15 Qs WITH THE LADIES WHO RUN HLAY

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HLAY wouldn't be upright without the leadership of a few fine ladies (pictured above): Kelly Cole (Special Projects Liaison), Lien Ta (Co-Owner), Charlotte Porter (Manager) and Thessa Diadem (Pastry Chef). In the spirit of Women's History Month, we asked each other some hard-hitting Qs so the world in which we run and serve could get to know us a little bit better.


KC: If you were a bottle of wine on our current list, which would you be and why?

CP: I think I would have to pick the Clos Cibonne Rosé. This wine is made in southwest Provence, surrounded by hills and valleys lush with Mediterranean greenery. Being born and raised in Southern California, the geography and climate is very similar to that region of the world. The wine is also aged under a thin layer of "flor" (a layer of yeast that floats to the surface of the wine during the aging process), which gives the wine a lovely nuttiness and texture -- just like me! This is one of those rosés that you can drink all year -- just like the rosé my dad makes in his free time. I love this bottle for its flexibility and complexity, two adjectives that I would like to think can also be applied to myself. 

KC: What is your approach to creating desserts at HLAY?

TD: I studied Chef JW's savory food before creating the dessert menu -- it was important to me that my desserts be cohesive with his dishes. His food is inspired by different ethnicities yet still approachable to the LA palate. He likes to incorporate a weird, funny ingredient or two in each dish and reintroduce it in a creative way. I've adopted this way of cooking.


TD: If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

KC: Oh, boy ... first of all, I want chickens. Those chickens would then need a home, which I would probably purchase in Altadena (where I could finally plant the orange and avocado trees I currently have growing in my studio apartment). And my cat would get a pet German Shepherd, which I would rescue. I'd take a few trips, first to my motherlands of Peru and Spain. Then, somewhere to do nothing but bask, like an island in French Polynesia. I'd still work 'cause knowledge is power. I'm always learning at my job (and I could still take care of my chickens while working remotely). I'd donate to a few organizations, eat my eggs and drink my orange juice, and mind my business.

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TD: What were you voted "most likely to be" in high school?

LT: At my school in Marietta, Georgia called Wheeler High, I was nominated for: Best Dressed, Best All-Around, Contributed Most to Class, Sally Sunshine, Most Likely to Move to Beverly Hills 90210, and I was voted: Homecoming Queen, Prom Queen and Miss Wheeler. It's ... 100% ridiculous.


LT: Who are a few of your favorite people to follow on Instagram and why?

TD: @stjohnrestaurant for delicious food. @third_eye_thirst for good vibes. @lemeuriceparis for the bougie-ness!

LT: If we could bottle and sell your superpower (like CBD oil!), tell us what your superpower is, and what will a consumer gain by buying it? 

CP: I feel like my superpower might be a hot mess to bottle up, but I am very good at multitasking with a fluency in many skills. At the restaurant, that means I can hop behind the bar and knock out a few martinis, then jump onto the dining-room floor and be able to answer questions for guests and staff alike, swoosh over to the host stand and help seat our six o'clock rush, and finally jump into the kitchen and help Chef Thessa plate those delicious frozen pear soda espumas. Being cool and collected while doing so.

CP: What is your ideal cocktail/apertivo-hour situation? 

LT: I drink sooo much! While I've been drinking rosé long before there were hashtags like #yeswayrosé, and a salted-rim margarita will ALWAYS cheer me up, you will generally find me looking at the white wine list, seeking a glass with a little bit of texture or aromatics. Lately, my liver has been charmed with drinking tons of white Burgundy.

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LT: Describe the growth spurt you've experienced since 2016, the year you started working at HLAY.

KC: I've grown exponentially, but I'll probably always feel like the baby of HLAY. Lien & Jonathan have watched me take my first steps in hospitality and have nurtured me into becoming a whole-ass adult that they trust with their real baby, the first-born restaurant. In my mind, a lot of it revolves around strength. I've learned endless lessons about communicating, stacking dishes, global flavors, and even technology. My skin's gotten thicker (partially from getting big brother-bullied *out of love* by Chef Jonathan). Even my posture went from 0-100. Many regulars that met me three years ago have even commented on my growth, and it's a really special feeling.

