J-sun Creator & Director Ani Okkasian Executive Producer David Anthony David Cultural Curator Marco Rios Advising Curator Tony Banuelos Ban-Jo Artist Jessica Wang Fermentation Specialist Mayly Tao Chef Christopher Reynolds Artist Teresa Montańo Chef Juan Capistran Artist Wes Avila Chef Julie Orser Artist Mia Wasilevich Chef Jonathan Moulton Chef
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Creator & Director

J-sun was a professor of art history and Interdisciplinary Studies at Woodbury University for 11 years earning his M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine and his undergraduate degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Most recently his essay entitled Romantic Pranksters, which examines the aesthetic opposition proposed by European artists to the boredom and anxiety of living in a diminishing global power, was featured in the publication The Intransigent Ticket: Artist as Filter.

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Ani Okkasian

Executive Producer

Ani Okkasian – is a producer/publicist with over 15 years of experience with the conception, planning and execution of strategic communications across video, web, and traditional media. Most recently, Ani was running the innovation unit of OMD, a global media agency with such clients as Apple, Warner Bro and Sony Pictures. She produced custom experiential activations, used alpha phased technology and amplified traditional media plans with stunts and creatives solutions. She received her master’s from Georgetown University in the Communication, Culture and Technology program and is currently a professor of Interdisciplinary Research Methods and Future Studies at Woodbury University.

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David Anthony David

Cultural Curator

David Anthony David (aka D.A.D.), monitors the ever-changing Los Angeles food scene with an eye for how local culture and cuisine collide. An avid cyclist, David understands the topography of the city, the neighborhoods and the cultural districts that make up LA’s unique flavor profile. With a background in finance, data analysis, and development, David takes a holistic look at the ever blurring lines between city, culture, cuisine, and industry to explore how food shapes LA and how LA shapes food. David is a graduate of the international business program at Woodbury University and has worked for Ernst & Young and the Los Angeles Film School.

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Marco Rios

Advising Curator

Marco Rios is a Los Angeles-based artist who works in sculpture, photography, video, and performance. He received his M.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of California, Irvine and his undergraduate degree from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited at Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Artists Space in New York, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Estacion, Tijuana, Mexico. Previous exhibitions include Death’s Boutique at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Mixed Signals, a traveling exhibition organized by ICI; This is Killing Me, a group exhibition at MASS MoCA; Despair Beyond Despair, a solo project at LAX ART, Los Angeles; and the 2008 California Bienniel at Orange County Museum of Art. Recently, he had a second solo exhibition Melancholy and a Baguette at Simon Preston Gallery, NY and a solo project Anatomy of an Absent Artist at Santa Monica Museum, CA. In 2007, he was a recipient of the California Community Foundation Fellowship. In 2008, he was selected as one of the James Irvine Foundation Visions from the New California awardees, and in 2009 awarded an ARC grant from The Durfee Foundation. Marco Rios is represented by Simon Preston Gallery in NY.

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Tony Banuelos Ban-Jo


Tony Banuelos Ban-Jo was a Los Angeles based artist until moving to Idaho in the summer of 2015. His work uses the language of cinema, popular culture, technology, and fantasy as entry points to complex understandings of identity in an over-stimulated, technological world. Recent exhibitions include: Empty Reservoir, a light and sound based installation at a popular neighborhood dog park in Los Angeles, California. Melting Snow, a sculptural video-performance in the mountains of Wyoming. How to Survive in the Woods, a durational performance inspired by the viral marketing and unprecedented success of the low-budget film, The Blair Witch Project. Virtually, a web-based storyboard supported by physical props, which proposed a fantastical retrospective at the Shoshanna Wayne Gallery in Santa Monica, California. Stochastic Resonance: Noise is Destiny, a shapeshifting installation that transformed a large, paper room into geometrically folded talismans. He currently resides in Boise, Idaho.

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Jessica Wang

Fermentation Specialist

Jessica Wang is a Chinese American food advocate and entrepreneur who is known locally as a pickling workshop organizer and the creator of the playful pies-to-pickles pop-up concept Pique-Nique L.A. Her work is influenced by art, personal health encounters, and a diverse cultural upbringing – including her teen years spent in Chiang Mai, Thailand. With an academic background in fine art, a decade of professional kitchen experience, and passion for sharing the wonders of fermentation and mindful living, Ms. Wang has naturally grown into a host of creative educational pickling and cooking experiences. She currently is the creator of Picklé, a seasonally-inspired and community-driven educational workshop series she hosts in Los Angeles.

