Dec 232016
 

L.A. Luxury Real Estate Expert Michelle Hirsch

Just like there is a difference between Kmart and Neiman Marcus, there are differences in real estate. “Location, location, location” not withstanding, there are homes and there are estates.

For most of us, our neighborhood real estate agent is the right person to call on to find and buy a comfortable single-family home in a safe community. Those with deeper pockets – who can afford the best, latest and luxurious – need an agent that specializes in luxury residential real estate. A real estate agent familiar with the needs of affluent clientele, the market, purchase process, area and the hottest in luxury living.

One of these experts in L.A. area – with a special knowledge of the San Fernando Valley – is The Michelle Hirsch Group. The heart of the group is Michelle Hirsch herself. With 10 years of experience at Rodeo Realty and Remax where she’s earned awards and distinctions for being a top performing agent, she now works in alliance with Keller Williams Realty. Michelle specializes in Los Angeles Luxury Residential Real Estate Homes and Estates. She’s particularly proud of having met the expectations of her many past luxury real estate clients who express their appreciation by referring to her new clients.

Her office is located in Valley Village, in the immediate neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Calabasas, Encino, Tarzana and other affluent communities.

Michelle Hirsch is familiar with the latest trends, amenities and security systems, buyers like you require. She also knows how to identify hidden pitfalls and / or well-concealed flaws of the property you might be considering before you make a commitment to purchase it.

Unlike other real estate agents you may have dealt with in the past, Michelle is experienced and energetic and will use her experience and energy to make sure you’ll find and get the exact luxury home or estate that meets yours and your family’s needs. She’s not afraid to troubleshoot, stand up for your interests and will ensure that the whole process of buying a new residence is stress-free for you.

She’s known as the Premier L.A. Luxury Real Estate Expert for a reason! If you are looking for a dream home and don’t like the hassle that usually accompanies the process, contact Michelle Hirsch: she’ll make the search and acquisition of your new luxury home or estate, a GREAT experience!

The Michelle Hirsch Group (Keller Williams Realty)
Los Angeles Real Estate Sales and Consulting
DRE LICENSE #01445587
818-512-4226
Website: http://www.michellehirsch.com

 

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Jul 182016
 
Hugo's Restaurant In Studio City

Hugo’s Restaurant In Studio City (entrance from the parking)

 

Interview with Tom Kaplan, CEO of Hugo’s Restaurant (Part 3)

 

The Secret of Hugo’s Restaurant Success
(Hint: passion, teamwork and creativity are hallmarks of success)

 

Editor: I’d be amiss if I didn’t ask you: what’s the secret of success?

Tom Kaplan: Teamwork! Rich and Leslie, my wife and myself have been working together since 1990. We had a coffeehouse together in Hollywood. It worked so well, we decided to become partners in Hugo’s after my father retired. Shortly after that we decided that if we were to expand we needed a CFO and Bill (Kohne) is a genius. We are all very different business people; each of us brings different talents to the table. Each flourishes in their own area. We all listen to and support each other.

Editor: How did you manage to assemble such a harmonious team?

Tom Kaplan: It was a happy accident. We are kindred spirits. We all work well together. We believe in servant leadership. The owners are here to support the general managers and the chefs, the chefs are here to support the people who work for them, and so on, it starts from the top.

Editor: So all the teams work together like an orchestra.

Tom Kaplan: Yes, they do. My dad’s philosophy is that love is the true power. He also insisted on constant innovation.

Editor: Well, it’s not easy to remain innovative and relevant for so many years and yet, you succeeded. Clearly, his philosophy works!
It seems that you inherited many of your father’s best qualities. What a trip from “Eastern White Veal” to feeding people with varying dietary needs, sorghum and water conservation…

The world changed and Hugo’s Restaurant not only kept up, but pioneered many changes in the culinary arts and the restaurant industry. I still remember Hugo’s coffee (you HAVE TO try it: it tastes great and it works, if you know what I mean!). I never said thank you for the coffee. So, thanks for the coffee and thank you for caring. Hugo’s Restaurant has earned its good reputation by caring about our health, about their staff and yes, the environment. The legacy of Terry Kaplan, the founder of Hugo’s Restaurant, not only continues but has grown over time. Its core values of Love Of People, Food and Environment are timeless. Hugo’s Restaurant continues to be a magnet for local foodies’ and is still the leader in innovative and wholesome restaurant meals, a staying power well-earned, indeed!

