by Mya Stark
It's not an exaggeration to say we're living in a golden age of the art of food. Handcrafted, molecularized, sourced from every corner of the globe or as close as our own backyards, the contemporary flourishing of creativity in the culinary sphere has led us to think deeply about the way we are nourished—and how it connects us to the world. Now, this exploration has been taken a step further by a collective of cooks, curators and artists who call themselves Thank You For Coming.
Located in a former gallery space in Atwater Village, near the slowly regenerating LA River, about 30 loosely affiliated people run this "experimental restaurant project" as a pay-what-you-want, volunteer-based nonprofit. Each month, a different artist or collective is in residence to explore ideas about art, food and sustainability, while making and serving food to the public.
Since its Kickstarter-driven launch in December last year (with a boost from the Awesome Foundation), after the installation of a commercial kitchen and the hard-fought process of getting their restaurant permit, TYFC has so far hosted residencies including an eat-in telenovela, a high-concept, low-tech '30s automat by art-punk band Japanther, and a heretical order serving up feasts and famines Middle-Ages-style.
The team behind all this is incredibly committed to being a cooperative. So much so, it's actually difficult to get a quote from them. "I can't really answer that. There's a whole group of people involved," we heard often, followed by an introduction to another member. This much is known though: the space was founded by Laura Noguera, Jonathan Robert, Jenn Su Taohan, and Cynthia Su Taopin, and each of them may be one or more of the following: teacher, scientist, artist, master gardener and builder.
May and June have seen the assembly transform itself into a recreation of the Source Family, a quasi-cult-like '70s spiritual movement whose members dressed in biblical robes, took the communal last name "Aquarian," and recorded over 50 albums of revered psychedelica, all while running the very first popular vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles (the one where Woody Allen orders mashed yeast in Annie Hall). As depicted in a recent documentary, it's clear that underneath all the quintessentially LA hippy trappings, Jim Baker's Source Family was a social experiment worth studying for its innovative approach to eating, its closeness and its creativity.
All of those values were in evidence in Thank You For Coming's embodiment of The Source restaurant. On the night we visited, an Aquarian Hoedown fundraiser for positive-culture radio-heads dublab was in effect. Raw nutmeat tacos, reincarnated Source "secret dressing," robed volunteers and loved-out sounds from Lucky Dragons and Aenon made it a happy event. It seems that no matter what form it takes, Thank You for Coming offers visitors a thoughtful, soulful and flavorful experience.
Images by Sarah Newby