TD: If you were a Spice Girl, which one would you be?

CP: I always loved Ginger Spice. She was the most fun and always down for an adventure! The film 'Spice World' had a very big impact on me as a little girl.

CP: What is your In-N-Out order?

TD: 2x2, chopped chilies, animal-style, extra spread.

KC: You carry the most on your plate of anyone I know. When you have a jam-packed day ahead of you, what do you do to set the getting-shit-done tone?

LT: First, it starts with waking up early - I do not use an alarm clock, and I wake up naturally between 6:30 and 7. I make a cappuccino which will include a scoop of Moon Dust, an adaptogenic product that I purchase from Moon Juice (I select from three: Brain Dust, Spirit Dust, and my favorite, Power Dust). Then, for the next 30 minutes, I read a book for pleasure, an idea that I adopted from our brilliant wine director, Danielle Fournier. This way, I'm not immediately accelerating my brain from zero to 1000 with work and all of its varied emergencies. I will inevitably interrupt my reading with the forming of a list of right-now tasks, which I correlate with a peek at my calendar. I listen to a morning album like Beach House or Slowdive. I power-through my inbox and add to the do-it-right-now list. I look at my day in chunks of time, and I set goals for fulfilling X amount of things before, between or after certain things that are already locked in. Chef Thessa gave me a little singing bowl, which I keep on my desk and I play it for, like, a minute. I also make myself breakfast and eat it (on my patio if it's nice out), usually listening to the day's news via podcasts.


LT: What are five things that intrigue you in a consistent way.

KC: 1. Vintage/antiques, clothing, housewares, everything. I like the reduce/reuse/recycle approach to life and especially objects with history. Those stains on my shirt are probably 30 years old, which is a little gross, but I consider it endearing.

2. Peruvian/Spanish culture: I'm adopted, and am only beginning to explore my own born culture.

3. Whatever is cooking up in the kitchen at HLAY I'm always eager to try. It never gets old, and it keeps me on my toes.

4. LA, all the time, in every nook & cranny. I love this city so much, and it's the most exciting place in the world to me.

5. The growth of my friends and their interests. We're all young, in our early 20s and on that cusp of growing into our own and making things that we want to happen, happen. Young people in LA are so fascinating - and their drive is inspiring.

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CP: What is your idea of a perfect "day-off"?

KC: I maximize the hell out of the little free time I have. Like yesterday, I woke up early and picked oranges at Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, where I grew up (they took me on a tractor ride!), went to the beach, took a nap on my roof, made breakfast for dinner, and drank OJ using my new-old juicer and made with the oranges I had just picked. It was a really dramatic way of spending time outside.

KC: What would you make for dinner if you were hosting ladies’ night?

CP: I would make a very bread-centric meal. Basic it may be, but I love having a very simple cheese & charcuterie situation with my gal pals. Start with a panzanella with really good, toasted, crunchy bread, whatever veggie is in season, laced with a lime vinaigrette and plenty of fresh herbs. Next would be a table full of coppa, saucisson sec, some really spicy Spanish chorizo, with so many pickles and tangy accoutrements, and of course, some more really good bread. With cheese, I always like to have a variety of styles. I love soft, triple cream-style cheeses that spread very easily on -- you guessed it! -- some delicious crusty bread. With the cheese, there would be loads of fresh fruit and some nut butters. Then, my girls and I can snack, drink all the wine and mezcal we want.


LT: We love your drive to succeed. How do you feed it and sustain it? What drives YOU to not lose motivation?

TD: The process of creating something helps me stay in alignment. It's exciting for me to see my ideas materialize and "become." It's even more fulfilling when I get to see people enjoy what I've produced.



Prior to HLAY:

Kelly attended fashion school at Academy of Art University, and this is her first-ever restaurant job. Lien worked as a Manager at Animal, Son of a Gun and Picca and was previously an entertainment editor & reporter. Charlotte worked as a Bartender at Eleven Madison Park & The NoMad in NYC and as a Cook at Má Pêche after attending culinary school at CIA in Hyde Park. Thessa was previously the Pastry Chef of Jon & Vinny's, Son of a Gun and Animal after studying Pastry Arts at the French Culinary Institute in NYC.

All images: Oriana Koren.

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