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Mayly Tao


Mayly Tao, LA’s official #donutprincess, grew up steeped in LA’s food culture and has been cooking and baking since the age of 7. As the creative mind and owner of DK’s Donuts & Bakery’s eclectic offerings, she transformed her family’s bakery, established in 1981, into an iconic Los Angeles destination. Mayly Tao and her fantastical donut creations have gone viral and been featured on Food Network, LA Times, Thrillist, Tastemade, and more.

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Christopher Reynolds


Christopher Reynolds (b. 1982, Laguna Beach, CA USA) received his MFA at the California Institute of the Arts and his BA in Fine Art at the University of Southern California. Reynolds’ current body of work examines relationships with food. More specifically, he investigates the relationship to ourselves and each other with food as the catalyst. His work includes sculpture, installation, photography, video, and performance to demonstrate who we are through what we eat and how we eat it. Reynolds’ installations, designed to inflict visceral responses of hunger, satiation, pleasure, and pain, challenge the viewer’s perception of food as merely a means of sustenance. Instead, Reynolds pushes his participating audience to understand the significance and socially-constructed power of food that molds our cultural, political, and economic positions in this world. As a previous member of the Wilmington-based art collective Slanguage, Reynolds has exhibited at MOCA, LACMA, and LAXART.  He was included in The Mexicali Biennial 13 at the Vincent Price Art Museum. He exhibited solo and duo projects at the Skirball Cultural Center and Thank You For Coming.

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Teresa Montańo


Teresa is an established chef who has led several culinary teams to rave food reviews in Los Angeles and New York City. Her recent success of RACION received glowing reviews from LA Times Food Critic Jonathan Gold and former LA Weekly Food Editor Amy Scattergood, who writes that what RACION offers is “some of the best food in Los Angeles.” RACION is the only restaurant in Pasadena to be named for three years in LA Times 101 Best Restaurants, LA Weekly’s 99 essential list and to Los Angeles Magazine’s Top 75 Restaurants list.  Teresa’s style is highly creative using the best quality ingredients found locally and abroad.

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Juan Capistran


Juan Capistrán is a multimedia artist, born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and currently living and working in Los Angeles. He attended Otis College of Art and Design for undergraduate work (BFA 1999) and the University of California at Irvine for graduate work (MFA 2002). He was awarded a California Community Foundation fellowship for the arts in 2009. Recent solo exhibitions include What We Want, What We Believe: Towards a Higher Fidelity, VAC, University of Texas, Austin, After Chaos Comes Eros…he is stronger than his rock (I could be happy), Curro y Poncho, Guadalajara, MX and White Riot…be the beacon, be the light. KO’d by Love, Thomas Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including at The Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Chisenhale Gallery, London, MCA Denver, Denver, Kurimanzutto, Mexico City and the Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), Istanbul, Turkey. Capistrán is represented by Curro y Poncho in Guadalajara, Mexico and Thomas Solomon Gallery in Los Angeles, CA.

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Wes Avila


Wes Avila was born and raised in Los Angeles and is the founder of Guerrilla Tacos, specializing in traditional fare combined with hyper seasonal ingredients. Formerly the sous chef at Le Comptoir, Avila has become a regular fixture in the arts district of Downtown LA turning his two-person cart into a mobile food truck. Guerilla Tacos has been featured on VICE Eats, and Time Out Los Angeles and was listed as one of Jonathan Gold’s favorite downtown restaurants of 2014.

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Julie Orser


Julie Orser received her MFA in Studio Art from California Institute of the Arts and a BFA in Photography at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her videos, photography, and multi-channel installations have exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Luckman Gallery (Los Angeles), Changing Role Gallery (Rome), Shoshana Wayne Gallery (Santa Monica), Christopher Grimes Gallery (Santa Monica), Steve Turner Contemporary (Los Angeles), Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (Salt Lake City), Il Magazzino d’Arte Moderna (Rome), Royal College of Art (London), Kunstraum Innsbruck (Austria), The Gallery Loop (Seoul), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, The Armory Center for the Arts (Pasadena), Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Cheekwood Museum of Art (Nashville), Ann Arbor Film Festival, Saison Vidéo, PDX Film Festival, and Dallas Video Festival. Orser was awarded the 2010 California Community Foundation Visual Artist Fellowship for Emerging Artists, the 2014 and 2009 Investing in Artists grants from the Center for Cultural Innovation, and the 2014 ARC grant. Julie is the co-founder of ART OFFICE for Film & Video and Assistant Professor in the Creative Photography Program at California State University, Fullerton. She lives and works in Los Angeles.

