Common Ground Kitchen
A dynamic team of Chef's creating and serving the most exuberant grub at breweries!
Warcloud Brewing Company: Alright so tell us, where does the name Common Ground come from? What’s the genetic makeup of the team (duties and occupations), and where are you guys from?
Common Ground Kitchen is a chef driven, latin focused and globally inspired concept. Our goal is to bring people from all walks of life together to share in their mutual love of great food, good company and good times. There’s a lot of focus on identifying what makes us all different from one another. We know that food and drink are the great equalizer.
Anisa Amiri and Adam Amiri are from the LA County area, specifically Rowland Heights. Flavio is from Ventura County, specifically Thousand Oaks. We all work together to make Common Ground happen. Chef Flavio is a huge part of why Common Ground works. Tons of culinary knowledge and experience allow us to set ourselves apart from other concepts in the area. Anisa and Adam work to make sure the concept is presented well and that the overall guest experience is memorable.
WBC: We’re always fuckin’ hungry around here. What’s on the menu right now? What are some of your cultural influences?
CGK: Us too! Haha. We always have a good variety of items available. At any time you can get Wings, Chef Inspired Tacos, Sandwiches, Loaded Tots and our famous Guacamole. We always run a new special every shift. This can be anything from Shrimp Po’boys to Chicken Tikka Masala or an LA Street Dog. We kinda just make what we love to eat and what we’re craving at the time. We pull influences from all over the world and throw our own take on it. You can always push “fusion” too far. When you eat our food you’re going to be able to identify what the product is, but when you start to dissect it, you're gonna notice something a little different here and there.
WBC: Give us an insight to your hustle? Classically trained? Where did you learn the ins and outs of hospitality?
CGK: Well we all have several years of experience in the hospitality industry. Chef Flavio is classically trained and has worked under Tom Colliccio and Wolfgang Puck and the Executive Chef for several concepts and openings. Adam and Anisa were raised in a hospitality family and their first stop out of the hospital was to a hotel. Adam has 15 years in front of house operations at various concepts and has held every role from busboy to FOH manager. Anisa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from CSUCI and was a corporate trainer for one of the fastest growing concepts in the US.
WBC: You guys frequent some of the better and well known breweries in Orange County like Green Cheek, Bruery, and Brewery X. Talk to us about that tactic as a whole...
CGK: Our tactic when approaching a new venue for our Pop-Up is fairly simple. We try to make things mutually beneficial to both parties. These breweries are typically small businesses like ourselves. We go in and offer our services in order to keep people in their taproom and we are able to reach a wider audience simply because of the recognition they already have. Who doesn’t like a nice, cold, well-made beer to go with their meal? Beer and alcohol in general is something that we cannot offer and most breweries don’t have culinary programs. This pairing is perfect for both of us.
They see young, hungry entrepreneurs approaching them to make things happen. They see that drive and want to work with us. We build working relationships with these breweries and work together for the same goal. Providing a great experience to our guests.
WBC: How do you compose flavors? Who designs the menu?
CGK [Flavio]: I think it comes from 16 years working in kitchens that produce foods from multiple cultures and cuisines. Taking that and putting into one package. We make additions and tweaks based on how we like to eat personally. We all eat a wide variety of foods from around the world and we aren't afraid to push our guests into new flavors and experiences. There are a lot of people who don't eat certain foods simply because they haven't been exposed to them yet. We want to be culinary ambassadors and make these flavors and cuisines more mainstream.
The menu is a collective effort. It has a lot of influence from our ethnic backgrounds. We worked on the initial menu over a few months and did several R&D Kitchens at our homes. For a while all we had was R&D food! It was a lot of fun and we were able to experiment and tweak things and see what worked and what we could do without. Some of the best times were those nights. There would be all of us, most of the time about 5 people, in a tiny apartment kitchen trying to bang out 3 or 4 variations of the dish we were working on at the time. Everyone gathered around taking photos, providing input and enjoying each other's company. Those moments are why we do this. We ultimately want to bring those moments to our guests.
WBC: For those who aspire to open their own brick and mortar, would you say doing catering is a great way to pipeline your dreams into fruition? How far out are you guys from doing so?
