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Thursday, January 26, 2017

01/23/2017 - A Taste of Los Angeles - Union and Knead & Co Pasta Bar

Bruce Kalman

Executive Chef

UNION and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market

Twitter: @ChefBKalman | Instagram: @ChefBKalman

Bruce Kalman’s Northern Italian cooking style embraces the diverse and abundant produce of California to create exquisitely balanced flavor profiles meant to warm the soul at KP Hospitality concepts like UNION in Pasadena, CA and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market in L.A.’s Grand central Market. His commitment to indigenous ingredients goes beyond the farmers’ market to build strong connections with local providers, keeping the operations’ carbon footprint low, supporting the local economy, and connecting diners to high quality vegetables, meats, and cheeses straight from the source.

Kalman’s meticulous approach to authentic, flavor-forward cuisine permeates every corner of his menu. “We use vegetables from root-to-leaf, butcher animals’ head-to-toe, and even stretch fresh cheeses in-house,” he says. “I’m exceedingly passionate about food that is handcrafted from beginning to end.” He imparts his traditionally rooted culinary expertise on his staff as well, aiming for old school quality through modern management techniques, ditching the traditional kitchen fervor in favor of joining the line to cook alongside his team.

The mindful chef’s culinary career began in his hometown of Paramus, NJ. “I started cooking at 13 in a local family-owned pizzeria, and I never looked back,” he says. “I really enjoy it—beyond the food, it’s about the energy of the kitchen, the camaraderie, the teamwork, it’s awesome. Every day is a challenge.” He solidified his skills through a hands-on culinary program at Jersey City’s Hudson Community College, and, after rising through the ranks of local kitchens, moved to Chicago to serve as executive chef for restaurants including Okno, Green Dolphin, and Coco Pazzo.

His next roles came in the Southwest, with Il Piatto in Santa Fe, NM and Chelsea’s Kitchen in Phoenix. Following his westward momentum, Kalman landed in Los Angeles in 2011 to help launch Santa Monica’s Misfit, and later joined West Hollywood’s The Churchill, at which he excelled in producing housemade charcuteries, pastas, and desserts. His innovative success encouraged him to debut Bruce’s Prime Pickle Company in 2013, highlighting his devotion to handcrafted products made from local and sustainable ingredients.
Throughout his career, Kalman has gained recognition from James Beard, with a nomination for “Rising Star Chef,” and has appeared on the Food Network to earn a “Chopped” championship title as well as on Esquire Network to win “Knife Fight.”
Kalman met Marie Petulla in 2014 as UNION took shape, and the two leveraged their respective restaurant skillsets to launch KP Hospitality, now including the Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market concept. As executive chef, Kalman leads the Northern Italian and Mediterranean culinary programs, calling on traditional techniques and indigenous ingredients to impress guests with familiar yet elevated takes on Italian cooking.

When he is not in one of KP Hospitality’s kitchens, the West L.A. resident enjoys taking his wife, Gina, out to dinner and a movie followed by a walk along the ocean, often with their two dogs in tow. The couple also likes to travel, visiting destinations around the country from Portland to Boston to Maui and beyond. Kalman maintains his lifelong music hobby by performing alongside culinary personality Duff Goldman in their cover band, Foie Grock.

Owner, Marie Petulla, with Bruce
and George Pitsironis

George Pitsironis

Wine Director

Sommelier and winemaker George Pitsironis curates wine programs for KP Hospitality’s sustainably minded, ingredient driven Italian concept, UNION in Pasadena, CA. Through adventurous sourcing, he ushers in mainstay Italian varietals alongside regional specialties while incorporating eclectic finds from California’s Central Coast. “I choose to present varieties people may have never heard of—beautiful wines that pair well with food, are well-priced, and are from small producers who do it right in the vineyard.”

Pitsironis appreciates wine for its social magnetism, historical significance, and traditional processes, as well as its unbreakable link to cuisine. “Food and wine should complement each other—neither should be the sole star, because together they make the experience phenomenal.” In addition to maintaining a dynamic, food-friendly wine list, Pitsironis leads an in-depth training regimen that equips his servers to deliver knowledgeable guidance to guests eager to discover new flavors.

Born in Athens, Greece, Pitsironis lived in the historic city until the age of 7, when his family relocated to New York City. His father’s unconventional collection of Portuguese wines sparked his interest, and various industry positions before, during, and after college exposed him to the excitement and diversity of the hospitality and culinary worlds. His fascination with wine took off during a language immersion trip to France, which he spent harvesting grapes in Champagne for a small independent producer.
Upon returning to The Big Apple from France, Pitsironis’s wine career began to take off even as he remained in school, studying at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, but spending every free moment working with wine at Periyali, the renowned Greek restaurant, and later at Il Cantinori, the celebrity-frequented Tuscan eatery.  

In 1998, Pitsironis headed west, landing at the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles as a server for Coco Pazzo, working alongside wine director Kevin O’Connor. Pitsironis stuck with the property as Coco Pazzo gave way to Asia de Cuba, and took over as wine director when O’Connor left for Spago. Three years later, O’Connor invited Pitsironis to join him at Wolfgang Puck’s flagship, where he served as sommelier until 2009.
After a yearlong stint with Southern Wine and Spirits, Pitsironis collaborated to pursue his dream of opening a winery, and Inception Wines was born in Santa Barbara County. While Pitsironis led the winemaking process and served as the face of the brand, he encountered Marie Petulla at Firefly, where they cultivated a strong working relationship.

Petulla later left Firefly to join the team developing UNION, and brought in Pitsironis to curate wine lists for the restaurant. His dedication to local, sustainable winemakers that respect the traditions of the ancient craft align with Chef Bruce Kalman’s authentically influenced, ingredient-driven cuisine, converging to deliver a multi-faceted, genuinely rooted dining experience.

The Studio City, CA resident spends his free time cooking, exercising, and making wine, with a new label launch on the horizon. He also enjoys directing and producing movies with his wife, Dawn Marie, including their debut 2014 film, “A Life, Taken.”

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