My name is Eric Ornstein, born and raised in Los Angeles.
E: Where have you been?
EO: Lived in San Francisco for 10 years, then NY for 7 years, where I met my lovely wife Diana. We moved back to LA about 3 years ago to help run my family restaurant. It’s called Food LA in West LA. best pancakes in town. Roll through.
E: What do you love about LA. Anything particularly special?
EO: Not many things are special now. You can find it all. But one thing I love about LA is the hiking culture. We live in Jefferson Park, so we go to Kenneth Hahn which is really close. We take our dog there a couple times a week. I think just the outside activity, I can go to the beach in the morning and go snowboarding at night if I really wanted to.
E: You’ve mentioned food has been part of your family for how many years now?
EO: We’ve had this restaurant for 13 years, but my whole childhood she was the executive chef of 2 big catering companies in LA. before that she had like 3 restaurants when my brother and I were really young. Then she sold them off and got into catering. My mom’s first restaurant was on Fairfax in the 70’s and a few others over the years. She was best friends with Paul Rubens. He was the dishwasher at her first restaurant and lived in my grandparents pool house when he was first coming up.
E: How has the restaurant business been since Covid?
EO: I mean COVID has killed every restaurant. I think they said 80 percent of restaurants in the state are at risk. 1 in 4 unemployed workers is a food worker.
Luckily the neighborhood has really come out to support us. Where we are, there aren’t that many restaurants around. I always joke that we are like the "Cheers" of the neighborhood and honestly the neighborhood has really kept us afloat. When COVID just started we already had a market-like presence -- we would sell wine, eggs and cheese and shit so we ramped that up and I think that’s honestly the only way we survived.
E: How have you guys been coping?
EO: We have to be super nimble right now, because honestly every week they keep changing the laws as far as what you can and can’t do. The health department created this special COVID task force but they are not communicating with any of the other departments that are enforcing the rules. All these restaurants are spending like 10-15 grand outfitting their backspace to be compliant just to be told a week later it isn’t working.
E: As an essential worker, what’s your daily routine like?
EO: I’m an early bird, I smoke a lot of weed and I fall asleep early. I’ve adjusted my life because I open restaurants every morning. Diana hates it but I love that 6-8 am when i’m by myself, I’m in my own head. So I didn’t take care of my body as a kid, BMX, skateboarding, hockey -- so I have to stretch in the mornings when I wake up. Those first few hours before any customers come, that’s when I have my best thoughts and that first sip of coffee always hits differently.
Smoking is the first thing I need to do when I get home. Like I said the first few hours are chill, but working in a restaurant is pretty hectic. So by the end of my day I’m pretty burnt out. So I come in, have a couple minutes with Diana, a couple minutes with Dahlia (my dog), take two bong hits and chill.
E: For those who want to come through and support, what's your favorite thing on the menu?
EO: That beef tenderloin sandwich is killer, but honestly I love our pancakes. We have bomb pancakes. We haven’t done that much with Covid but we normally have like 5 types of batter, buttermilk, whole wheat, cornmeal, ricotta, but ricotta is definitely the best. That’s the clear winner.
E: Aside from food, do you have any other creative outlets?
EO: Definitely gardening, I got that from my grandma as a kid. And it’s fun actually having the space to do it. Also biking, I used to ride like 20-30 miles a day, now i’m starting to slowly get back into it. I’ve been riding a track bike for like 15-20 years now, but i’m ready to get a road bike to start doing some longer rides.
E: Last question...What are go-to’s for munchies?
Apple Pan burger...I need a burger in there. Definitely some wings...Kyochon wings...but also some grimey ass buffalo wings with a lot of bleu cheese...and some hi-ho fries. But then I need some sour gummies to finish up.