On my first visit to the Los Angeles outpost of the now intercontinental Paramount Coffee Project, I was struck by the shop’s robust coffee offering, modern design, and friendly service mentality. Yet we somehow felt we’d missed something. The PCP duo of Mark Dundon and Russell Beard touted the spot's versatility as a coffee shop and as a foodie haven/cafe with sit-down service, but unfortunately, the kitchen was closed during that first visit. We luckily circled back with Dundon and Beard to take a closer look at the multicultural culinary offerings and to profile the chef behind the gastronomical goodness that has all of LA's coffee scene talking.
From light to heavy and sweet to savory, the food menu at PCP LA is a study in ranges. The cashew nut yogurt with seasonal fruit was a lively mix of tastes: acidic oranges, sweet grapes, berries, and edible flowers arranged over a richly smooth cashew yogurt—totally vegan. Moon Drop grapes, almost black and about the size of your thumb, added a nice, crisp sweetness, and it was all complemented by a heavy compote of roasted peaches.
Pupusas are a nod to chef Wilfredo Majano's Salvadorian heritage. A Central American comfort food, basically, these pupusas consist of masa dough stuffed with refried black beans and mozzarella cheese and topped with a traditional slaw of pickled cabbage and carrots. A sweet and spicy chili jam and fried egg set the PCP version apart, making the dish more brunch appropriate.
The pork shoulder roti featured an interesting mix of Indian and Asian influences. Atop chewy, grilled roti sits wilted bok choy and an ample serving of char siu pork: pork roasted in a sweet glaze of hoisin and a half-dozen other Asian sauces. Peanuts and pickled ginger on the side add texture and complimentary flavors to the dish, while the fried egg supplies that nice yolky cohesion.
Clearly this is not your average coffee bar food. To learn more, we followed up with chef Wilfredo Majano to get the scoop on how this menu came to be. Starting with his own impressive resume, he brought us up to speed:
Can you give us a quick rundown on your background in the culinary world, how you got started and any important experiences that prepared you as a chef?
I was born in El Salvador, raised in Italy as a child, and then headed back to El Salvador before moving to LA. I got to experience a diverse [range] of culture and, with that, a lot of different food, and that kickstarted my passion for cooking. I was trained in classical French cooking at Petit Trois, and staging at [the] French Laundry really refined my skills. I worked at La Poubelle and recently at a Japanese restaurant, which was really interesting too.
How did you come to partner up with [PCP founders] Mark Dundon and Russell Beard?
Happy coincidence, right place right time. I think we hit it off. PCP as a concept was something new to me. They're really inspiring people to work with, there is a lot of care, right down to the tiny details. The equal focus on food and quality coffee resonated with me and was really important for me in running a kitchen.
What inspired the diversity that makes for such a lively menu?
There is a bit of influence from my background—the frijoles y queso, for example—as well as from the executive chef of Paramount in Sydney, who works with a lot of South American- and Asian-inspired dishes. A lot of the menu is made up of dishes that have worked really well in Australia. Mark and Russell have cafes in Sydney and Melbourne; some of them have been located in areas that are very multicultural, there's definitely been influence from there. It's been really interesting to see how our customers react to some of the dishes.
What items were you excited about, and what items/dishes were most challenging to create?
The whole menu was exciting for me, working with breakfast and lunch and being able to execute some classic dishes with a personal twist that is PCP's. There were a few dishes that we needed to work on harder than others before it felt like they'd come together. The lamington French toast and the PCP tostada saw quite a few transformations over the weeks before we opened. There was a lot of refining, and we had executive chef of Paramount Sydney Ben Hoppkins come out and help with the menu for a week—we had a lot of fun. It's always great to have the opportunity to work with creative people and bounce ideas around.
Are there any iterations or new items in the works that we should be excited for? Maybe some type of pastries in the morning?
We will be changing the menu a little more now that LA has started to feel a bit of a chill. We'll be swapping some seasonal dishes in and out of the menu, keeping the crowd favorites of course; we don't want to upset anyone yet you know! We're going to start baking in the morning—we've got the means for it, and now we have the time. We'll work on getting some tarts and cakes out early morning, get the cafe smelling beautiful so that when we open the doors at 7 a.m. you won't be able to resist whatever we've got coming fresh out of the oven.
Mackenzie Champlin is a freelance journalist based in Southern California. Read more Mackenzie Champlin on Sprudge.