Exploring #LAFoodCulture with Real Food Daily's Adaline Bettcher

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Originally written by Emma Garofalo of Pinkbelly

EG: When you live in a big city like LA, it’s easy to deviate from your regular routine and find something adventurous to eat, and in no other place is this blessing more inclusive to vegans, as well. You can barely swing a cat in a circle without knocking into a raw juice bar or an allergen-free bakery, but for those of us seeking something a bit more substantial, an açai bowl just isn’t always able to cut it. If you’re a vegan, lost and hungry in the city of angels, and you’re looking for your next favorite spot, Real Food Daily may be exactly what your famished soul needs.

I visited their brick-and-mortar location in West Hollywood and had a chance to sit down with the new owner, operator, and all-around vegan extraordinaire, Adaline Bettcher, who took over the franchise eight months ago. Here’s what she had to say.

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FT: How would you describe the vegan mission of Real Food Daily? How do you make the concept of veganism accessible to the average carnivore?

We focus on whole food, plant-based nutrition. So it’s just like, the same food, but vegan. So people are like, oh, this is really easy, actually, and it still tastes good. And you don’t have to sacrifice anything. But at the same time, you’re getting something out of it, because you feel great, and, you know, nothing really changed, other than you’re feeling good now. I feel like it’s good, it’s important. For me, anyway. And for me, it’s an ethical thing.

I feel like we need to reverse the whole McDonald’s culture and just try to heal people, you know, instead of make them sick. That’s the goal, anyway.

FT: So you come from an ethical standpoint, as a vegan.

AB: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. But also health, of course. When I was fourteen I clicked a link to some video of a slaughterhouse, and it was just like, that was the end. Never looked back. It’s just very sad. I still can’t watch stuff like that, it hurts too much.

FT: Did you like eating here before buying the franchise?

AB: Yeah, it’s actually kind of funny. It was the first vegan restaurant I ever went to. My dad owns a different restaurant, in Santa Monica, and when the Santa Monica location was opened, he was like, “Oh, I know this vegan place! I’ll take you there.” And here we are, fast-forward.

FT: How did that happen?

AB: It was kind of serendipitous, I guess. I had just graduated from college, I went for hospitality and restaurant management, I grew up with my dad in the business, you know, and worked in all kinds of positions. I really had a love for it, but then, right as I was graduating, he was like, hey, have you heard that Real Food Daily is selling? The timing was perfect, and here we are.

FT: It sort of just worked out?

AB: Yes. It’s like the universe was like, “You’re meant to go here, you know? Please do it.” You can’t deny the universe what it wants.

FT: So what changes did you make when you bought the restaurant?

AB: Well, we totally changed the visual aspect. All of this is us, and we’re still a little under construction. All of that marble just went in two days ago. Something is constantly changing. Mostly that. The food, we have a great core that people love. We have a new chef coming on January first, which is exciting, and he’s gonna bring some changes, but we’re still gonna keep our core, like our basic bowls. Just, like, the macrobiotics, we’ll never get rid of those.

FT: So the menu hasn’t changed much since taking the place over.

AB: No, just seasonal specials, stuff like that, you know? Our staples.

FT: It feels a lot like the concept of the restaurant matters more than the specific items on the menu.

AB: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we really wanna roll out a bunch of locations and be all over the place. Let everybody get interested in it.

 

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FT: So what is your favorite thing to eat on the menu?

AB: I mean, I’m a basics queen, for sure, but I eat everything. I literally eat three times a day here. The lasagna, amazing. The nachos? Before, we weren’t making our own chips, and now we make them, so that’s one thing we changed. What else do I eat all the time? Oh, the Charlie melts. It’s kind of like a tuna melt, except it’s an almond-based tuna, and it’s raw. Not when it’s the melt, but if you get just the raw wrap in a collard green, then it’s totally raw vegan. But the melt is amazing; we have this cashew cheese, some tomato, you can add some avocado to it.

FT: What is the secret to the tuna?

AB: No secrets! It’s almond-based, we have some sea veggies in there, some celery, we add a lot of spices. It’s kind of one of those things that people are obsessed with and eat all the time, or they’re kind of like, “No, not for me.” I’m one of the obsessed ones.

Actually, the chef that created it, it’s her cat’s name. So. That’s the secret.

FT: That’s adorable. In another vein, what do you guys do to stay sustainable and local? Are you into that?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Everything’s organic. It’s hard to get everything local, but we do as much as possible. Otherwise, we just get mostly Worldwide Produce, it’s the best place to get organic. Vegan food in and of itself is way more sustainable than animal products, so that gives us a big jump ahead. You know. We do our best. We don’t believe in GMOs, we don’t believe in spraying pesticides on plants, we just weren’t meant to eat that way. So it’s really just going back to how we always ate. It’s more expensive, but it’s really an investment in your health, so it’s worth it. That’s how I see it.

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FT: The whole food type of mentality is so fascinating to me. What do you feel you guys do differently with this concept that you don’t see other places doing?

AB: I think what sets us apart is really that we’re just so clean. It’s easy to be unhealthy as a vegan, just like it’s easy to be unhealthy on any diet. We only have, like, two fried items on the whole menu. We will have a bar menu later, we’re putting in a draft system for kombucha on tap. So you can have the option. But yeah, we try to be totally clean, whereas other vegan restaurants I think, um, I won’t name anyone, but, you know, they fry mostly everything, and everything tastes good fried,. It doesn’t mean it’s healthy. We do use one Follow Your Heart product, their smoked gouda. You just can’t beat it. That’s the only one we use. Otherwise, we make all of our cheese.

FT: What kinds of cheeses do you guys make?

AB: Most of our cheese is cashew-based, we have a really spicy pepperjack, we have regular, plain cashew cheese. We have an almond feta that’s actually raw and fermented, and it’s amazing. It kind of looks like hummus, but it’s not. Don’t be fooled. We like to make everything from scratch. That’s what sets us apart, I think.


I was lucky enough to get a taste of what Adaline had cooking in the kitchen after the interview; she asked if I had any preferences, and at the words, “chef’s choice,” her face lit up. She said she had the perfect entrée, and trust me when I say, it did not disappoint. A few moments later, she emerged from the back with a dish called The Essence, which you can find on their menu along with the rest of the main courses.

The Essence was an experience I have trouble fully articulating; the most striking element upon first glance? A grilled portabella mushroom, stuffed with forbidden rice infused with the intoxicating aroma of rosemary and apples, the crown jewel of the plate. Alongside the stuffed mushroom is an artful array of Brussels sprouts, pomegranate arils, and candied walnuts, and underneath it all is a peppered cauliflower mash that coats the entire dish in luscious, creamy goodness as you munch. It’s safe to say I will never forget this meal. It really is that good.

Don’t believe me? Try them out for yourself; if you’re interested in feeling the essence of The Essence or trying any of the other wonderfully cruelty-free options they have on the menu (including customizable bowls!), they have locations in West Hollywood, Pasadena, and, surprisingly enough, in LAX, for those of you looking to get your fix on the fly. The atmosphere is warm, the service is good, the food is phenomenal, and if you’re lucky, you may run into Adaline, the woman of the hour herself, working hard behind the counter to bring you some of the freshest and tastiest vegan cuisine in the city.

Terence Latimer