At the second location of the vegan bistro, Green, we met up with owner and chef Damon Brasch for this week's Chef Chat. Next door at the also new-to-town snack shop, Nami, we chatted over a cup of coffee (with soy milk, of course) about the history behind the recently renovated buildings, of which Brasch is particularly proud.
How was the process of opening up a second location in a new part of town?
The process has been interesting. There's a right way and a wrong way to redo two one-hundred-year-old buildings and we chose to do it the right way. So it cost a lot money and took a lot more time and caused a lot more headaches, but the finished product is something that I'm very proud of. Preservation in the City of Phoenix is important to me. I think it's really easy to tear stuff down, I could have gone to the city and paid 400 bucks and gotten a permit and torn these things down in a day. But there's history here...there's really cool history.
What kind of history?
The building [that is now Green] was a commercial building since its inception in 1911. It was a high-end grocery store and the only reason I know that is actually a crazy story. Do you want to hear it?
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I'd always wanted to see a picture of the building in its original form because we thought it was a house. But it never translated to a house, the way it was laid out. So I went to the historical preservation society and I went to the City of Phoenix trying to find some picture of Phoenix in the 20s, 30s, 40s...I didn't care when. Out of the blue one day a couple years ago I open up an email and it's from this woman and the email reads like, "Hey I was going through a box of photos that were my dad's...and I came across one of this little store that he lived in when he was growing up. I looked and there was an address on the back. I just thought you'd like to see the building in 1920." So attached was this old black and white crinkly photo of the building. It was like one of those surreal moments.... It was called Los Olivos Grocery Store and there was a delivery Model T parked out front and there were two huge palm trees out in the middle of where 7th Street is now. Everything behind the building was just fields, but the actual building itself was unchanged. I was blown away.
I know you like to read cookbooks for inspiration, what are you reading right now?
I'm one of those people who reads fives books at a time. I'm really into magazines right now, my favorite magazine is Saveur - it think nobody really knows how to pronounce that - I just call it "savor". But I love that magazine. God, if I was ever in that magazine it would probably be the pinnacle, I just think that the photos and the way that they execute global food...its like the National Geographic of food. It's just brilliant; light years away from any other food magazine out there. The book that I'm reading right now is also French, Les Diners de Gala, Salvador Dali's cookbook. It's out of print; it's a rarity.