Interview with Tom Kaplan, CEO of Hugo’s Restaurant
by Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor / Eve Elrich

 

PREVIOUS:

Hugo’s Restaurant: Unique Approach To Food And Commitment To Sustainability
(A MUST-READ for people with food allergies and vegans)

How to find Hugo’s Restaurant near you:

West Hollywood
8401 Santa Monica Blvd.
323-654-3993

Studio City
12851 Riverside Dr.
818-761-8985

Agoura Hills
(at Whizin Market Square)
5046 Cornell Road
818-707-0300
www.hugosrestaurant.com

You may also enjoy Hugo’s Tacos which offers South of the Border whole food meals on a much smaller scale:

Hugo's Tacos In Studio City

Hugo’s Tacos In Studio City

Hugo’s Tacos
4749 Coldwater Canyon
Studio City, CA 91604
818-762-7771
www.hugostacos.com

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Jul 182016
 
Hugo's Restaurant Interview On Anythng L.A. Magazine

Hugo’s Restaurant In Studio City (front entrance)

 

Interview with Tom Kaplan, CEO of Hugo’s Restaurant (Part 2)

 

Hugo’s Restaurant: Unique Approach To Food And Commitment To Sustainability

(A MUST-READ for people with food allergies and vegans)

 

Editor: On a different note entirely, I was surprised to learn that you’re serving pasta for breakfast.

Tom Kaplan: Yes, we do! We have a kitchen behind the Hugo’s Taco stand in Studio City that houses our pasta machine. We have a guy who is making nothing but fresh pasta all day long, at least three times a week.

Editor: I also heard that you serve fresh roasted coffee. That’s uncommon for a restaurant.

Tom Kaplan: Yes and proudly so! I personally roasted coffee for 12 years.

From the editor: I was served a cup of the fresh-roasted coffee during the interview: the coffee was FANTASTIC! I usually have a cappuccino or espresso, this “regular” coffee however was better. To my compliments, Tom responded: “Enjoy! That’s a well-roasted Brazilian coffee from a 100 years old plantation….”

Editor: It’s my understanding that Hugo’s has a special menu for people with food allergies?

Tom Kaplan: In L.A. people want to be as healthy as they can. Maybe because ours is an artistic city people are more sensitive to their bodies.

Editor: I stand corrected, we should be speaking of food sensitivities as well.

Tom Kaplan: Actually, it’s both. With the development of industrial agriculture over the last 100 years, I believe that a lot of foods have become intolerable. We are not eating meat any- more, we are eating something so far removed from the ancient grains, our bodies can’t tolerate it. Many people end up going to doctors with all kinds of ailments when it really is about going back to pure foods which is what we’re trying to do in Hugo’s Restaurant.

Editor: So, if I understand it correctly: when a group consisting of regular healthy people, a person with food allergies / sensitivities and a vegan come for a dinner to Hugo’s Restaurant, you can accommodate their diverse needs?

Tom Kaplan: Yes, that’s why Hugo’s is also a great first date restaurant! If you have an allergy to gluten or garlic, our staff knows practically every ingredient on the menu. They also have a book which they can bring to the table. The book has all the common allergens in our ingredients listed. Then we have an alert system: let’s say you’re allergic to garlic. Once you have chosen items that are garlic-free, the server will come and place a red coaster in front of you. Then they put an alert on the computer the guys in the kitchen can see. The kitchen staff double-checks that everything you get is garlic-free. (The guys are brilliant in the kitchen!) And then your special dish has a frilly toothpick put on it so the guy who brings your order to the table is aware that there is a special issue and looks for the red coaster on the table. We take food allergies very seriously.

My wife, Emily, and I are yoga practitioners and teachers. So we started to study Ayurveda and that’s how the Ayurvedic meals came about….

