ARTIST INTERVIEW: Jaimie and Jeffrey of Gorumando
Gorumando is a Los Angeles-based catering service specializing in modern Japanese cuisine. Their fresh and flavorful bento lunches are available every weekday in several local cafés, as well as for delivery on the east side of LA, and at EPCF since 2015. We spoke to owners Jaimie and Jeffrey about their work.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get to where you are?
Jaimie: We started Gorumando in November 2012 as a blog to feature Jeffrey’s writing and my photography. We were living in Chicago at the time while I was doing a PhD in medieval history, and I left school the following year because I was desperate to do something more creative. That allowed us to get more serious about Gorumando, which originally led us to work on a cookbook proposal that morphed into a catering company. We spent about six months planning to start our bento concept in Manhattan until, after one last depressing winter on the east coast, we decided almost on a whim to move to California instead. Within three weeks we had loaded up our little car with all the cooking equipment it could hold and headed west for Los Angeles. I had never even been to California before.
Jeffrey: Cooking for me evolved from my writing. In Chicago I became very interested in the collision of cultures in the American metropolis, watching immigrants create new spaces from their dreams and memory. I was born in New Jersey to a Japanese-expat father and an American mother. Growing up, cooking was my dad’s way of indulging his nostalgia, and he always made a point to teach me a thing or two about it. As an adult, cooking for me became a new medium where I felt like I could express things that stick out in my memory, and sometimes it manages to make sense to others, which is great.
How are you inspired by the environment around you, how does living in Los Angeles affect your work?
Jeffrey: The environment of LA is completely present, since we source nearly all of our ingredients from the area. There is the cliche that LA is seasonless, and while there is a kind of disorienting quality about its year-round nice weather, the environment is constantly changing in a way that reveals this amazing micro-seasonality. I take a walk around Echo Park every day to explore these small changes in our environment and that influences what we do with our bentos and catering work.
Jaimie: I would add that we’ve also found Los Angeles to be so welcoming to us as newcomers. Many people thought we were crazy to start a business in a new city, but everyone we’ve met from the beginning has been so helpful and supportive of us and what we do. We feel lucky to have found such a community in LA, and the Echo Park Craft Fair has been a big part of that.
What is so special about making art NOW, in our hectic digital age?
Jeffrey: I’m not sure I consider food to be an art, but the craft of cooking evolved from our own way of life. When I would write, I could go several hours without eating or drinking anything and then all of a sudden realize I don’t feel so well. Food is essential, but it’s often the first thing I would forget about, and ultimately the work suffers. Most of our customers are involved in creative pursuits, and I think our food resonates with them because their minds are elsewhere when they work, and they want to be able to eat well and not have to worry about it. It’s a bit like sandwiches coming from the Earl of Sandwich, who was a compulsive gambler and just couldn’t be bothered.
Also, I think technology has had the effect of over-visualizing food. With digital media, we’re inundated with images of food, which is not only a terrible tease, but I think it also emphasizes the superficial qualities of what food should be.
With Gorumando we try our best to make sure the food presents nicely, but most of our work is beneath the surface, handpicking the best ingredients we can find and preparing them simply to maximize their natural taste and nutrition. The greatest compliment I can receive is not that it looks good or even tastes good, but that it made the person feel good.
Where do you see your work going in the next couple of years?
Jaimie: That’s so hard to say because we’re constantly coming up with new ideas and directions. Jeffrey has more of a singular drive to work with food, I’m more creatively restless. At the moment we’re about to launch an online kitchenware store called Tenzo, and we’re also planning a pop-up dinner series that will focus on storytelling through Japanese food. Ultimately, we’ve always been flexible about our path, open to seeing where different roads lead and not afraid to make unexpected turns.