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Mia Wasilevich


Mia Wasilevich is a chef, food photographer, educator and professional forager based in Los Angeles, CA. She creates pop ups and bespoke events featuring local forages, as well as teaches wild food ID and culinary workshops. Her nature-based cuisine is influenced by the more than 20 countries she’s traveled to before the age of 15. An avid researcher, she aims to uncover forgotten foods and re-create them for the modern palate. Both she and her partner, Pascal Baudar have been featured consultants on MasterChef and Top Chef and were featured in Los Angeles Magazine’s ” 2015 Best of LA: Favorite Things” list as well as numerous TV shows and publications including Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and Tastemade, among othersShe considers herself “a little bit country and a little bit escargot.”

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Jonathan Moulton


Chef Jonathan Moulton began his career at 18 years old in a unique manner by cooking in the United States Army before attending the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After culinary school Moulton cooked in various kitchens including Catal (Anaheim), the Studio (Montage Laguna Beach), and became the Executive Chef at Lemon Moon (Los Angeles). Seeking a new challenge, Jonathan then joined the team at Early Bird Café (Fullerton), which quickly became Orange County’s premier breakfast/brunch location. Jonathan spent the next two years as the Executive Chef at Sadie Kitchen & Lounge (Hollywood) while perfecting his style of blending creative dishes with American classics. In 2010 Moulton started a series of monthly underground dinners called Block and Wheel, initially in his tiny apartment, the dinner series has grown to various locations throughout the southland and operates as a canvas to explore new recipes, ideas, and as a showcase of local ingredients. Currently you can find Executive Chef Moulton at the City Tavern (Los Angeles) where he brings a fun and creative approach to classic American fare.

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“Sounds pretentious…I don’t need a sideshow with my meal…. Tourist trap stuff for the upper-middle class. “Oh, Henry, we MUST go to this! Don and Biff thought it was wonderful!” It’s just a newer version of dinner theater” -Anonymous comment about Los Angeles Eats Itself

As food has become the aesthetic experience of choice, cities are increasingly seen through the lens of edible itineraries. We see example after example of this from the increasing prevalence of shows that merge wanderlust with the digestive tract where celebrity chefs are either the host of said program or its overly romanticized subject. And with this surge of attention around the culinary profession, there also comes a demand for more exploration into obscure food scenes, cuisine deconstruction cum hybridization or just the general one-upmanship among restauranteurs and their novel activations of the food space. Everything from a purposefully dressed down dive by a star interior designer, to the anonymously marked speakeasy doors that indicate a ‘restaurant’ inside a ‘restaurant,’ or just novelty centered urbanites exoticizing an otherwise unpretentious food place, we have increasingly turned these spaces for cuisine into a contrived set around the act of eating. More than ever, the dining space or the dining ‘act’ is fully self-conscious and, consequently, fully staged, so… Let’s Make Dinner Theater Again! Los Angeles Eats Itself, similar in spirit to Thom Andersen’s documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, is a dîner du théâtre where we make obvious the already elaborate efforts made to create largely fictional spaces for the non-fictional process of digestion. But on top of this flimsy simulacrum, we offer a hefty serving of historical research along with a side of experiential panache for an embodied, participatory tasting of a city that has a history of playing itself!

Involving a limited number of events, the historical catalog that makes up Los Angeles Eats Itself is an attempt to reinterpret and reintroduce a city that is increasingly populated with transplants; many of whom may only know LA’s past through the long arm of the media, which reduced the city to a notoriety for being…well…notorious! But instead of the microwaved re-sensationalization leftovers of these events, we revisit these moments with a new sensibility, one that is plural and multiple in its identifications, even if it means the narrative of our city becomes a little harder to chew and eventually swallow. So, is there a sequence of soft textured dishes that could make you ask why Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, had incredibly bad teeth? Is there a way to bring Angelenos back to the memories of those living in the city during Richard Ramirez’s rampage, as Wes Avila did as a small child, who found solace and comfort in his Grandma’s sweet potato recipe during that hot 1984 summer? Or when the slow-speed chase of the White Bronco was taking place in 1994, what restaurants along the route are still in operation, 25 years later that you could have eaten at then and now? What may that say about the turnover of culinary trends?  These are just some of the questions that have resulted from our dîner du théâtre around the complex intersection of history, food, and identity.

