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Meet Bruce Kalman of Union Restaurant/BK Hospitality Group in Pasadena and Arts District

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bruce Kalman.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Bruce. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
We opened Union almost 4 years ago with a mission to bring local, sustainable great food to a neighborhood spot in Pasadena. It was definitely a challenge at first getting things started, as working with local, small suppliers require a lot of extra time and energy, between going to the markets to pick up, and planning to be organized enough to have only enough product in-house for a couple days, to keep things super fresh. We butcher whole animals, which also requires some plotting.

We are committed to using everything we buy, whether using the whole animal throughout the menu or finding a use for parts of vegetables that are not typically palatable. We did, however, find the community excited and behind us 100%, they thanked us every day for opening in their seemingly corporate chain restaurant haven. Today, we have a huge following and continue to do record numbers up over previous years. Staying relevant is challenging and necessary, so we do whatever we can to keep that going.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No restaurant is a smooth road, let’s get that straight! The biggest struggles we find in the kitchen is trying to “push a golf ball through a garden hose” every day. We have a very tight workspace, yet we insist on making everything in-house – whole animal butchery, fresh pasta, butter, cheese, and more.

We are also very busy, so storage is always very tight, but it keeps us on our toes, it requires us to be incredibly organized at all times. One of the biggest struggles these days is learning to manage “millennials”. Its a balance between motivating staff to execute at a very high level every day, without being overly pushy, which is usually what it takes to make a kitchen run effectively.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Union Restaurant / BK Hospitality Group story. Tell us more about the business.
We operate Union restaurant in Pasadena, Knead and Co pasta bar in the Grand Central Market, along with restaurant consulting and events. I am the chef/creative director and I spend most of my time developing my chef teams, teaching, coaching and trying to inspire them to be dynamic leaders.

We are really proud of everything we have accomplished over the last 4 years. We have helped pioneer the Pasadena restaurant scene, which is mostly comprised of corporate restaurant chains, and now other smaller restaurant operators have come to the area. We take a ton of pride in the fact that we stay focused on using the best ingredients sourced as locally as possible.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I honestly don’t believe in luck.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Jules Exum, Sasha Grumman

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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