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Inspiring Conversations with Leena Culhane of Crudo e Nudo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leena Culhane.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Throughout my twenties, I was working as an actress and a musician, and living between Los Angeles and Nashville depending on what projects I was working on. Like many of my creative cohorts, I supplemented my income by working as a server and a bartender. I loved the sense of comraderie while working in restaurants, and I especially loved the opportunity to take care of people and offer them a really positive experience through good food and wine. I was meant to spend 2020 releasing my fifth album and promoting it on tour but the pandemic had other plans for me. Shortly after releasing it in March, I hunkered down for the first of several shelter-in-place orders and began a garden in my front yard with the newfound time and solitude. I started making ice cream with the herbs, fruits, and flowers I was growing, and it was around that time I met Brian, who was similarly stunned by the turn of the year and his subsequent furlough. Together we hatched our pandemic friendly pop up – he ran incredible crudo dishes using sustainable seafood and farmers market produce, and I made desserts from a garden in full bloom. Crudo e Nudo was born and the rest is history.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Some parts have been really smooth such as sourcing products from purveyors we love and trust, working with great wine distributors, and drawing inspiration from our shared love of all things sea: living near it, surfing in it, and generally feeling drawn towards it on a daily basis. Finding our gorgeous space was true luck, though it was sad to take stock of how many places were unfortunately vacant in the process. And perhaps most importantly, working together has been a beautiful, easy partnership because we each bring our unique perspectives and skills to a shared table. Things that have been hard include navigating a new relationship and negotiating a business while in a pandemic; making sure we are able to protect ourselves and our guests so that what we offer in the midst of COVID is uplifting and doesn’t pose unnecessary risk to anyone; getting through all the permits and codes and curveballs of opening a space just the two of us. We have worn many new hats throughout the process of opening Crudo e Nudo, but it keeps things interesting.

We’ve been impressed with Crudo e Nudo, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We provide an approachable and safe experience for people to access delicious and dynamic ingredients from farmer’s markets and local fisheries while aiming for minimal waste and working towards zero plastics as soon as possible. With the seafood and wine market side of our business, guests get the opportunity to talk to us about everything we sell, where it comes from, and how to prepare it. Because it’s just Brian and I running our shop, I think it’s really cool that we are pretty much always guaranteed to be here when we are open so our regulars know they can build that trust with us and rely on us to deliver fun, compelling offerings they can’t get elsewhere. We collaborate with so many other local small businesses, whether that be through pop ups or how we stock our shelves and create dishes. In working together we’re building a sustainable economy that feeds our community in many ways. We offer what we know, from the herbs grown by our long-term partners at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market to the seafood caught by our friends. And, we have killer playlists going on our patio all day long. In the morning, I run Lenny’s, a biodynamic coffee program in the morning serving Blacklight Coffee from our super rad friend, Matt. Then at 11am, we shift to Crudo and have our market and restaurant open until we run out (usually about 6pm). This summer that will continue to evolve as we figure out what is plausible and pandemic-safe for our guests.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Honesty. We keep it real, we’re transparent, and we tackle as much as we can head on as it pertains to the environmental impact of our choices on a micro and macro scale. Brian and I talk really openly about our thoughts, feelings, decisions, and needs, and I really believe that is a fundamental part of our success as a couple and as a business in an otherwise really difficult year. I’m hugely grateful for our communication and the work that we do on an ongoing basis to handle what comes our way – and what we offer – with care and attention.

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Image Credits:

Chris Meissner and Ashley Randall

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