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Meet Andrea Ruth of Salty Baby in West Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrea Ruth.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I moved to LA as a young New York actor. But I had a hard time staying focused on acting. I had one great class, but I found the business really boring. I found networking really boring and in truth, I even found random conversations about acting REALLY boring. But oh how I loved the food in LA. LA is so vast, and a lot of my survival jobs took me deep into the ethnic enclaves that LA and the surrounding communities have to offer. At 35, I realized that I should get a master’s degree in education so that I had a solid degree to fall back on after I had kids. But instead, I went to culinary school! The thought of sitting through two years of education courses was awful to me, but I could watch someone chop onions for 45 minutes straight! I went to work in some really great kitchens and started selling fancy sandwiches out of a basket!

Salty Baby is my new baby. Following on the heels of my last catering company Omnibus Delecto, Salty Baby leans all the way into our whimsical, fun approach to food. We just had our first launch event and managed to be the most popular food item at a 15 chef attended fundraiser with…wait for it…borscht! We were overjoyed to be singled out when there were 3 or four desserts that could have gotten more attention.

I am the executive chef and owner and we are very excited to see how and into what culinary corners we can expand. Right now we are working on cooking classes and partnering with neat little venues like the Frogtown Magical Cabin where we will be having a secret supper in the Fall.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road. The main struggle is that I am a great cook, but not a great business person. For my first year, I would reinvent the wheel every time I got in the car, so to speak. I am not a naturally organized person, so I would write everything down on legal pads, and force myself to be on time, not forget anything, and go over lists over and over and over.

So when I showed up for a job, that job would run really smoothly, but the next job would come along and I hadn’t even written down what I put in the gazpacho, or those really successful meatballs, I couldn’t remember if I had used lamb or beef! I have now started weighing everything, and recording counts so that If I did a gazpacho for 300 people, now I know how much to buy for 40 people. I’m still learning to be more organized and to use systems better. Working for other catering companies has been invaluable for teaching me what systems to copy and what to avoid. I worked for one lady who cried at least once at every event! She really taught me how not to run a catering company!

Salty Baby – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Salty Baby is brand new, but the focus is on taking classics, especially Jewish classics and reworking them with an LA influence. Mexican restaurants and trucks, Korean and Vietnamese flavors, and most especially the incredible fresh abundance of market produce.

One of our super popular offshoots, Tacos La Güera is a great example. Our carnitas are off the hook. They’re mostly traditional but they get topped with green apple matchsticks tossed with lime, onion and cilantro. They are a little unorthodox, but the flavor is still authentically Mexican.

Another example, our borscht is laced with orange. It’s a very old recipe, except for the orange. The sour cream that we top it with comes from my neighborhood Russian market and is the highest fat content cream they’ve got, It’s delicious by itself, of course, but we add chervil, cilantro, garlic and dill. It’s gorgeous with the bright green cream against the bright fuchsia borscht, It takes you back to your grandma’s kitchen, but with a twinkle of Los Angeles that is unmistakable.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I am not a money person. I don’t crave it, and I don’t want to work my ass off for it. I used to joke I need a sign that reads: will work for praise. I really define success by the love we get for the food. I know our food is great. And I know how much love goes into it, so when I get that love back, I feel the circle is complete and that feeling I define as success.

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