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Don't put a fork in it, because we're not close to done.
Americans know burgers and they know mac ’n cheese.
Which is why we love that the Tuesday following Memorial Day, AKA national BBQ-eat-a-burger weekend, Chloe Coscarelli opened her second vegan restaurant, by CHLOE, housed inside the new 365 by Whole Foods concept in Silverlake, CA. It’s not the first time the chef has flipped the script.
The public got a taste of Chloe when she became the first vegan chef to win a culinary competition on national TV. The winning dish: cupcakes. A possible affront to your grandma’s secret family dessert recipe, but with three vegan cookbooks all featured on Amazon’s Top “100 Best-Selling Cookbooks” and Whole Foods on her fresh young branded coconuts, she’s clearly whipping up something the people want.
Today with partner Samantha Wasser, Creative Director of ESquared Hospitality, the two are committed to bringing healthy, affordable, and satisfying (yes, this vegan food will FILL you up) dishes to the people with the fast casual concept.
“The best way to change the world is through food,” Chloe says the Wednesday following the Silverlake opening. It is the second storefront that she and Samantha have opened in under a year. The first by CHLOE opened to a line around the block in New York’s Greenwich Village in July 2015; the response has been exciting. “If someone can sit down and enjoy a delicious meal in a fun environment," says Chloe, "that’s the way to win over their heart.”
Winning over the masses they are, even those who might be turned off by the more moral aspects of veganism. Chloe went vegetarian, and then vegan, at a young age, recognizing the correlation between "the animals on her plate and the animals her family had as pets." Still with her food she says that the goal wasn’t to create a “vegan restaurant,” noting that probably only about 10% of the New York customers are strict vegans. “From the start I knew I wanted it to be burger and fries,” she says. “The core cuisine is supposed to be a take on American comfort food.”
Samantha echoes this. “The intent was never to target vegans, it was to target everyone. 'Vegan' can be kind of scary and at one of our first meetings we talked about the priority of the brand— making this as playful as possible. Our menus have kitschy icons that feel approachable.” Kitschy icons include: a sad-faced ice cream cone, napkins that say “So Fresh and So Clean,” and crayons and coloring placemats for kids, whom they encourage to “Get Cray.”
“Originally I was inspired by retro, old supermarket branding and signs. I wanted it to be fun and I didn’t want to put the logo on everything,” says Samantha who focusses on the branding and visual aspects of by CHLOE. Instagram and social media was also on her mind when developing the branding. "You have to have a brand that translates to social, but we keep Chloe's Instagram and the by CHLOE Instagram separate." It's a different approach from most brand's that put the *star* front and center. There is not a single photo of Chloe or Samantha on the @bychefchloe handle.
As for the move out West, although Chloe is from LA it wasn’t where they expected their second location to open.
“It’s two coasts and you can’t be two places at once, but the opportunity with Whole Foods came up and there is so much crossover between our ethics and beliefs and theirs, we had to move,” says Samantha.
Move they did. The partnership came about as fast and casual as the cuisine. “We were talking about just getting our ice cream into Whole Foods,” explains Samantha, “when they came to us with the larger concept.” From the time Whole Foods approached the founder to the time they opened, "it was just about three months, but it was too good to pass up. We did everything we could to make it happen.”
As for the logistics of going back and forth, Chloe is optimistic. “This is our first time opening a store across the country, so we’re going to feel it out, and do what needs to be done.”
That doesn’t mean they aren’t still focussed on NY. "22nd street," as Samantha calls it, will the 3rd by CHLOE and is opening this month. “We have pretty big expansion plans in New York,” says Chloe. “Three more in New York, and two in Boston,” specifies Samantha.
Three restaurants in under a year is bold, as are their expansion plans, but we’ve all heard the bit about who fortune favors. “Being partners with ESquared,” adds Samantha, who is a 50% partner, “we do have a lot of support. With a traditional startup you don’t have some of the same infrastructure. Corporate came down and helped hire the staff and find the cooks, and then we came in and fine tuned everything.”
“The best way to describe the relationship is three-fold: Chloe heads up food-menu development, I head up the aesthetics and design with both branding and store design, and ESquared focusses on operations, which allows for each of us to play to our strengths."
If the packed house is any indication, they are playing their hands well. Chloe chats with patrons at tables, happily takes photos with others outside the storefront, and people are clearly excited by the chow and concept being in LA. There are customers wandering in from the market. Others who were familiar with the NY concept, sought out the space and made the drive from distant LA neighborhoods. “We also have a lot of people telling us they walked here,” says Chloe, “so there’s a nice, neighborhood vibe happening.”
They nailed their menu. They've nailed they branding. And now they're stretching their vegan sea legs.
by CHLOE is now open at 2520 N Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
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