CGK: We can't say that it will work for everyone, but it works for us! The Hospitality Industry is extremely competitive. You need to have a significant amount of capital and a decent following to build and develop a successful brick and mortar. Our philosophy was that we would start at the foundation and build upon that until we feel that a brick and mortar is feasible. The Pop-Up route is a great way to test proof of concept, develop systems, refine your menu and overall experience. Our path is Pop-Up - Mobile Kitchen (trailer) - Counter - Brick and Mortar. The beauty of this is that each one of these phases can operate at the same time. So you can now have 3 to 4 locations right off the bat. You can have your Pop-Up at one brewery while your trailer is at a special event and your counter is the home base for both of these divisions. You can effectively double your revenues at each step. The COVID-19 shutdowns have pushed our timelines back by about 2 months but we can honestly say that our official Brick and Mortar is about 3 years out but our trailer is happening Q4 2020.
WBC: How much have you truly invested? talk about the years learning, the years earning, the time it’s taken to get to where you are right now…
CGK: That’s a tough question. It's kinda hard to put a number on our total investment. The years of work in the field and just experiencing the industry. Taking what we have learned about what we like and applying it to our brand and taking what we don't like and avoiding it. Culture is huge in any industry but more so in hospitality. We want our concept to be a brand that people want to work for. We want our team to have the same pride as we do. Our true investment is ourselves. We are committed to this fully and there’s no looking back. That dedication is noticed when you come to our Pop-Up. There’s something different about it. You can feel it when you first approach us, you feel it in the service we provide, and of course, you can taste it in our food.
WBC: What does your dream restaurant look like? Take us on a walk thru the door to the back of the kitchen? Sights, sounds, feels, vibes, smells, and menu?
CGK: Oh man, so many things! Our vision for the final buildout is an upscale tasting room with a large beer garden featuring communal tables and social areas. If you are going to come in for a brew and a bite, you would have to walk through our common area first. A large open space with plant life everywhere. Our beer garden is a true beer garden. Hop vines, wheat and barley mixed in with local species as well. You approach a small centralized building that houses our tap room and kitchen. The bar top stretches the width of the building and is the only thing separating you from our 30+ taps. We are featuring a combination of local craft brews and wines with several guest beers and wines from up and coming Central American breweries and vintners. A small seasonal menu consisting of chef driven small plates and shareables. We really want to somewhat force people to mingle with one another. We’ve worked for so many concepts where the regulars don’t interact with one another. You come into our building, you’re gonna talk to someone whether its us personally or the new friend you just met.
Music is a big part of our lives. We are going to feature the soundtrack of our upbringing. This is everything from the Rat Pack to Tupac. There are a lot of concepts that are geared towards older generations. This concept is for our generation. It will reflect the things that we appreciate.
WBC: What are your aspirations? We see you guys as a global brand. Do you have aspirations of going global? Or keeping it locally-intricate?
CGK: Wow! Global would be awesome! Haha. We are very much looking to have multiple concepts in Southern California. Common Ground is a vehicle to get us there. We want something high end, something casual and something in between as well. There’s always a point when you become too big. We never want to get to that point where quality of service or product is jeopardized. We believe that if you do things well and take care of your guests, the money will come. This is a passion for us. We never want to be like those corporate chains that answer to shareholders. That’s why we ventured out on our own. To escape that bottom-line driven mentality.
WBC: We personally went home sober after buying everything on your menu. That was pretty dope. Simply magisterial. Talk about composition of entrees. The science behind drinks and sobery-type food.
CGK: Well we’re glad we could help you guys out! Well the goal was never to be “drunk food” but when you’re working directly with breweries, you have to adapt to your clientele. There are just some things that don’t work for the demo that we serve. We have tried a few high end and complex dishes and they don’t land as well as say a Pork Chile Verde Loaded Tater Tots. You can’t be stubborn and just push your food on people. You can find a middle ground, or should I say Common Ground, where you provide familiar items and then just execute them at a high level with unique flavors and everyone wins.
As far as building our menu items, we just try to pack as much flavor as we can into each dish. There's no magic formula to do it but you can easily overcomplicate things if you're not careful. We are firm believers that if an ingredient is included, it must be necessary to complete the dish. No frills, no silly garnishes, no buzz words. The food should speak for itself and you should let it.
WBC: How can people find you and try the food?
CGK: The best way to find us is through our website and our Instagram page. We always update our schedule and are consistently adding new dates and locations. If that's too much work, book us for your next event and you get us all to yourself. We can make anything. Anything. Custom menu, service packages the whole bit.