Helene Henderson, the pioneering farm-to-table chef behind Malibu Farm, which now boasts six international locations, shares her experiences of racism and lists the BIPOC-owned artisans and businesses she loves
Words by HELENE HENDERSON
I am often the only person of color in the room, and that is the story of my life. In Sweden, where I grew up, in Hollywood where I lived for 15 years, and now in Malibu. Regardless of where you live or who you are, every person of color carries the weight and wounds of racism.
HELENE HENDERSON. Photo by Martin Lof.
It is the little things and the big things. Being asked over and over again if you are a singer or a basketball player, and when you say no — because you can’t sing or play ball well — that disappointment you receive from them chips away at your self-esteem, and you begin to believe you have no value because you can’t perform. “Shut up and dribble” a Fox News reporter once told LeBron James. It’s bad enough on its own, but what if you can’t dribble? Then who are you allowed to be?
“You can do big things: donate, protest, vote for change. But you can also do little things, such as support the community of color by frequenting small businesses, restaurants and artists”
Or, when you are a caterer and you hear another story about a “Karen” [the name the internet has given to the stereotype of an entitled, demanding white woman- a character that has launched 1,000-plus memes] being proud she brought in a black girl to cater, showing you off to her friends, but she calls the police as soon as there’s a missing spoon, a napkin she can’t find, or a necklace she can’t locate.
You learn it is better to be cold than to wear a jacket, because wearing a jacket in the winter comes at personal risk. When you’re walking through a bookstore at the mall, even if you touch nothing, not one item, can get you escorted, and detained to the security trailer for hours. Or when you take your kids to rehearsal of the Christmas pageant at the church, and security escorts you to the free food giveaway pantry in the parking lot.
These are the little things, big things, everyday things that every person of color has to deal with on a daily basis. You can do big things: donate, protest, vote for change. But you can also do little things, such as support the community of color by frequenting small and independent businesses, restaurants and artists.
Here are my favorites I have discovered over my years in California.
• • • • •
A latte at BLOOM & PLUME COFFEE. The Black Girl Magic Collection by McBRIDE SISTERS.
Bloom and Plume Coffee
Coffee, flowers and beauty. Maurice Harris is amazing. I am such a fan. The first time I met him he strolled into the pier as a florist for an event. Maurice brought huge living tree branches that he hung from the ceiling. It was like a magical forest. The dining room was so sad after his installation was gone that we were inspired to add hanging plants. Everything he is involved with has such beauty. Bloom and Plume serves Stumptown coffee with food/snack/pastry offerings and everything is offered up with a side of style. 1638 W. Temple St., L.A.
Charles & Company Tea
Since the day we opened the pop-up cafe, our tea has been supplied by my friend and a very charismatic personality, Charles Lawerence. He is super passionate about tea, tea history and tea time. I can never get enough of his coconut-chamomile tea and the Zen I feel when I drink it. We infuse Charles & Company honeybush tea with bourbon. organic agave and grape juice for one of our most popular cocktails.
For wine, I am very drawn to the McBride Sisters and their Black Girl Magic collection and their story, which is very similar to mine. My father was an African American jazz musician and came from a very segregated United States where he entered through back doors, sat in the back of the bus, and interacial marriages were still against the law. Scandinavia was a different world with all doors swung wide open, and during the Scandinavian jazz tour of 1962 to 1963, he fathered three children. My half sister located both me and my brother when we were about 18.
Photo by Obi Onyeador/Unsplash.
Tara Love Beauty
My hairdresser recently retired. I had been going to her for so many years and I was lost when she closed her salon. I went to several different stylists through Google and Yelp searches before finding a new fit, the mother-daughter team of Tara and Naja. I am a bit old-school about my hair, but they are both so passionate about natural hair love. We need those champions to change perceptions both within and outside the black community about what our hair should look like, and that natural hair is professional hair.
ART & CULTURE
Chase Hall is a very talented young man from Malibu and a friend of my older son, Casper. Like myself, he grew up in a primarily white community. He does amazing art, primarily featuring African Americans. A recent piece of Ahmaud Arbery had some beautiful poignant and devastating short essays, commentary, proclamation by Chase. His work and his words make you stop, think and feel.
African’t, 1996, by KARA WALKER.
Photo by Richard Corman.
The poppy grain bowl at POPPY AND ROSE.
Poppy and Rose
Poppy and Rose has a lox and bagel sandwich which they serve all day. I am Swedish, so I am all about smoked salmon (or gravlax) and love breakfast options. 765 Wall St., L.A.
When we lived in Hollywood and I ran a catering company for about 15 years, I purchased my cheese, fruit and crackers at Say Cheese to make lavish buffets for Hollywood clients. I am glad that they are still around, serving the community. It is my favorite cheese shop in the entire L.A. area. 2800 Hyperion Ave., L.A.
Pancakes at NEIGHBOR.
Talk about a happy hour. Neighbor offers housemade fresh cocktails and a variety of shared plates from oysters to shrimp and tostadas. I highly recommend the Lowrider cocktail on a beautiful summer day. I am not a night person, but a big believer in Malibu midnight, so happy hour is the only hour for me, as I need to be home and in bed in the ’bu by 9 p.m.
A crab dish at TWO CENTS; photo by Mike Finkelstein. Mussels at POST & BEAM.
My Two Cents
This hip L.A. spot offers a variety of fresh homemade desserts, which are delicious. I love fika [a [Swedish tradition] here: the taking of coffee, tea, their cobbler and conversation. 5583 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.
Post & Beam
I still remember when they first opened this restaurant with Govind Armstrong. Post & Beam really was the first restaurant in south L.A. making a big splash on the restaurant scene. I love the food at this restaurant. They serve a wide spread of brunch options … Shrimp and grits from their breakfast menu is fantastic! They also have a vegan crab cake with a peanut slaw. 3767 Rosalia Dr., L.A.
I am a horrible flyer — I always take the red-eye, I never eat on the plane. Trap Kitchen is located right near LAX, so it’s a perfect stop before catching a plane or just getting into L.A. Getting on or off a plane means you deserve a fried chicken combo with homemade apple cinnamon cornbread on the side. 12704 S. Figueroa St., L.A.
Photo by Brad Stallcup/Unsplash.
Jimmy Williams has been a staple at the Santa Monica farmers market for as long as I can remember. I have bought the best assortment of vegetables for my garden beds from him for well over a decade. He will have the advice, knowledge and the materials. It is also so inspiring to see his son grow up and work along with his father.
Feature image: MALIBU FARM. Photo by Martin Lof.
June 17, 2020
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