We had the good fortune of connecting with Marcus & Eunah Beniger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marcus & Eunah, other than deciding to work for yourself, what else do you think played a pivotal role in your story?
In the culinary industry, we typically work in a “kitchen brigade” style system, which is quasi-military in organization. It kind of has to be this way, because operating a successful kitchen is definitely a coordinated effort in the best of situations (proper funding secured/consumer appeal/great location, etc), this can still be a daunting challenge. There are a myriad of un-factored situations that come into play in the daily operation of a restaurant. These often revolve around staffing, government regulations, demanding customer base, political and economic climate, product sourcing, the daily recurring stresses that come from trying to maintain operational consistency, litigious predators/opportunists… hell, even the weather. And honestly speaking, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For us, attacking all of these as small business owners is a pretty calculated challenge, so we have been extremely fortunate in choosing each other as partners. We each, to the other, have been generous enough (in all considerations), but especially in deciding to embark on this journey together. There’s a reason why so many people’s favorite restaurants come from husband and wife teams. A good restaurant is like a good marriage. A restaurant successfully translates its culinary and cultural vision vis-a-vis “love and devotion”. We sure as f@$& aren’t doing it for the money.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Fundamentally, the thing I am most proud of is bringing a reasonable facsimile of the corner po’boy shop/small market/deli model that was such an integral part of my youth growing up in New Orleans to the streets of Los Angeles (and in Chinatown, no less). I got to where I am today through a LOT of hard work and the blessings of the kind fates. How did I overcome the challenges? What are you talking about? Anyone with a small business knows that you don’t ever overcome challenges. It’s more like, “Are you still riding the wave,” “taken on water,” or, “have you deep six’ed?” OK, enough with the water analogies. The lesson I have learned along the way, is that there are always new lessons to learn along the way. One of the things that anyone crazy enough to operate a restaurant should understand is that the demands and expectations that you have set for yourself are only exceeded by those of the public. This means that if you are going to be successful in this task, you must keep an open mind and continue learning from an ever changing set of circumstances. As for what we want the world to know about our brand or story- we wish to do our best at giving the Los Angeles public an authentic taste of my hometown. Specifically stated, if we have done our job correctly, the product will speak for itself. What we truly wish is that we have given the public an authentic aesthetic and culinary experience that properly represents some small part of the cultural wonderland that is the city of New Orleans.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Marcus: Los Angeles, specifically, has too many amazing “favorite spots” for me to even begin to list, much less rate. I think what we Angelenos (native or adopted) are unbelievably blessed with, is that this city is “the big leagues” in terms of everyone from everywhere bringing “the heat” from their own cultures and perspectives. Everything is here, and if you haven’t found it, then you haven’t been looking. As someone that adopted this city as my home twenty two years ago, there is nothing more that I like to do, still, than to go explore and find some spot ON MY OWN that I can proudly boast of to a small group of similar minds at a later date. This is why Los Angeles is, for me, the best city in the country for this type of thing. We guard our favorite spots because we don’t want them blowing up too much and overwhelming what is already a fantastic experience. As for my visitors, you can ask them. Yeah, I’m sure this sounds selfish, guilty as charged. Eunah: Well, I’m going to have to spill some of the beans that Marcus has been trying to keep to himself, and, I can’t help it- I’m Korean-American, and gotta represent! To eat, I would say, Soot Bull Jeep for the best charcoal K-BBQ in town (Koreatown is always a must-go for us, for the plethora of excellent places to eat that stay open late, to boot) and The Prince for juicy, crispy Korean fried chicken in an unexpected environment. To drink: Since we will have already been in Koreatown eating- DwitGolMok (DGM for short), which translates to “back alley” is, for someone unfamiliar with Korean drinking culture, a true Korean dive bar in the heart of K-town. On a weekend night, the lights are dim, the groups of guests raucous, the tables sticky, and the drinks (soju and beer) ever flowing. They have food to accompany all that alcohol too-Korean bar food ranges all the way from corn cheese, to soldier soup, to silkworm larvae (for those who are truly adventurous or drunk enough). Lastly, I would whole-heartedly recommend JaeBuDo- a live seafood BBQ experience that is culinarily orgiastic. The place is a hole in the wall that stays open until 2 AM and brings you platters of live seafood that run the gamut from geoduck to hagfish (google photos). You can don the single Michael Jackson glove they give you to hold the burning hot shellfish that you pick up off the grill as you toast to the unique experiences that this city affords you, over yet another shot of soju.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Marcus: I largely credit any culinary expertise that I have to my grandmother Florence and other women in my family (and not), who noticed that, at a young age, I liked hanging around the kitchen and enjoyed “making a mess” of the equipment. Eunah: I would definitely have to credit most of what I have in this life, personally, and professionally, to my parents. As immigrants, they taught by example. They were both entrepreneurs who overcame some pretty greats odds to achieve success, and seeing first-hand what they went through to make sure I had everything I wanted to be happy in this life, has taught me immeasurable lessons and values about the sacrifices it takes to translate dreams into reality, and that anything I think is too insurmountable to take on, is possible.
Kevin Shea Adams