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Meet Zoë Komarin of Zoe Food Party in Echo Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zoë Komarin.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Some people find it hard to believe that cooking was not a favorite past time of mine. In fact, I really didn’t get comfortable in a kitchen until my mid-20’s; living in NYC I was hungry (literally and figuratively), and too broke to order takeout all the time. That was where I, standing in front of my tiny kitchen counter and even smaller stovetop unlocked something wholly creatively in me and discovered that with food, I could dream and innovate, as well as spread joy and give a tangible gift to those around me.

Cut to several years later living in Tel Aviv, Israel. While I could have easily spent all my time swimming in the Mediterranean and eating my way through the city, I also needed work. I was lucky to land a dream job helping open a small cafe in the heart of the city. Cafe Xoho, now in its tenth year, was the place where I honed much my culinary skills, my culinary outlook, and understood the value of food and community as a means of building something greater than the sum of its parts.

Starting fresh in Los Angeles three years ago, I launched ZoeFoodParty. A concept that would allow me to incorporate all of my food interests and ethos. A Food Party can take many forms – and that fact is purposeful. Instead of a restaurant framework, I am attempting to build community through food one pop-up, gathering, class, workshop at a time. Allowing the need of people around me and their desire to eat, cook, and learn to guide the energy I put in. Most notably has been the now cult-like weekly Pita Party in Highland Park where my husband and I lovingly fill freshly steamed pitas for folks with that week’s surprising concoction. Anything from Vietnamese style fish with turmeric, dill & crispy shallots to charred beets, labneh, pickled onions, and scrambled eggs. The dishes are a reflection of things I’m interested in but the vibe and excitement come from the people who venture to us each week and bring their friends, families. and dogs to see what we’ve cooked up. ZoeFoodParty is now more and more being defined by the people involved and that has allowed me to start working on a cookbook, multimedia projects, and hopefully much more!

Great, 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?
The creative journey in life is a constant struggle. If it weren’t, more people would be doing it! I was lucky to have the opportunities that I’ve had. It has been partly timing, partly privilege, and partly perseverance that has allowed me to be doing what I’m doing today.

One of the hardest chapters I endured was a period of reinvention after leaving Israel and returning the States. Much of my identity was integrated into the life that I lead and the business I helped build. Being on my own meant digging really freaking deep and allowing the process of figuring out what I would do next be a journey and not a simple one-word answer. The path to figuring that out (which some would say you are never done with) challenged me to be vulnerable, to try new things, to fire off in new directions with confidence (even when that confidence was in part performance) and to be humble when what I was trying wasn’t ‘working.’ This is the ebb and flow of creativity in many ways, to be willing to ‘paint the canvas out’ and start again if need be.

Beyond that, there are days where you burn this thing or underbake that thing and don’t have time, money, or resources to solve the problem easily. In those moments, working in food is like opening night in a live show every day – you just keep going and find solutions where they didn’t exist because you know in your heart the show must go on.

Zoe Food Party – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
In LA, I might be known for pita more than anything else. This is hilarious because I never made pita the whole time that I lived in Israel (why would I, there you can find gorgeous fluffy pita in every corner store). So, knowing that I’ve created something that is really unique to here has made it even more thrilling. I use the pita as a vessel to transport all my ideas in food. This way people have to cradle it in the palm of their hands and discover the flavors on their own – as if on an archeological dig. The journey from top-down allows people to experience visceral eating experiences and the result is a memory they take with them. As we know from the bountiful array of incredible street food in LA, not all ‘great’ cuisine happens on a plate. Much of it happens while leaning over a sidewalk, or teetering on a plastic stool.

I like to say I’m a food curator more than a Chef.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It is difficult to pick just one! I love seeing people engage with their food and share it with others. Every time a customer returns to eat whatever I’m making, I am filled with pride.

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