Bruce Kalman / Knead & Co.
Since 1917 the vendors of Grand Central Market have been feeding the ever-growing and constantly changing population of Downtown Los Angeles. Here, people of all backgrounds and paths of life come together with a common purpose: to eat authentic and diverse food. Amidst the hustle and bustle of this historically rich building, Bruce Kalman and his team at Knead & Co. are mirroring the energy and pace of the public in his kitchen, skillfully prepping and cooking in sync. And for those who have never been privy to the process of hand-made pasta, Knead’s exposed glass-walled kitchen provides a welcoming view. Even the most hurried of passerbys stop and stare through the glass, mesmerized by Bruce’s hands dancing with large sheets of pasta dough, deftly sprinkling flour with a flick of the wrist. As a chef who has spent most of his life in kitchens, with an extensive and impressive roster of restaurants under his belt, he seems to be truly in his element here in the hub of this Los Angeles landmark. Bruce recently invited us to Knead to witness first-hand the spectacle of making pasta from scratch, from the expert himself. Buon Appetito!
What inspired you to become a chef? Was there a particular experience, meal or person that compelled you to pursue cooking?
I started cooking when I was 13 at a local pizzeria in my hometown Paramus, NJ, fell in love with being in a kitchen and the rest is history…
Did you have a mentor? How did you learn and practice to develop your technique over the years?
Being in the business over 30 years, I have a handful of mentors that helped shape me into the leader and chef I have become. I am well rounded from food, operations, leadership and financials, basically had a team of mentors.
Have you encountered any risks or challenges along the way?
Of course, there are risks and challenges every day in this industry, the biggest risk being opening a restaurant!
When thinking about the future of your work, what are you most excited about?
Food really excites me, the possibilities with it to be creative and to touch people in a way that only great food can. I get really excited about developing people and helping them grow and emerge as great chefs and leaders; it’s life changing for them.
In your work you seem to always circle back to hand crafted traditions. What’s the most valuable lesson you learned at your first job at the pizzeria that you’ve carried with you throughout the years?
I learned to keep it simple and to count on your team. Stray from these two ideas and it becomes a bigger struggle.
Grand Central Market is such a historically rich landmark for food vendors in Los Angeles. What specifically drew you to open Knead there?
They were looking for something like us, and we felt it would be a really exciting venture, and it is. The exposure we get on a daily basis, with thousands of people walking by us is priceless. Having a dedicated room to make pasta has really heightened our pasta game!
There’s something thrilling about watching pasta being made by hand. What’s the most difficult and intricate type of pasta to make?
Handmade stuffed pastas are typically pretty time consuming and tedious, but it’s such an art…edible art! We also make a squid ink garganelli that is rolled one piece at a time.
What, when (and where) was the hands-down best pasta you’ve ever eaten in your life? Can you relive the experience for us?
When I was in Cinque Terre in Italy in 1999, I had the simplest, most delicious plate of gnocchi pesto. I can still taste it to this day, and its simplicity has stayed with me.
Bruce wears the Richmond in Midnight