We were set for vegetarians quite early. But in the early nineties people started saying: “we can’t have the pasta because we’re vegan.” And we said, “What the heck is vegan?” And so they said “there is an egg in it”. “So what’s the matter with that, you don’t have kill anything to have an egg.” But they’d say “we don’t eat anything containing animal products.” So then Nabor (the Chef) and I started looking how to make pasta without eggs. And Nabor who is from Mexico said, “I remember my parents used to soak flaxseeds in water overnight and the water would become gelatinous, why don’t we try that?” We did and we started using it in our pasta. Not one customer noticed. There was no drop in quality. So then we started wondering “what about the bread that we make? Instead of butter, let’s use olive oil. We reexamined our menu and got it down to the point that vegans could have sandwiches and pasta, or things that used to be vegetarian but have now become vegan.

About 2005 – 2006 I started getting emails about gluten and I said, it’s OK: I can’t please everybody, but then that one guy came in and made an appointment to talk to me. Having talked with him, I reevaluated the menu and realized that it wouldn’t be that hard to get rid of all flour in the restaurant. So the only gluten that we now have is in our pasta and bread and in some of the pancakes. We have no flour floating around that could cause cross-contamination. Then the same care progressed into other areas.

One of the members of our menu committee was into oil-free and low sodium. So again, we started looking for healthier alternatives and Nabor – the Chef: – who’s just a genius said, “let me play with things” and yes, we found a way to eliminate oil. It was never really planned, we never decided that this is going to be this way.

Editor: So these healthy changes were sort of a natural evolution…

Tom Kaplan: You asked me earlier why we’re so successful. One of the answers is I hate being a follower. I got that from my father. I want to do everything before anyone else. I want to do it better than others. I want to blow people’s minds with food. I’m not good at music or art, but I am creative when it comes to food. I developed a way for everybody (vegan and non-vegan, with food allergies and without) to sit and enjoy a meal together. And, if I see you coming in with a child, I want to feel good knowing that your child is getting the best food possible. So we have no processed foods, we have 80 or so menu items plus specials. In a 48 hour period we make about 400 recipes and we use about 700 raw ingredients. We know what goes in into every single thing and we make sure that the ingredients are good for you.

Are you familiar with sorghum?

Editor: It’s a type of grain, isn’t it?

Tom Kaplan: Over the last two years, we’ve been looking at how much water it takes to grow rice. It takes like 200 gallons of water to grow one pound of rice. Quinoa has become so expensive in the countries it comes from, the people who live there can no longer afford it. So we started looking at what other grains are out there that are ecologically-sustainable, drought-tolerant, you know, for our climate. It’s sorghum. It is super-nutritious, so we now have it in many recipes. We are saving thousands and thousands of gallons of water by trying to switch people to sorghum. Sorghum is now in our breads and pastries. You can’t settle for mediocrity. You have to always strive to be different and better. Hugo’s is not an expensive restaurant, we are more egalitarian, we want everybody to sit and eat together no matter what their dietary restrictions / preferences.

Editor: I’m not a restaurateur, just a woman who knows how to cook. I know from first hand experience how difficult it is to accommodate dinner guests who follow varying diets. It’s difficult to eliminate certain ingredients and create different versions of meals. It’s a challenge for me. It must have been very difficult to implement on a restaurant-scale.

Tom Kaplan: Nabor loves a challenge and it’s amazing what he’s learned from his parents as the only child in Mexico. I’m still amazed because he’s been here in the US most of his life, but he keeps coming up with new things from his Mexican heritage that are just amazing. I like leading the way but I also like listening. I learned that from the women in our business, Leslie (Brenner) our PR master, and Maria (Villanueva), our general manager. My dad was a good listener. I wasn’t, but I learned. So when somebody talks to us or sends us a nasty email about something they didn’t like about the restaurant rather than get defensive like I used to, now I listen. What I’m trying to say is that if there is something we can do to be even better and make somebody happy, we’ll find a way.

Editor: Customer input can be very helpful. It often shows us the way forward. I know that you are dedicated to serving whole foods, foods without GMOs, etc. These foods are more costly than their conventional counterparts. Does it make sense from a business point of view?

