Where were you born and raised? Los Angeles.
Did you grow up in the restaurant industry? In my early teens I started working in restaurants, so you could say that. In Los Angeles I was able to work in a lot of restaurants and get a lot of experience. I went to culinary school in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and when I moved to Seattle I opened my own catering company.
You’ve got a hefty book of photos in your café showing famous people you’ve catered to. Yes, when I started the catering company I was fortunate to have a lot of celebrity clients like Frank Sinatra, Bill Gates, the Seattle Seahawks, Alex Rodriguez …
Aroma Caffe has just opened at Ala Moana Center. What’s the story behind the café? My partner Jonathan Rotmensch and I really saw a need for a high-end café with great service and quality coffee and food. We’re trying to offer the complete package of service and quality, and bring the kind of experience people might get in Italy.
With whom would you most like to have coffee? Stephen Covey (author) – it would have been good to chat with him – and Howard Schultz (Starbucks). I’d like to pick his brain.
Do you cook at home? Not as much as I used to. I’m always on the run. And when you consider the time it takes to shop, to prep, to cook, to clean up … it’s a lot easier to eat out.
So what’s always in your fridge? Garlic, rosemary … not too much else, because I’m always on the run nowadays.
Would you share some tips on coffee storage? I hear so many people who say the best place to keep coffee is in the freezer. That doesn’t seem right … I’m a firm believer you should leave coffee at room temperature, stored in a cool, dry space. Any kind of moisture will spoil the flavor, and the refrigerator has odors than can get into the coffee. I seal my coffee at home, put it in a Tupperware and then keep it in the pantry.
You offer really nice European-sized portions, especially with pastries. Nice to see instead of the gargantuan cookies and pastries we’re sometimes faced with! Yeah, for us, it’s all about quality. Pastries and desserts can be small but really good quality. And when people are shopping, they need to be able to grab and go.
What’s a good way to experience Aroma Caffe for the first time? Order a pure espresso. It’s so smooth and sweet and chocolatey, you should be able to drink it without adding sugar or cream. I wouldn’t want to spoil it by adding anything at all. A shot of espresso in a china cup, maybe with a cranberry-and-walnut scone – that should be perfect.