Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset

Simple Recipes All Day: A Cookbook

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These 100 recipes will transport you to a breezy beach day, from sunrise breakfasts to celebrating under the stars, from the beloved Malibu Farm restaurant chef and owner.

Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset
captures the carefree vibe of a beachside vacation with its simple and healthy farm-to-table recipes and gorgeous photography showcasing the changing light throughout a perfect Southern California day. This book brings laidback beachy vibes to your kitchen, making it easy to start the day with Surfers Rancheros, lounge at midday with fika snacks such as Pumpkin Chocolate Bread Pudding, and linger over magic-hour meals like Spaghetti Squash Lasagna.

It’s an ode to unfussy home cooking from an author who truly gets it; Malibu Farm’s path to success is rooted in Helene Henderson’s completely self-taught culinary skills and her simple Swedish sensibility. In essays interspersed throughout the book, Helene shares memories from growing up in Sweden, insights from the restaurant, and the joys of a life by the water. With doable and nourishing recipes like Avocado Pizza with Ricotta Cream and the Big Apple Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset encourages you to create memorable meals that make every day a beach day, no matter where you are.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset

Introduction

I had never heard of Malibu, surfers, or female chefs when I was growing up, and I had never aspired to be a chef or restaurateur, but here I am on the Malibu Pier, running two restaurants overlooking a world-famous surf break. And somehow I also ended up with waterfront Malibu Farm restaurants in Newport Beach, Lanai, Miami, New York, Los Cabos, and Zushi Marina in Kanagawa, Japan.

How did I get here? I really don’t know. Maybe through the back door, through the alley, through some passageway I didn’t know existed or even dreamed about. Sometimes you can’t enter through the front door; sometimes there is no path. You have to clear your own way and create your own journey, and mine started in the very north of Sweden.

As a teenager I headed off alone to New York City, without a plan or a mission. My pockets were empty, my English was poor, I knew nobody, but I had a heart full of dreams and hope. After one year in the Big Apple with random jobs in retail and a few stints modeling, I followed a new friend and headed west. In Los Angeles, I first worked in graphic design, then as a server for a catering company, and later as a chef for event planners Along Came Mary, LA Celebrations, and Somerset Catering.

I learned the trade and eventually started my own catering company, Lavender Farms, which I ran out of my home kitchen in Hollywood. I arrived at events in an old beat-up Toyota Land Cruiser. It was a one-woman (non-permitted) operation, but I still was able to cater large events for celebrities, movie studios, and corporations. Although my husband, John, suggested it many times, I never believed in myself enough to rent a commercial kitchen and invest in a catering van. Instead of going legit with my catering company, I became a private chef.

It was John’s dream to move to Malibu, and we saved like crazy to make that dream a reality in 2008. I am a Malibu local now, but unlike my husband, who is an avid surfer, I never go to the beach. I don’t even own a swimsuit. I can’t swim or surf, and even in the shallowest bodies of water I sink like a rock. I have been known to get seasick on the pier, and I might be allergic to sand, if that is a thing. Forests, farms, and gardens are where I belong. Or so I thought.

Malibu Farm began as a hobby. I was a private chef in the evenings, and I taught cooking classes from my home during the day. The classes evolved into farm dinners in my backyard in the Point Dume neighborhood of Malibu. I started the Malibu Farm cooking blog to post recipes, and my classes and events soon grew in size and in frequency. My little residential street was often filled with the cars of guests attending classes and dinners at my underground (and illegal) backyard restaurant. Eventually the City of Malibu shut me down, as was only right; commercial activity requires a permit, and only four events are allowed per year, per home, and I was often doing three events per weekend. So although there was a demand for the dinners I was offering, I had nowhere to host them. Sometimes I was able to partner with a local farm or ranch, but my options were limited. I hoped for a more permanent commercial location in a garden or farm setting.

John maintains that I cried when he first proposed to me that I do a Malibu Farm pop-up cafe in the shuttered Ruby’s Diner at the end of the Malibu Pier. That’s a huge overstatement—but I was dreaming of a farm location, not a 1980s diner with red vinyl seats and white plastic tables. The view, although spectacular, was not of a farm. There was no garden. There was no vineyard. There were no fruit trees. The pier at the time was a deserted and neglected historical gem, and the only people there were fishers, vagrants, and the occasional derelict. Now that the pier is bustling with life, it seems crazy that it was vacant for years. Two empty waterfront restaurant spaces were just waiting for someone to come along to love them and bring them back to life.