Los Angeles eats itself is a ten-part series (decalogue) that looks at our city’s history through inclusive collaboration to revisit a historical moment as a more layered presentation of the infamous stories that have, for better or worse, become irrevocably stitched into the mythos of LA. Each dîner du théâtre, beyond a rich tapestry of visuals, smells, and flavors will attempt to offer insights and unexpected perspectives on a well-trodden and heavily mediated historical event.

We are a non-profit and all of the artists, chefs, creatives, and makers involved are volunteering their time and labor to make these works and Los Angeles a more complex and layered cake of perspective.

Los Angeles Eats Itself is a project created by Jason Keller

Contact for events: [email protected]

Website by hair.

Night Stalker Supper

March 03, 2014

Chef Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos and Artist Juan Capistran came together to create The Night Stalker Supper, a meal centering around the infamous and sweltering summer of 1985 when serial killer, Richard Ramirez, single handedly held Los Angeles hostage with his grisly crimes. Avila and Capistran’s collaboration brought you back to a summer of conflicting emotions, a contrast of genuine anxiety but also one of a community in rapt absorption.  For each course Avila’s described his menu item as one based on “comfort,” using ingredients “that made him feel safe when he was a kid.” From his grandmother’s meatball inspired taco to horchata infused with Spanish lavender, Avila wanted a dish that would alleviate worry and unease. While eating, guests were seated at Juan Capistran’s pentagram dining arrangement, five jet black tables that came to a blunt point while at the center of this symbolic star sat a large black metal ice bucket filled with drinks. Before the meal, Capistran gave a talk describing why he chose the table design he did and why the events of 84 to 85 deeply resonated with him as someone who also would later listen to metal music (Ramirez claimed a similar affinity with certain kinds of music). Ultimately Capistran commented that most found this music as a form of solace and escape, to cope with the misfit feelings of growing up in Los Angeles.

Lastly, Los Angeles Eats Itself made a small batch of bottled purified Los Angeles river water, or LARW for short, so that not only could Los Angeles eat itself, it could literally drink of itself too.

The Night Stalker Supper would not have been possible without the generous support of  Art History Department of Woodbury University.

Black Dahlia Dinner

April 12, 2015

Artist Julie Orser and Chef Jonathan Moulton of the Block and Wheel underground dinner series, come together to create the second meal for Los Angeles Eats Itself. Centering around the fabled murder of Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia, Moulton and Orser have created a six-course dinner based on what the Black Dahlia might have eaten on the night of her disappearance in 1947. Orser has also invited Cloak + Dagger’s Rebecca Swanner, known for her work as the Depressed Cake Shop, to create a uniquely bittersweet dessert and apertif. Lastly ceramicist Brandon Lipe, in collaboration with Julie Orser, has designed a one-of-a-kind dinner plate for the event. The plates will be editioned and given away to the audience at the close of the meal.

Orser and Moulton used the meal as an attempt to get beyond the more obvious sensationalism of the macabre. Orser’s focus was on the woman herself, the personal details about who Elizabeth Short was, how she and others in her industry existed in this time, before Los Angeles had been branded the city of noir, now often mythologized to death by Hollywood. Orser and Moulton’s ultimate goal was to place you deeply in the historical point of view of Short, to understand her not as her writers tell her story, but get you closer to the day to day lived experience of a woman who became famous in ways none of us would want.

The Black Dahlia Dinner would not have been possible without the generous support of  the WUHO Gallery.

