October 24, 2014

The Canyon Gourmet -- Under New Management and Open -- Sort Of

 

PHOTO BY FLAVIA POTENZA, MESSENGER, 2012

The Canyon Gourmet -- Under New Management and Open -- Sort Of

Peter Kagan, new proprietor of the Canyon Gourmet, sees himself as a curator of the fine foods Topangans have come to appreciate.

Most likely, you’ll find Peter Kagan, the new proprietor of The Canyon Gourmet, sitting at the family table placed at the front of the store, piled with his cookbooks from home, while he works at the computer, cell phone at his elbow. Passersby tentatively poke their heads in to ask if he’s open.

“Kind of,” he replied, affably engaging them in a brief conversation.

Today, he is on a high because the L.A. County Department of Health gave the store a 100 percent score. There’s a big A in his window that he’s very proud of.

“The ghost of my Jewish mother is smiling down right now. All her kvetching paid off,” he laughs, looking heaven-ward.

Now that everything is approved, Kagan is doing a “soft opening,” no fanfare, just a chance for him to fine tune things and introduce himself and his vision for the shop to the locals as they wander in.

“It’s been an interesting week. I had a lot of fun, got a lot of encouragement and advice from every other person who walked in. It’s nice to see the cash register working in the right direction.”

UPS breezes in with a parcel. Kagan signs off, opens the box and fumbles through the Styrofoam popcorn, pulling out boxes of Taylor’s English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas and a block of Kerry Gold Irish butter.

“Do you know there are a lot of Brits in Topanga? One of the first orders I had to get in had to be my British Christmas stuff.”

Kagan and his partner, Danielle King, moved to the Canyon in July. “This,” he said indicating the store with its three refrigerators, one for cheeses, and stainless steel wire display shelves, “was the reason I was motivated to assume the responsibility in the first place. We moved here as a hungry neighbor so I’d know where my cheese was coming from. When it was going to close, I was crestfallen.”

He and then owner Torie Schuster started talking. “Torie took a lot of personal pride in this place. I think she was very concerned that what she left behind didn’t become wildly contradictory to what she wanted it to be. She’s been very generous with her time and information … and her blessings. I’m carrying the Canyon Gourmet torch down TCB to keep it alive.”

Kagan has expanded the staff by one, hiring a young man to balance Manager Natalie Rastall’s schedule. “I’ll become the part-time employee,” Kagan jokes. His day job as a director of TV commercials is the funding source, for now, of the store.

“We want to be able to present another alternative so people can go home with something nice to eat. Maybe that means staying open until 7 p.m. Fridays we’ll sync with the Farmers’ Market and Saturday may be longer hours.

“Yesterday was amazing. A 12 year old was doing her homework at the table. If you were to come back at three in the afternoon, it’s kids and moms, a drop-off point for car-poolers. The energy was so great. I thought, ‘This was supposed to be.’

“It’s not hard to get something nice on the table every day. It has everything to do with getting the people you love sitting around a table feeling proud of what you made and setting a good example for your kids. I wanted to set an example for them beyond just writing a check or paying a credit card bill, show them something they can be proud of every day, something that has meaning and is expressive.”

Kagan will be selling organic, biodynamically grown veggies and produce from One Gun Ranch, just up the coast, Moon Juice for fresh squeezed juice, fresh bread, wonderful chocolates and wine.

“We want to be a one-step food source for our neighbors. I’d like to get a selection of well prepared salads (quinoa, cous-cous, lentil, caprese, kale), packaged portions of take-out salads for lunch or dinner, soups and conveniently presented entrees, something you can rush home and have ready in half an hour. None of it would be overly expensive and accessible in every way: geographically, economically and healthfully. It could also be picnic foods for people hiking in the park or going to the beach. Bring whatever waste or recycling back here and dispose of it in our dumpster. Don’t mess up the landscape.

“Our goal is to provide a service to our neighbors (the Topanga community).

“By the way, did I tell you we just got a 100 percent rating from the L.A. County Health Department?”

Right on, Peter. Welcome to Topanga.

Peter Kagan can be reached at peter@canyongourmet.com; (310) 455-4200; and check out his delightful blogs at canyongourmet.com. Canyon Gourmet is located at 120 S. Topanga Cyn. Blvd., Suties 110, Topanga, CA 90290.