How I Get Undone: Jason Eisner
We are constantly bombarded with productivity hacks – tips and tricks on how to cross everything off our to-do lists while also being a person/partner/colleague/parent. Here at AMASS, though, we are far more interested in how people get undone. We want to know the nightly rituals that happen after 5PM, from the cocktails drunk to the books read. To us, it’s those small moments behind the scenes that really count, because in them lies a glimpse into who we want to be.
This time around, we chatted with LA-based Restaurateur, Bar Owner, and Chef Jason Eisner about how he unwinds after a busy Saturday shift.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Cleveland, raised in Brooklyn, and have lived in LA since 2007. I am a restauranteur, brewery owner, bar owner, and chef.
I love an AMASS negroni. I have a home carbonation system, so I'll stir it nice and cold with a little residual water, and I'll force inject it with Co2, which I find really opens it up and makes it lively and bright. I call it a Negroni Pop.
What rituals do you practice to take care of yourself?
A great stress reliever I have found over the last 20 years is practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is a grappling martial art. I often refer to it as meditation in motion, because it’s really like human chess. It works out your body, but it also puts a nice tax on your mind. Over COVID, I haven’t been able to practice as often as I would like since it’s just too close-contact with people. So, what I've been doing, which has essentially diverted all of my energy from martial arts, is I’ve gone back to the process of making homemade pasta and pizza.
I have a plant based diet, so I’ve been working on a lot of Southern dishes, both Sardinian, Calabrian, and Sicilian. Last week, I made something called malloreddus, which is also sometimes referred to as gnocchetti sardi. It’s a Sardinian pasta that’s about three centimeters in length. It’s rolled onto an old ancient wooden board to create a pattern of texture in it that captures all the sauce. I made that with a vegan version of a sauce called alla campidanese, which is like a sausage sauce. I made homemade fennel and seitan sausages, caramelized some onions and garlic, and then peeled some San Marzano tomatoes. It was delicious. I made some cashew parm to go on top of it. It’s a really gummy, bouncy noodle, so that’s one I’m super proud of.
I also made a black sesame raviolo with homemade almond ricotta and sauteed spinach inside. Then, I made a very simple browned vegan butter sauce with that. With pizzas, I’ve just been going off. A friend of mine, who’s from Oaxaca, his grandma had an amazing mole negro recipe, so I made a Mexican-inspired pizza. It was black mole with cashew lime crema and homemade flash-pickled jalapenos and onions, some micro cilantro, and a whole lot of hot sauce. It was really yummy.
How are you finding connection in the midst of this period of isolation?
I have a 6 year old daughter. Her name is Maxine, and she’s the light of my life. Through COVID, being able to connect with her has been the silver lining. As you know, kids aren’t in school right now, so they’re doing school online through Zoom. She’s done by 10:30 in the morning every day, so afterward we’ll go on nature walks and try to identify birds in the part of LA where I live. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Cooking with my daughter and going on little nature hikes in the neighborhood has been amazing.
I also bought a vintage motorcycle, and I've been zooming and zipping around through the twists and turns of Los Angeles just to see trees and see people at a distance as you’re cruising by. That’s been a nice way to connect with myself.
I feel like one of the things COVID has done is send people spiralling and getting depressed. It’s important to find ways to stay connected to ourselves and stay grounded.
What does an ideal Saturday look like for you?
I love to make people smile and feed people, so I definitely spend a lot of time in my restaurants. Right now, I have two plant-based Nashville hot chicken restaurants called Wolfie's Nashville Hot Chicken, with one in Highland Park and one in Atwater Village that’s opening. I’m a partner at Nic’s on Beverly in West Hollywood, which is a plant-based restaurant that serves California cuisine and regional American cuisine. We’re opening up a pizza concept that does Grandma-style square pies as well as Neapolitan-style woodfired pies. And then, the brewery Party Beer Co in West Adams that makes craft beer and hard seltzer. I like to spend time working, getting my hands dirty. It doesn’t matter if I’m working a register or serving or bartending or managing a floor or even washing dishes. I just love to be in a restaurant working, so that is part of an ideal Saturday, especially since those are the busier days in restaurants.
But also, just spending time with my family. We recently got a goldendoodle puppy, so playing fetch and watching my daughter run around in the backyard playing with our dog while I’m sipping on a cocktail is pretty nice. Then of course, getting in the kitchen and making some food [laughs].
It’s the end of the day and you’re vegging on the couch–what are you drinking? Reading? Watching?
These days, I’ve been kind of obsessed with going back and watching all the classic cooking competition shows. [I’ve also been watching] a lot of travelogs – anything Anthony Bourdain, since he’s for sure one of the greatest of all time. I love watching adventure shows with people that are willing to climb massive mountains and go to extreme lengths to live a full and complete life.
If I'm not drinking something simple like a pilsner, then I'm definitely enjoying a classic, like a single malt Islay Scotch or a Gibson with AMASS Gin. Something super simple, and clean. I love Paulo Coelho, so I love to go back and reread all of his books. He’s one of my favorites. I also have been reading a lot of business books about how people have built heart-based businesses and grew them and were able to scale up and achieve dreams and give jobs to lots of people. I find stuff like that inspiring.