Chef Akasha Richmond
Akasha Richmond settled into the life of a chef quite by accident, and has flourished in this role to become one of Los Angeles’s celebrated culinary names. After moving to LA however many years ago to further her studies in yoga, Akasha, a self-taught chef and baker, began to work at the yogi-owned Golden Temple, a celebrated vegetarian restaurant popular in the 1990s amongst Hollywood’s health-conscious elite. She decided to pursue cooking full-time, and through her work at the restaurant befriended cultural icons such as Michael Jackson, who launched her career as a personal chef, during which she also worked with Barbara Streisand and Billy Bob Thornton. Her experiences and recipes from her time with these celebrities culminated in the publishing of her first cookbook, Hollywood Dish, in 2006.
Richmond is well-known in the Los Angeles food community having spent most of her career as a self-taught chef and baker, as well as the owner of a successful catering business. Richmond has established herself as a celebrated culinary talent and opened her first concept AKASHA in 2008. She places emphasis on the importance of eating local foods utilizing health conscious cooking methods, sustainable practices and dedication to authentic ingredients and products that are sustainable and organic. A longstanding affinity for cuisines from around globe, Richmond has traveled the world taking inspiration back to her kitchen from Southeast Asia, Bali, Australia, as well as Eastern and Western Europe. The author of Hollywood Dish: More than 150 delicious, healthy recipes from Hollywood's chef to the stars (Avery, 2006) she has been featured in Food & Wine and has acted as a guest editor for Vegetarian Times. She continues to consult on numerous natural food product lines while exploring new cooking methods and practices for living a healthier life. She lends her time and expertise to groups such as Share Our Strength, Environmental Media Association, Common Threads and Pediatric Aids. She has appeared on The Food Network (The Best Thing I Ever Ate), Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Planet Green, and nationwide news programs.
Beverage Director, Clare Ward
Clare Ward had a well-grounded youth, growing up in a small Northwestern Tennessee town. Her grandparent’s owned a large property where she regularly helped with the work in the garden and caring for the livestock. When they moved to Louisville, Kentucky, Clare discovered the excitement of the big city. Louisville, like the rest of Tennessee, has deep roots in the spirit-making world where aficionados come world-over to visit the Bourbon Trail, the Urban Bourbon Trail, the Kentucky Derby and a revitalized downtown showcasing the exceptional art of bourbon.
Clare started her career working in Louisville restaurants until she moved to Ohio to pursue a degree in Performance Art from the University of Cincinnati. Cincinnati was where Clare first learned about bartending, honing her skills at a local Italian restaurant. The basic training she received there afforded little opportunity to prepare other than the most standard of popular cocktails. She soon became eager test her own creativity and moved to California to seek opportunity and 365 days a year of sunshine.
In Los Angeles, she quickly found a position bartending at Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, a trendy neighborhood on Los Angeles’ west side. She then moved next door to work at AKASHA, under Chef/Owner Akasha Richmond’s guidance and encouragement. Working with Akasha opened up a whole new world. The craft cocktail movement was influencing restaurants throughout the city and Clare wanted to bring her own ideas to AKASHA’s bar program. Akasha mentored her in seasonal selections, taking time to teach Clare to make syrups and bitters. She brought her to farmers’ markets and taught her about selecting and using local produce and herbs. When Sāmbār, Akasha’s Indian influenced restaurant opened in the former Ford’s Filling Station space, Akasha chose Clare to lead the bar program. Together, the two collaborate on creating menu-complementing libations by infusing cocktails with vindaloos, masalas and other Indian spices that got attention around the country for their originality.
After nearly a year, Akasha decided to re-concept Sāmbār and change the style to one of her favorites – rustic Italian cooking – and AR Cucina was born. Clare again leads the cocktail program and embraces the challenge of contemporizing classic Italian cocktails with fresh ideas and innovative recipes.
Clare Ward lives in Culver City not far from AKASHA with her boyfriend. When she’s not behind the bar at AR Cucina, she’s probably kayaking or hiking somewhere around Southern California looking for a new adventure.