Ashleigh Parsons opened Alma after working at La Chassagnette restaurant in Arles, France and at Camino in Oakland, CA. She runs the front of house of the restaurant and curates the wine list that is made up of biodynamic and organic wines from all over the world. Along with her time in restaurants, Ashleigh brings a background in psychology and education and holds a Masters degree in education from Harvard University. She founded the Alma Community Outreach 501(c)(3) in 2012, which is a program that teaches cooking and gardening classes to students in the public school system.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I entered into the restaurant industry in a very untraditional way. My background is actually in education but when I moved to San Francisco in 2008, I fell in love with the farmers markets and the restaurant culture and I met my long time friend and now business partner. I had thoughts of agriculture, education, food policy and sustainability whirling around in my head and when my business partner suggested we open a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles across from what would soon be the Ace Hotel, it made perfect sense in my mind.
What partnerships/marketing stratgies do you implement for success?
We have utilized our social media and have reached out to our followers via instagram and twitter. These two tools have been our most powerful marketing strategies. Instagram especially allows us to have a more intimate relationship to our followers and our customers.
Most popular dishes and your favorite?
Our menu changes seasonally so there are very few dishes that remain on the menu for extended periods of time. My favorite, however, is the sunchoke soup with egg yolk, caramelized sunchokes, amaranth and smoked date. To me, it captures autumn.
How do you stay successful in sucha a volatile industry?
The restaurant industry requires a constant push from its staff. Each day, I am dedicated to building this restaurant, whether that is in regards to press, staff, conceptual design, etc. It is a very competitive industry and it requires a lot of soul and passion.
To find balance in each moment, each day.
How important is the design to the success of your restaurant?
The design of the restaurant is incredibly crucial. When we as people choose to eat at a restaurant, we are seeking an entire experience that goes beyond the food. In order to have a positive experience at Alma, it must offer impeccable space, design, staff, food and service. When one of these elements is not present, we have failed as a restaurant.
How important is location to the success of your restaurant?
The location is equally important. When opening a restaurant, you must first listen to the neighborhood, walk around it and explore it, find out what it needs, what it wants. If you choose to design a restaurant concept independent of paying attention to the neighborhood, you are bound to fail. The location must inform the concept and become an integral part of it in order for the space to succeed.
Your advice to an restauranteur?
Before you enter this business, be clear on why you are doing it. The restaurant business requires a lot of energy and passion and dedication. If you are not decidedly passionate about the industry, I would recommend another industry.
What literature is on your bedstand?
Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel. I love fiction more than anything and Murakami is one of my favorite writers.
Rolemodel - business & personal?
My role models are my intimate group of friends and my family. I am so busy that it is difficult to spend a lot of time with friends and family, however, the small circle I have in my life is made of a group of passionate, creative individuals that constantly inspire me in my work and in my life.
Favorite travel destination?
Mexico. This past year I took a solo 4 day trip to Todos Santos in Baja and I fell in love. The country has a sense of calm that is rejuvenating. I spent only a long weekend there reading, writing, swimming and walking and when I returned, I felt like a completely refreshed person.
What's next for Alma?
More projects. :)