From Malibu To Mexico via Japan, Helene Henderson’s empire is still growing
Words by KELSEY McKINNON
Photography by JESSICA SAMPLE
Helene Henderson emerges from the makeshift kitchen at Thorne Family Farm with a tomato tart for the Malibu Farm dinner.
Helene Henderson, the chef and owner of the flourishing Malibu Farm concept, is a creature of habit. Mornings begin with feeding her beloved animals on her plot of land on Point Dume. There’s the cat (“who is always starving no matter how much she is fed,” says Henderson), the dog (“who never eats the dog food, only waits to catch any cat-food leftovers”) and the feather-footed chickens. Past vegetable beds, fruit trees and beehives, she tosses grass hay to the goats (“they are extremely picky eaters as well, and try to escape so they can eat roses, fruit trees and grapevines instead”).
Malibu Farm’s long communal table, situated at the end of a row of crops at Thorne Family Farm in Bonsall Canyon.
All this happens before her chamomile tea, Wasa crispbread (a relic of her Swedish upbringing) and a little yogurt, after which she heads to her landmark restaurant and cafe on the Malibu Pier. There, she and her team serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to throngs of hungry surfers, sightseers and locals seven days a week.
From left: A pickup truck unloads a mixed array of pumpkins. Bowls of wild and brown rice topped with edible flowers.
“One of the main things we hope to do is create a very inclusive environment”
From left: Henderson’s appetizer toasts featuring ricotta, fennel and Larry’s blackberries. Refreshing vodka lemon verbena cocktails were served in Malibu Farm’s signature mason jars.
Henderson inadvertently built an empire on classic dishes, organic local ingredients and old-fashioned hard work. Her latest book, Malibu Farm Sunrise to Sunset: Simple Recipes All Day (Clarkson Potter, $40), takes readers through a day of her signature preparations, from Surfers Rancheros to branzino fish tacos. In recent years, she has teamed up with Meir Teper, a longtime customer and a co-founder of the Nobu hospitality brand, on new Malibu Farm outposts at Nobu properties in New York, Los Cabos, Lanai and most recently Kanagawa, Japan (March 2020). Each location — including an independent Malibu Farm in Newport Beach’s Lido Marina Village — was designed by Malibu local Vanessa Alexander, and all overlook water. “We do want our locations to be experience-based, but we would love to find a farm location, too,” says Henderson.
Buzzing conversation at the communal table.
In the meantime, she’s resurrected her popular Dinner in the Farm series, the first of which, this past fall, was held at Thorne Family Farm. “One of the main things we hope to do at Malibu Farm is to create a very inclusive environment,” she says. The 130-person collective of farmers, trendsetters, surfers and artists bonded over shared platters of monkfish, curried broccoli and flower-filled salads. At Henderson’s table, there’s a seat for everyone — even the pickiest eaters. 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-456-8850; malibu-farm.com.
Feature image: Fresh produce at Thorne Family Farm.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2021-2022 issue of C Magazine.
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