Today we’d like to introduce you to Cameron Slaugh.
Hi Cameron, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I’m from Utah originally. My mother’s side of the family are all Angelinos. As a child, we would go back and forth from Utah to LA a lot to always be around family. I moved to New York City in 2008. While attending culinary school, I had the opportunity to join the team at Park Avenue (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer). At Park Avenue, under the tutelage of Chef Craig Koketsu, I felt I began to find my voice.
Seasonality and sourcing the best ingredients available became a necessary aspect of every menu at Park Avenue. As a Sous Chef there, I assisted in the opening of other concepts for the company (Fourth Wall Restaurants, currently Quality Branded). I had always had a longing to work with a three Michelin star restaurant, even though I loved what I was doing I knew I needed to take a step back to gain new experiences. From there, I began staging at possible three Michelin star restaurants around the country on days off with Chef Craig’s support, I landed a stage at Eleven Madison Park working under Chef Daniel Humm & James Kent. Something about that restaurant called out to me, I became obsessed with trying to get hired. I called and emailed every week for almost an entire year before finally becoming part of the team. Within a year, I was promoted to Sous Chef and assisted in creating many dishes and being a part of taking EMP into its new creative stages. After three years at Eleven Madison Park, My wife Stephanie & I decided to expand our horizons and moved across the country to Los Angeles.
From there, I became the Executive Chef of Osteria La Buca, a local casual Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. At Buca, I started a farm program with the menu revolving around items grown from its own soil. During my time there, I had a major part in taking Buca from a local spot to a “go-to” in LA. After years as the chef, my family and I temporarily relocated north to Yakima, WA. with our newborn daughter Hazel-Grey.
I became the Executive Chef at Bravo-Echo group. With Bravo Echo, I opened Wahluke, A fine dining pop-up, E.Z. Tiger, a Pacific Rim-inspired restaurant, and ran Cowiche Canyon Kitchen. After spending a couple of years with Bravo Echo. Stephanie and I agreed we wanted to be back in the city. So we moved back to LA to help re-launch Mardi Restaurant at Palihouse Hotel in Los Angeles, executing the new vision at a high level.
In February 2020, I took over the kitchen of The Attic in Long Beach, CA bringing a fresh new vision and to focus on a cuisine that I have always felt was a huge part of me which is Southern inspiration. The southern-inspired cooking has been extremely well received through the community as one of the top restaurants to experience in the city. We have been blessed being recognized by Michelin and other writers and publications.
Since moving to LA the first time. Bread become a very big importance in my life. As a child, I always recognized the importance of quality especially with bread. My Dad is an Organic farmer, I grew up eating the highest quality as far back as I can remember. When I became the chef at Buca, the first thing that the guest would receive was bread, unfortunately it was poor quality and didn’t make sense to be offering this. After months of trying to source quality, I realized I wasn’t going to find what I had envisioned.
I started baking to offer quality because I couldn’t find it, little did I know it would change how I cooked and created my menus moving forward. At the Attic, we got so busy that making bread in our kitchen was quickly outgrowing itself. I wanted to open a bakery not just for The Attic but also so it could have its own voice. I bought Sweet & Saucy Shop in Bixby Knolls back in July 2021. Sweet and Saucy already had a big cake and dessert reputation, the building was large enough to also build all the other concepts I have wanted, so It just made sense. We now operate a bakery concept that offers full dessert menus, specialty cakes/wedding cakes, full bread and pastry department, fresh pastas, artisian coffee program and high-end catering. We source only the highest quality ingredients and grains for everything we do. It is important to provide for other restaurants and coffee shops the products that I had such a hard time sourcing in those first months at Buca.
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?
I think the industry is already an extremely difficult industry. Covid has really taken its toll on restaurants and the hospitality industry. It seems to just keep running on a domino effect. It started with having to close our doors to make no income, to slowly get back to work but having to work so limited that looking back; thinking was that even worth the continued loss. Then being allowed to reopen for dining; A note on this that people don’t really think about – it’s never as simple as turning on the lights and opening the doors. The amount of investments that are needed is expensive. We need to restock inventory, hire and train staff, test out the menu and dishes over and over, also losing money for the first week or two while having staff working but not having enough people coming and our guests to get back into a routine, since we just reopened, etc.
Then only a few months or so after reopening. The government shutting us down again, just to continue to taking massive financial burdens just to have to reinvest more money to open again in a few more months. Once we got to the 2nd reopening, then you have more continued problems that just keep adding on currently. Starting with staff and people not wanting to come back to work, minimum wage increases, ingredient and product increases. Consistent product shortages of the most randomly things that we take for granted but have a huge part of your success as a restaurant. Covid health and a mix of employees safety and guests who blame you for the government making them wear masks or vaccinations etc. We are always just trying to do what’s right but it is never easy when guests show a lot of backlash for something we can not control. These are just some of the current struggles every week, there is always something new to keep us on our toes.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a chef and business owner. I focus on quality and creativity. Its always been important to me to have a team who has the same ambitions as myself. To create a culture of growth, fun, learning environment. I want the team to love what they do and continue building a better culture for future team members. I am proud of what we have built up to this point and get excited about what we will do in the future as a team.
So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
Quality, great hospitality and the people by your side that help makes that reality everyday.
What other reason to be in the Hospitality industry. You have to love these things. There isn’t a lot of money and you have to deal with massive amounts of pressure and stress on the daily. We do what we do to be given the opportunity to make people happy through food. All the work and vision that goes into it, it feels amazing when you can make people feel good through service and deliciousness.
- Email: Info@NonnaMercato.com
- Website: NonnaMercato.com
- Instagram: @nonnamercato; @sweetnsaucyshop (soon changing to @dolcebynonna)