Thank you to food blogger KevinEats who recently came into Union. If you guys want the FULL low-down on Chef Kalman’s back story, Kevin goes into the most detail on our chef’s history we’ve ever read. He also lays out an extremely detailed menu review, dish by dish with awesome pics of every selection. You can read a partial article below, but you should follow this link to read the piece on his blog which will showcase all his amazing photos.
Photos from www.kevineats.com
THURSDAY, JANUARY 08, 2015
37 E Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103
Despite the relative abundance of restaurants in Old (Town) Pasadena, there’s never really been all that much worth going to. In my nearly nine years of writing this blog, I can only count visits to the defunct Trattoria Tre Venezie, Sushi Kimagure, and a couple LQ pop-ups at Vertical (which probably shouldn’t count). Union, however, was one that I was actually really looking forward to trying. The restaurant debuted on March 11 last year, and is a Cal-Italian joint from Chef Bruce Kalman and business partner Marie Petulla, a Chicago native who used to work the FOH at Stout and Firefly.
About the Chef: The son of a music teacher, Kalman was born and raised in Paramus, New Jersey, and started playing the guitar at age seven (he would eventually form a band with his brother during his teenage years and open for Meat Loaf). At age nine, he began cooking with his grandmother and discovered his second love, and by age 13, had taken a job at a pizzeria owned by his father’s friend. It was here where Kalman decided to dedicate himself to cooking, and as such, enrolled in a culinary vocational program at his high school. From there, he further studied the craft at Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, and also cooked at a number of local places during this time period. He later relocated to Chicago to work at the O’Hare Marriott, where he served as assistant banquet chef for a year and a half. Kalman then moved to iconic Italian eatery Spiaggia as a sous, working under Paul Bartolotta in his first true fine dining gig. Spiaggia was part of Levy Restaurants, a food service company focusing on event venue dining, and because of that, the young chef was able to help Charles Weber open Blackhawk Lodge near the Magnificent Mile.
Weber was eventually poached by David Burke to open Park Ave Café at the Doubletree, and an introduction allowed Kalman to become tournant at Burke’s New York outpost of Park Ave. In 1996, after a year in NYC, he left for Santa Fe to open Il Piatto, then transitioned to Southwest eatery La Casa Sena as exec sous. 1997 saw Kalman relocate back to Chicago, where he secured his first Executive Chef role at Terry Alexander’s Okno. During his year here, he was nominated for James Beard’s “Rising Star Chef – Midwest” award, but soon moved over to the Green Dolphin Street music venue. After a short stint there, he became Coco Pazzo Cafe’s head chef at the start of 1999, but left in April 2000 to open his own place: 5 Boroughs Delicatessen, a New York-style deli. Shortly after the place’s debut, Kalman met his future wife at a Seattle’s Best Coffee, one of his customers, and when she moved back home to Ohio, he shuttered the deli and followed her. Now in Ohio, he began working for Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, first as Executive Chef and later Managing Partner. He spent seven years with the company, opening numerous locations.
After being sent to Arizona to open a few restaurants for Bravo Brio, Kalman jumped ship to another restaurant group: LGO Hospitality, and started at their Chelsea’s Kitchen concept in Phoenix at the tail end of 2009. LGO sent the Chef to LA in 2010, where he opened The Misfit in Santa Monica (the site of Alain Giraud’s Anisette) in early 2011. He spent a year there, then joined Acme Bar Group as a consultant in February 2012, running the show over at Urbano Pizza Bar. In September that year, Kalman took on the Executive Chef role at The Churchill in WeHo, and during his tenure there, even filmed an episode of Chopped, beating out three other chefs to snag the win. He left in May 2013 to start Bruce’s Prime Pickle Co, an artisanal pickle company, and later that year, appeared on Ilan Hall’s Knife Fight, beating out Stefan Richter. He also joined Dog Haus as “culinary director” that November, and was soon tapped by Petulla to consult on the opening of Union. However, the consulting project soon turned into a partnership, and their restaurant would debut the following March.