool cats support me here within the Santa Barbara food community. Specifically: Alvaro Rojas of Milk & Honey, Brad Bennet of Pacific Pickle Works, Diego Barbieri of Arlington Tavern, Brandon Ristaino of Good Lion Cocktails, and everyone at Sama Sama Kitchen. Go spend money at all those places. They deserve it.