The Fleiss Feast

March 6th, 2016

Artist Chris Reynolds and head Chef Teresa Montańo of the renowned Racion and Chef Mia Wasilevich from Transitional Gastronomy created the first culinary biography. The multi-course meal reinterpreted the life of the Madame Heidi Fleiss while channeling 90’s Los Angeles by sublimating the diner’s carnal desires for flesh into a more socially acceptable but a no less gluttonous one of our carnivorous love of food. Chefs Teresa and Mia created six different courses that included experimental recipes such as the bone broth “cocaine” soup, a Black Book Caesar Salad and a Parrot Caviar topped with little hard boiled quail eggs. Artist Christopher Reynolds created an installation inspired by one of Fleiss’s most infamous locations of business, the Beverly Hills Hotel pool. With a virtual shimmer, guests lounged around the holographic water while listening to a dance mix that only a 90’s child could appreciate. And most importantly, each guest was given a numbered room key that took them to their reserved place setting. Attached to this key was a golden fork, the only cutlery the diner’s could use throughout the duration of the meal.

All White Bronco Brunch

June 17th, 2017

On July 17th, 2017, 17 vehicles and 34 participants took part in the recreation of the now infamous eight hour chase that captivated a nation more than 23 years ago. At 11:30am, these 17 cars, starting at Robert Kardashian’s former residence in Encino, caravanned down to the Lake Forest cemetery in Orange County only to drive back to the former (now demolished) Brentwood residence where O.J. ended his moving standoff at a little before 8pm. 

All participants were encouraged to be as authentically immersed in the conditions of 1994.  Each vehicle was given a news print map that included the multi-freeway chase route and restaurants that were along said chase route that have also been in operation since 1994. Moreover, each vehicle was served with a custom box of DK Donuts, a Cambodian owned and operated donut shop that has been in operation for over 30 years.  Additionally, each car was given a 9 hour sound track of the 94’ radio hits with intermittent breaking news interruptions from that day around O.J.’s whereabouts. And lastly, each registered vehicle was given two point and shoot cameras to document the event and were encouraged for the nine hours to not use their cell phone by “black bagging” their digital device (Black bagging is sealing a mobile phone in an opaque black mailing envelope which can only be ‘opened’ by destroying the bag itself). 

All documentation of this event was captured with the very same technology available to most bystanders at the time of the original OJ Simpson chase: standard 35mm film. The entire event exists only on the still images which were completely gathered by the participating drivers themselves. The only video that may exist of the reenactment would be anything captured by actual bystanders who were not involved in the chase and who may have witnessed the caravan of cars with “Slow Speed Chase” pennant flags hanging out of their windows tailing a classic 1994 white Ford Bronco.

The objective was to use the OJ event as a way to engage the media apparatus and how media in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles becomes the mutually binding polymer of our collective experience. Lastly, we ask what is ‘earned media?’ Earned media is a situation that is only earned when others who have nothing to do with what you’re doing and feel compelled to turn their camera on you to document what you’re doing.

S/H/O/O/K: The Edible Earthquake

October 2019

At 4:30 a.m on January 17th in 1994 the San Fernando Valley became a veritable plate of jello as the Los Angeles area convulsed for nearly 20 seconds, turning everything from buildings to overpasses into a crumbling heap of concrete. The Northridge earthquake once again exposed us Angelenos that below our sprawling glamorous and glittering crust lies a dormant underbelly that may devour us all.

For the Edible Earthquake Los Angeles Eats Itself (LAEI) looks at the concept of disaster preparedness as a blending of both survival function and opportunistic fantasy. The Los Angeles impending ‘big one’ necessitates intense pragmatic planning and crisis forecasting. But the sunk costs of intense preparation could inadvertently create an actual yearning for this dreaded Armageddon. Why? Perhaps to validate the investment, and indulge in the pleasure of primal ‘role play’ via assembled tools and skills. The biblically-proportioned potential disaster becomes a step towards extracting a feeling of the sublime, an unframable experience that leaves us without a corresponding representation.  

S/H/O/O/K (Surviving Humans Of Other Kinds) is an immersive installation at Barnsdall park by Tony Banuelos Ban-Jo, Peter Culley, and Jason Keller that indulges in one key potential disaster side effect: when faced with and in proximity to a disaster, people often become prosocial, helping one another and gathering together. With this event, we are prompting an open expression of the prosocial that emerges from the instability of a disaster and joining this communal response to the highly controlled procedures of preparedness that often fall somewhere between the practical and the paranoid. The focus is a building-scale food pantry protecting hidden fermenting crisis-relief foods locked inside that explores the practical (efficient storage shed) and the symbolic (temple as extraneous site of worship). At the conclusion of this month-long installation, the pantry is mined for its contents whilst its façade is put to new use as a prosocial meeting place and communal dining area. 

