Gjusta x Double Eleven
Farm to Table Food (& Fashion)
It seemed very fitting for Double Eleven to make organic cotton, plant and vegetable dyed t-shirts for a restaurant that not only embraces the farm to table philosophy but also community, ethics and impact. Being able to offer a little bit of our world felt like the perfect alignment and it was an honor to work with them.
Gjusta, the sister restaurant to Gjelina, is a remarkable place. Upon entering ones senses are automatically put on overdrive by the glorious sights and sounds of the culinary version of Willy Wonka. It’s a visual feast like no other before you’ve even taken a bite. Spread throughout the large bakery there are people juicing, craving meat, baking, preparing salads, spreading pizzas or any other operation that needs doing in this one stop shop for all things delicious.
Backing up a little, I was first introduced to Gjelina in 2008 by my friend Roman, who worked there for a while. They had just opened their doors on a very different Abbott Kinney and the menu was smaller than todays, but nonetheless still as flavorful; I think I had one of the now famed pizzas along with a seasonal salad. The vibe was as it is today, relaxed, genuine, artfully decorated yet all time the food was center stage.
Travis Lett, the man behind it all, was ahead of his time on the Venice block and with his food. Modern Californian cuisine hadn’t quite hit the mainstream and it’s editors, even though Alice Waters had been wearing the crown since the 70’s. The Gjelina and Gjusta menus serve simple, modern fare, but simple is often incredibly complicated, as realized by the array of flavors and textures in every bite. Seasonal, locally sourced, fresh ingredients transformed into a medley of everything you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which you can now do at home with the Gjelina cookbook!
Lett’s rightly puts huge emphasis on the quality and origin of his ingredients that not only enrich the flavor profiles but come with a bigger picture behind them. It makes sense, great food that not only engages the senses but also starts a conversation about nutrition, environmentalism, community, social activism and of course agriculture. The farm to table philosophy has now become the status quo if you’re doing something that meets modern standards of eating in the season you live in. One of the joys of California is the abundance and variety available because of the space and growing conditions. Often I have tried new vegetables or fruits for the very first time here simply because being an Anglo Saxon, our growing opportunities are relatively limited.
My love of farming led me to Permaculture, which I studied in Australia back in 2000. Today I have realized there are uncanny parallels between food and fashion, as odd as this may sound.
Both require raw ingredients, 50% of the worlds clothing is made from a plant! This requires an agricultural process which comes with it’s own set of challenges with cotton and the associated pesticides, herbicides, water and subsequent pollution.
In fashion, we have 6 months to make a collection, in restaurants you have 24 hours. However, both industries require many cooks in the kitchen, pardon the pun, in order for them to function harmoniously and produce the perfect results every time. If one step malfunctions, it affects the entire food chain. A waiter puts in the wrong order, the sewer stitches the wrong way, there is a chain reaction that can creates havoc down the line.
In terms of ingredients, it’s straightforward. Quality ingredients create quality food or clothes. Shitty, cheap materials create things that don’t last or have no taste or nutritional value. If ingredients are sourced responsibly and made with care, the results speak for themselves. When there is a consciousness around the ingredient, I believe it can be felt in the final product. The value of an item then becomes more than a price tag, it incorporates the process, the supplier and the ethos behind the raw ingredient, and can often times warrant a slightly higher dollar amount.
Then you turn to the environmental impacts of both industries. Agriculture is number 2 on the list of worst polluters on the planet followed by textiles and clothing. The systems are similar; growing vast quantities of food or cotton requires vast amounts of landmass, which in turn means deforestation and or relocation of communities to accommodate it. Then apply modern day monoculture farming that utilizes millions of gallons of pesticides, herbicides and water in order to produce its high yield pest free results. The adverse effect is degeneration of soils, local water and wildlife.
To conclude the match up, you throw in all the transportation and human labor involved for harvest and processing. Leading to questions such as; who are the communities involved with this aspect? What are there working conditions? How much are they being paid etc.?
The parallels are undoubtable between these two industries and it is my belief that much inspiration can be sought from food and agriculture in the fashion world. And much like the energy sector having it’s transformation into alternatives, so is the food world, with the amount of interest our culture is having on ingredients, sourcing and nutrition. It would seem logical that the textile and fashion industry, being the 3rd on the list, is next in line for some kind of revolution.
When I launched Double Eleven the idea of making clothing akin to the farm to table method of the culinary world came into focus as I was constructing the manufacturing model. Can I work with what is seasonally available to me here and now, make everything within a 15 mile radius and remove a huge portion of pollutants and consumption from the equation and most importantly not sacrifice quality? Yes I can and we have done so from day one.
What Travis and his team do at Gjusta, Gjelina, GTA and now Mountain is incredibly incredibly hard. To make something look as effortless as they do with that vital element of consistency is pure art. Add in the consciousness surrounding the ingredients, through to the attention to detail in décor, crockery and plating, makes any of these establishments a weekly visit that I highly recommend.