Tom Kaplan: I think it’s equally balanced. I worked in many restaurants in my life. My son has worked in many kitchens. I know what other restaurants do. I know that they’re buying things pre-made. So it costs them more, but they save on labor. When you buy raw ingredients, raw ingredients are cheaper than pre-made foods, but raw ingredients require more labor. So we get our food at a little lower price than other restaurants but our labor costs are somewhat higher. We train and hire really good people. They stay with us for decades because of my dad’s philosophy. It takes a guy years to get good in our kitchen. It takes a server at least 18 months to get good at what they doing and to be able to answer customers’ questions. One of the things my dad taught me early: “treat your staff well” which is why we have such great, food-driven employees. If you treat your staff well; they’ll treat your customers well. And I have these amazing partners Rich and Leslie (Brenner) who are really supportive of my dad’s vision. They really, really get it and we all work incredibly hard to realize his vision. He instilled in us our business philosophy. How do you take the love of the original founder and pass it down the generations? I couldn’t do it. It took a team and so we developed a series of stories and questions for the staff to ask themselves every day. How to greet the lovable people and how to greet the unlovable people. How do you let go of the baggage from yesterday? If somebody wasn’t nice to you and how to treat them brand new today?

 

NEXT:

The Secret of Hugo’s Restaurant Success
(Hint: passion, teamwork and creativity are hallmarks of success)

PREVIOUS:

History Of Hugo’s Restaurant
(A great story of business’s evolution!)

Hugo’s Restaurant near you:

West Hollywood
8401 Santa Monica Blvd.
323-654-3993

Studio City
12851 Riverside Dr.
818-761-8985

Agoura Hills
(at Whizin Market Square)
5046 Cornell Road
818-707-0300
www.hugosrestaurant.com

You may also enjoy Hugo’s Tacos which offers South of the Border whole food meals on a much smaller scale:
Hugo’s Tacos
4749 Coldwater Canyon
Studio City, CA 91604
818-762-7771
www.hugostacos.com

 

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Jul 182016
 

Hugo's Restaurant: For The Love Of People, Food and Environment

 

Interview with Tom Kaplan, CEO of Hugo’s Restaurant (Part 1)

 

Hugo’s Restaurant’ with several locations in Greater Los Angeles, has a reputation for serving delicious, whole food meals that are healthy for all. Anything L.A. Magazine found it unusual that a health-conscious but still a main-stream restaurant would cater also to vegetarians, vegans and even guests with food allergies. Still, I (Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor) didn’t expect too much from an interview with Hugo’s Restaurant owner. I was pleasantly surprised: Tom Kaplan, CEO of Hugo’s Restaurant, is an eloquent and charismatic storyteller.

I obviously wanted to know about Hugo’s Restaurant’s history. After all, the restaurant is in business for 36 years. I wondered: how did it all start?

History Of Hugo’s Restaurant
(A great story of business’s evolution!)

According to Tom Kaplan, Hugo’s was originally “Hugo’s Fine Meats”, not a restaurant! Tom’s father, Terry Kaplan – who aspired to be the best at everything he was doing – ran the store with two objectives: to offer the best quality “Eastern White Veal” and to do it in the most artful and appetizing way. The latter compelled him to gradually add exquisite sauces and exotic ingredients to the selection of veal to inspire meal preparation at local restaurants and at home.

As for the inspiration, Tom Kaplan said: “My father was fond of the beautiful food store displays he saw in France during World War II.”

Tom Kaplan: “Hugo’s Fine Meats” was a very high end butcher shop specializing in veal, so it was really the who’s who of Los Angeles, Hollywood, very wealthy clientele. They were very well traveled.

Editor: You mean the presentation, displays and rich selection looked familiar to them, reminded them of the similar approach to food marketing they’d seen in Europe.

Tom Kaplan: Exactly! “Hugo’s Fine Meats” gained such a popularity that customers were flocking to it from all over L.A. (There were even orders shipped out-of-state.) The many local customers who waited for their orders to be prepared wanted to sample things while waiting -that’s why Terry Kaplan added a few tables in his store. But the customer demand called for expansion: the customers were shopping, sampling and were ready to eat Terry’s delicious culinary creations. So my father’s original idea, to have a few tables where people could taste things and have a snack while waiting for their orders, became a restaurant. That’s how it all started.

The first winter we introduced 30 types of wild, edible mushrooms. A market can’t do it alone because the food would spoil but because at this point we were already a market and a restaurant we could cook with them, make salads with them, make pastas with them and prepare dishes with them to take home.