 Jessica Wang, David Anthony David (aka D.A.D) and Tony Banuelos will be stocking the shelves of the pyramid pantry with a conceptual MRE, a mixture of fermentation, dry goods, foraged ingredients, and classic off the shelf foods filled with processed ingredients.

This event would not have been possible without the generous grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles and CurrentLA:




Additional sponsorship has been provided by:


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Images from S/H/O/O/K:

Let Malibu Char

In the words of Mike Davis, “Make your home in Malibu…and you eventually will face the flames.” The Sayre Fire of 2008 may have not been the most destructive conflagration in Los Angeles history but with over 600 structures burnt to the ground and 11,262 acres scorched to a monochromatic black so close to the city, it was the first most visible fire that presented Angelenos with a glimpse into the reality of the 21st century. What Davis’ essay alludes to is that the appeal of Los Angeles, its identity as a city, is profoundly tied to the single-family home, built into and along the surrounding (fire-prone) mountains. Riffing on the essay title Let Malibu Burn, by Mike Davis, Let Malibu Char looks at the Sayre fire as the canary in the climate-changing coal mine and asks what will a hillside ‘Dinner Party’ look like in 2060 Los Angeles, one likely to include more weather extremes? 

To investigate these culinary ‘coming times,’ we will rethink the Los Angeles Dinner Party in the very fire-prone hillside homes, an architectural identity featured in countless LA films, immortalized in the photographs of Julius Shulman and by all accounts, to be invited to one is a right of passage for a transplant to our city. But what will our hypothetical dinner host have at their disposal in 2060? Will the Anthropocene affect our appetites as more of us will have to become “invasivores?” Will we be eating strictly dishes brought to us by avant-garde food chemists who have approximated endangered ingredients with the help of using agar-agar? Will the host have to synthesize flavors in case of a full-scale edible extinction? Can jellyfish, a species projected to be much more prevalent in this future, be a delicacy in the hands of a good home chef? 

Secondly, what does this hillside dwelling of the future look like? One that can both be host to a dinner party but is built for the seasonal bombardment of the brush fire? For Let Malibu Char, we will be utilizing the deceptively simple technology of CalEarth Institute’s SuperAdobe Structure, an elegant, antifragile, shockingly sustainable solution. SuperAdobe uses ‘earthbag architecture developed by architect and CalEarth founder Nader Khalili.’ Khalili invented the technique that uses long sandbags (“SuperAdobe Bags”) filled with on-site dirt, barbed wire for fastening and fire-cured limestone paint (you light the paint on fire for it to set). The sandbag dome design is also fairly impervious to landslides and provides almost complete fire-proofing.

For Let Malibu Char, join Los Angeles Eats Itself as we lean into the worst-case scenarios and attempt to keep the Los Angeles heritage of the dinner party alive because nothing is more dangerously disruptive to a dystopia than deliciousness.

The Source’s Special Sauce

“I knew a guy that used to work in the stockyards and he used to kill cows all day long with a big sledgehammer, and then go home at night and eat dinner with his children and eat the meat that he slaughtered. Then he would go to church and read the bible, and he would say, ‘That is not killing.’ And I look at him and I say, ‘That doesn’t make any sense, what you are talking about? Then I look at the beast, and I say, ‘Who is the beast?’”-Charles Manson

The utopic spirit of the sixties in Los Angeles was epitomized by Jim Baker’s health-centered and first vegetarian-only restaurant located on the Sunset strip, The Source. It was one of many collectives looking for an alternative lifestyle that included things such as ‘organic vegetarian diets, communal living, and utopian ideals.’ Many of these initial experiments in alternative living turned darkly pessimistic by the early seventies with the likes of the quasi-commune leader Charles Manson and his paranoid delusional concept of Helter Skelter. After almost fifty years, we have numbers of many more failed attempts by mostly (white) male leaders (Heaven’s Gate, The People’s Temple, Children of God, Branch Davidians, etc) establishing separatist cult-like groups which ended up convincing their own members to make similarly deranged and terrifyingly self-destructive choices. Cults, in general, are often a poor expedient for many vulnerable individuals who likely had deep needs for membership, spiritual transcendence, or general life purpose who, for whatever reason (having experienced trauma at the hands of family, being excluded by traditional institutions, or just rejected and misdiagnosed) fell in and for the charisma and promises that often result from the cult of a personality. This brings us back to Jim Baker’s The Source. As a group, although far from a clean record, they still resonate with so much of what Los Angeles aspires to and has become: a never-ending quest for greater self-fulfillment through diet, health, or wellness practices. 

