Off the Clock with Alma's Ari Taymor & Ashleigh Parsons
In this column, we highlight the other loves of industry folks, in order to glimpse who they are when they're off the clock. This week, the great outdoors.
July 2, 2015
ASHLEIGH PARSONS | CO-OWNER, FRONT OF HOUSE MANAGERWhen I was really young, I was always playing in the dirt or in my treehouse. I just find that, in the craziness of having a restaurant and a non-profit, it can get really noisy, so the outdoors for me is really quieting and calming. I don’t really know what I would do without the walks and hikes I do and beach trips that I go on. It’s like a comfort blanket for me.
That treehouse was awesome. I haven’t thought about it in such a long time. It was built by my grandfather and my father, and it was a plank of wood nailed between three trees with a wooden ladder. It was probably only about twelve feet high, but at that age, it felt like it was in the clouds. I would play out there for hours and my friend would come over and make up all these crazy tales about it. It was pretty epic.
I grew up in New Jersey, and moved to Northern California after college. I moved to Southern California to open Alma. I was definitely, and still am, the weirdo of my family. I think that’s why moving to California was so good for me, not to leave my family, but to fit in a little better. When I moved to San Francisco, I immediately started going to the farmer’s markets and became obsessed with all this produce that I had never seen before. I was in San Francisco for three years. I’m a beach girl, so I love going to the beaches down here though. I think Southern California is probably a better fit for me in that way.
I live in Silverlake now, so every morning and evening I walk around the reservoir. That’s definitely a favorite spot. I go to Griffith Park to see the sunrise sometimes. We’re closed on Sunday and Mondays, so I’ll often go to Santa Barbara where Courtney Guerra, our farmer and forager we work with, is. She forages at this spot called Rincon Beach, and it’s dog friendly, so I can bring the Alma dog, Sage, and I’ll go for eight hours to just lay on the beach and read and run around. It’s the most refreshing thing in the world. I don’t often get to go away, really, so those are my spots.
It’s almost like meditation in the way that you have space between what’s happening and your reaction to it. So it’s a meditative state that I feel when I’m immersed in nature. The chaos of our lives still exist, but I find it easier to handle when I’m outdoors than in the middle of urban L.A. as apartment complexes are going up all over the place and there’s traffic and horns beeping. I’m just blown away every day by the beauty that surrounds me. I feel really lucky...I didn’t grow up knowing about flowers or foraging or anything like that. All of these things that we do at Alma are new to me. But the other day I was walking around the reservoir, and I noticed all of these flowers that I was able to name. It was one of those moments when you realize that you can get so wrapped up in what you’re doing that it becomes hard to step back and recognize what you’re actually learning from all of it.
There’s something consistent about it that I find very comforting. I think that past, childlike state is something we’re taught out of. Our education is set up in such way that it’s like, ‘ew, dirt.’ I’m really lucky to have some creative minds around me, but my approach to being in nature is to connect with that state of mind, and hopefully change it from something that exists the past into more of a present state of being.
ARI TAYMOR | CO-OWNER, CHEFWhen I’m not at the restaurant, I’m usually hiking or at the beach. I grew up playing sports and going to overnight camp in Santa Cruz, where they had archery and all that...my parents sent me when I was eight, and I wound up going for ten years. I worked there, too.
Everytime I feel like I’m getting out of my rhythm, being outside is what helps ground me. It’s something that when I’m not doing it, or if I’m inside for too long, I feel off. It could be pretty much anywhere. I love the Northern California beaches, even if they’re colder and foggier and more rugged. The ocean is bigger and rougher there. Southern California is less cliffs, and maybe a little more accessible. I’ve been surfing off and on since I was younger, too. When I was little, someone kind of showed me around, and then I would just do it on my own. These days, I get out once a week if I’m lucky, either by myself or I’ll take a friend. I like the physical release of it. You’re surrounded by sensations, whether it’s the water or the wind or whatever it may be. It’s just good to decompress a bit.
If you’re getting inspired by just being at work all the time, your food’s going to be shit, I think. There’s no progression, no creative growth. It’s the same environment over and over again, and you lose touch with the personal and emotional aspects. There’s really no point in trying to create solely in a kitchen. If your main task is to be the creative force behind something and you’ve got your head down working all the time, it’s going to work negatively on your ability to grow. The work has to be an expression of the culture and the environment where you are. It’s not very interesting otherwise. I’ll take my dog for a walk, and even if it’s just around the reservoir, even those different sensations are going to allow me to think. There’s different levels of enjoyment that come from each and it’s not like I could do one without the other. I really feel like my presence at work and in the kitchen, while it’s definitely more intense and more aggressive, it’s not too different from who I am outside. They’re both aspects of what I do.
[I’d love to go to the] Maldives. For quiet. Lack of electricity, just being in the water all day would be great. That’s the goal: to be connected when I choose to be, not because I have to be.