As the move toward expansion continued, Terry Kaplan began adding new fare to his existing menu.

Tom Kaplan: There was fresh pasta made daily in full view of customers… At least on the West Coast, in Southern California, we were the first gourmet market around in the 1980’s. We were making our own pastries and all these wonderful creations: salads, chicken salads, terrines and pâtés. Then we were also importing products from France, from Italy, olive oils, 200 years old balsamic vinegar: all these wonderful, exciting products and what we were preparing in the kitchen was all from raw ingredients. We didn’t call it “whole foods”. Nobody was making it so we made it ourselves.

Editor: Did the customers appreciate your efforts? The public awareness of the impact chemicals, antibiotics, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, etc. have on our health wasn’t wide spread back then.

Tom Kaplan: Absolutely, the business started and flourished with the support of sophisticated patrons. As the growth continued, the Kaplans realized that to sustain it they’d need dedicated staff as passionate about food as they were.

Early on we promoted one of our dishwashers. Our current chef, Nabor Diaz Prado came to work for us 27 years ago. He kept watching, learning and working his way up and after 18 months or two years, this young man from Mexico took over the kitchen as a chef. We’ve had many members of the Prado family working with us in our 36 year history. We’ve never been without at least 2 -3 members of the Prado family. (Many of our long-time employees went on to establish their own successful businesses.)

Editor: It says a lot about the working environment at Hugo’s Restaurant.

Tom Kaplan: It says a lot about my dad. When Nabor – the current star chef – started to work here as a dishwasher, one of his first jobs early morning was sweeping the parking lot. And he remembers on one of his first days working here, my father calling him aside and telling him how important his job is. Customers arriving at the restaurant’s parking lot form their first impression of Hugo’s based on the cleanliness of the lot. If the lot isn’t clean, they may not return.

Editor: You never get a second chance to make the first impression.

Tom Kaplan: My dad was a very kind and compassionate person. He was also an artist. The artwork displayed in our restaurants is his.

Terry Kaplan's Charcoal Drawings

Charcoal drawings by the Founder Of Hugo’s Restaurant, Terry Kaplan. Left: Paradise by Terry Kaplan. Right Wealth by Terry Kaplan.

Editor: His work is stunning; I can’t believe that he didn’t pursue a career in fine arts!

Tom Kaplan: I just found it out: he had scholarships before the war started but then he went off to fight and after the war was over – I found this out just months ago – after the war he spent almost a year and half in Biarritz, France which as I found out has a large artist community. But then when he came back, he got married to my mom, started family and had to go back to work for his father. Then he opened his own shop and continued sketching. He never stopped sketching and drawing. And he did take about five years to do art. He was very successful and sold practically every drawing and he made hundreds of them: all charcoals.

Editor: Your father’s work is absolutely amazing. He could have become a star in the art world.

Tom Kaplan: You see, his father – who came here from Russia and very poor – hated the idea of my dad becoming an artist.

Editor: It wasn’t practical enough in his eyes.

Tom Kaplan: That’s how my dad felt. But he remained an artist in everything he did. In 1980s most restaurants didn’t want to hire actors or musicians, you know. My dad wanted to hire actors, artists and musicians only because he wanted to be surrounded by like-minded people. His employees were creative and supportive of each other. My father was an original. So many people, who returned from the war, turned to drinking to deal with their traumatic experiences and aid in the readjustment to normal life. My father turned to psychology and spirituality.

Editor: It seems that your father applied the principles of art community and his sense of aesthetics to business.

 

NEXT:

Hugo’s Restaurant: Unique Approach To Food And Commitment To Sustainability (A MUST-READ for people with food allergies and vegans)

Hugo’s Restaurant near you:

West Hollywood
8401 Santa Monica Blvd.
323-654-3993

Studio City
12851 Riverside Dr.
818-761-8985

Agoura Hills
(at Whizin Market Square)
5046 Cornell Road
818-707-0300
www.hugosrestaurant.com

You may also enjoy Hugo’s Tacos which offers South of the Border whole food meals on a much smaller scale:
Hugo’s Tacos
4749 Coldwater Canyon
Studio City, CA 91604
818-762-7771
www.hugostacos.com

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