For The Source’s Special Sauce, we will ask when a particular ‘cult of diet’ becomes a formalized diet of a cult. The Source and those groups living in Los Angeles during the sixties striving for their own “heaven on earth,” were merely wellness 1.0, where the symbiosis of stomach and spirit was just the budding of wellness. Fast forward to today, we live in a commercialized wellness buffet, picking and choosing the most ‘optimal’ diet as the prerequisite to our greater project of self-actualization. Our wellness mysticism includes a holistic blueprint of the human with full tech-support, where biometrics are everywhere helping us sync our circadian rhythm cravings with our infrared light baths for when our mitochondria have the munchies, to when we just need a quick collagen peptide smoothie to replenish our selves after a stemcell spa day right before our Serenity Now weekend workshop. Even more ambitiously, “intentional communities” (often white) are again popping up around the country, from Cedar Moon in Portland to the East Wind Community in the Ozarks, with young folks “defecting” from ‘Babylon,’ or what they call urban living, to reside in a place that is literally farm to table.  The cults are back baby, but they’ve dropped the c-word because these new organizations are shrewdly self-aware with metadata, digital marketing plans, and entrepreneurship seminars! This is Wellness 3.0!

So, whether it’s the cult of the self-optimization diet like the well-intentioned ‘biohacking’ exemplified by the Bulletproof diet founder Dave Asprey, the younger earnest millennial checking out of capitalism to join commune 2.0 or the much murkier reasons behind a self-actualization group like Landmark Worldwide and their Tony Robbin inspired “Executive Success Program” for the managerial class to reclaim their purpose, won’t you join us as we attempt the impossible and try to sincerely build a better cult out of some activated charcoal ashes? 

Bling Ring Banquet

“So you got some skin in the game/but I got my Flesh in the Fame/it’s like a moth to the flame.” – Paris Hilton quoting Kanye West

What’s Los Angeles without a juicy scandal involving celebrities being repeatedly robbed by fame-obsessed minors? The Bling Ring, a loose assortment of status craven Calabasas teenagers, used various social media to triangulate the location of actors and socialites to case and profile their mansions to ultimately commit extravagant acts of robbery. We at Los Angeles Eats Itself would never condone criminal acts but we would have loved to have known what was in Paris’ fridge. Join Los Angeles Eats Itself as we look at the ultimate status symbol, a celebrity in edible form.

Barbecue Riots of 1992

Thousands of people throughout the metropolitan area of Los Angeles rioted for over six days, burning and looting, as some would describe as both cathartic release and destructive outburst resulting from the racial tensions that had finally boiled over with the Rodney King verdict of 1992.  If the racial realities have often been the hardest periods of conflict for L.A., the cultural mixing is also central to the identity of our city. Los Angeles Eats Itself wants to confront this historical moment head on by a different kind of burning, a block party barbecue that uses the 1992 riots as a backdrop for a creative culinary conflagration, to use food as a communal talking point.

North Hollywood Shootout Cookout

At 9:17 AM, Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu began an armed confrontation with the Los Angeles police that caught the nation’s attention and eventually became the inspiration for the infamous if not overly stylized shootout scene in the film Heat. As one of the most televised botched and bloody escapes in history, it reminds us that just below our evolved ‘NPR sensibilities’ is a self-destructive fascination with spectacle, and like so much of Los Angeles lore, parts of our sprawling city only get attention when they bleed. For this metaphorical cookout, Los Angeles Eats Itself investigates the idea of ‘The Valley,’ the massive suburban basins surrounding Los Angeles proper, as a kind of ‘hinterland;’ a surrounding area that is both in service to a sprawling metropolis but equally lying beyond what is visible or known to Angelenos. And unlike Los Angeles, known for its insatiable appetite for visibility, our hinterland has had a history of being defined more by what it hid than what it revealed.