This pop-up cafe would sail me away from the farm location of my dreams and out onto a funky pier. But it was the only option in front of me, so my designer friend Vanessa Alexander and I ripped out the red vinyl banquettes and white plastic tables. In the kitchen I replaced the deep fryers with convection ovens. I tossed out the massive lines of soda dispensers and bought an undercounter fridge to hold freshly squeezed juices. We built some farm tables, and slowly but surely it started to look a little bit like me, except for the fact that I was out to sea.

I spent about $40,000 to open the cafe, an inheritance from my mother—the amount she was awarded in a medical malpractice suit, the malpractice that ultimately took her life. She had always worried that I would end up broke and alone in America, with nobody left in Sweden to take care of me. Before she passed away, she made me promise that I would not forget Sweden, and that I would use her money to build a new business. And so I did. I opened a pop-up cafe. I didn’t know if it would fail or succeed—I only knew that I had done as I promised. My mother passed away in the spring of 2012 and never knew that Malibu Farm became a real business.

I was fifty years old, I was opening a restaurant, and I did not have a clue. Although I had been employed in restaurants as a teenager in Sweden, in my adult life I had held jobs only in the catering and private chef world. Operating a restaurant was a completely new experience. My opening front-of-house crew was two Pepperdine students who had worked on the backyard dinners with me. In the kitchen, there was me and two cooks I hired from a nearby restaurant. I set the cafe up like it was a catering operation. We did not have a point-of-sale system. Instead, we had iPhones with Square Readers. The night before we opened, my husband swung by and said, “How will the kitchen know what the customers order?” Slight detail—we had not set up any ticket printers. When a customer orders food, a ticket is supposed to print in the kitchen alerting the cooks what to make. With no printers, we had to hand-write paper tickets. Very time-consuming. Yeah, there was a lot to learn.

I opened for breakfast and lunch simply because I still had my private chef job at night, and in my estimation and everyone else’s expectations, the pop-up would fail. I just needed to survive the six-month term without going broke. My job making dinner for a family of four paid enough to cover the costs of my pier employees. I had to be at that job at 5 p.m., so the pier cafe was open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

One of the very first customers to stroll into the cafe ended up coming in for breakfast daily. One day a cafe cashier said “mayor” wanted to meet me. I thought, the mayor of what or where? I went out to say hello and soon learned that this man’s name was Meir, not a mayor. Meir Teper was an owner of the Nobu restaurants, and I still don’t know how he found me and my little cafe. Destiny? Coincidence? The force of the Pacific swell? We started talking, and along the way he became a mentor to my underground brand and crucial to the growth of the business. Lanai, Miami, New York, and Los Cabos all came to fruition because I had met “The Mayor.”

Life on the pier, where I am captain of my independent brand, has been blessed with spectacular views, but it has not been easy. We have sometimes been adrift without a compass or direction, we have been lost at sea, we have fought to stay afloat, but somehow we have sailed through rough patches, storms, hurricanes, and fires—and we are still here.

There was much more to learn than how to cook food for crowds, build a menu, and run a restaurant. Those were the expected things. I also found out that a single tossed cigarette can close your business down. I learned this the hard way, when our cafe deck caught fire after a fisher left a smoldering cigarette and our deck went up in flames. Every day to this day, I stop pier visitors from smoking. I have been called “Officer Henderson” more times than I can count. I also learned that trash from the end of the pier must travel in a small pushcart one mile to reach the dumpster at the end of the parking lot, and deliveries must travel from the parking lot down to the cafe. This requires a fleet of full-time custodians to push trash carts or deliveries up and down the pier, for the cafe and the restaurant, back and forth. I learned that when you operate on a pier and hundreds of beachgoers use your restrooms and trash containers daily, this creates a full-time job for several employees, long lines, frustrated customers, and a huge expense when you exceed the pier wastewater capacity.

There were battles between the fishers and the customers, and as Officer Henderson I often had to intervene. The Malibu Pier is, after all, a sportfishing pier and fishers are everywhere, but some customers who proudly tell you they eat wild-caught Alaska salmon will freak out when someone catches a fish in front of them. I guess it is not clear to them where their fish actually comes from, or they really just don’t want to know. I also learned the most important lesson of them all, which is that restaurants are all about people, and finding and retaining good staff is the most challenging of all tasks. I lucked out with an amazing team, and most of them are still here on the pier with me today.

- About the author -

Helene Henderson learned to cook in Sweden, where she grew up. In 1997, she started Lavender Farms Catering in Los Angeles, specializing in organic food. Malibu Farm began in her backyard with cooking classes and catered farm dinners. Now she is the chef and owner of Malibu Farm, which has expanded to restaurants in eight cities. She lives in Malibu with her husband, screenwriter and director John Stockwell, and their three children.

More from Helene Henderson

Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset

Simple Recipes All Day: A Cookbook

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Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset

— Published by Clarkson Potter —