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February 20, 2020

Paola Guasp, founder of Amara Kitchen

 

Years ago, before there was Amara Kitchen (before there was Canyon Coffee!), our friend Paola Guasp used to treat us to the most delicious meals. Paleo pancakes for brunch, bison ragu for dinner, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies for... whenever. Getting to eat Paola's food was always a treat, and always something we looked forward to.

When Paola told us she was opening a café in Highland Park, we couldn't have been more excited. It felt like such a fitting and natural progression for her. Not to mention, we could know get in on our favorite recipes of her whenever wanted! 

 

Amara kitchen pancakes | photo by Justin Chung

 

Our friendship has made it all the more inspiring to watch Amara Kitchen grow from a little hole-in-the-wall to a pillar of the neighborhood. Situated in a quiet part of Highland Park, the food, coffee and ambiance bring a steady flow of people all day, filling out the tables inside and on the sidewalk outside. It's a bright, welcoming and comfortable space to enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee. And it's a community space that Paola has opened to serve as a venue for cultural, artistic, and non-profit sharing.

 

Breakfast bowl, pastry, coffee and breakfast burrito at Amara Kitchen | photo by Justin Chung

 

Watching Paola open Amara was also an inspiration for creating Canyon Coffee, and we're sure she's inspired many others as well.  Her example demonstrated that with passion, focus and determination you can bring your ideas to life—and they can succeed! Amara was started without an investment deck. Paola and her founding partner, Corrina, pulled ends together to get the door open and the business has been profitable, growing organically from the start. 

 

Canyon Coffee on espresso at Amara Kitchen | La Marzocco Linea PB 2 | photo by Justin Chung

  

Paola was supportive of us starting Canyon Coffee. A few months ago, Amara transitioned to using Canyon as their coffee on-bar. Today, guests can enjoy The Alentejo on espresso and drip. 

In part to commemorate the occasion, but also to celebrate our friend Paola, we headed to Amara for breakfast on a recent sunny morning and invited our go-to collaborator Justin Chung—who lives in the Amara neighborhood—to join us and take photos.

We hope you enjoy the photos and the interview with Paola:

 

Barista pouring latte with Canyon Coffee at Amara Kitchen in Highland Park, Los Angeles | Photo by Justin Chung

 

Do you have a daily ritual? 

I start each morning with a warm beverage, which can vary from hot water & lemon, to herbal tea, to coffee. It really depends on my mood, or what I have to tackle that day.
I also tidy up my house before leaving, even if just for 10 minutes. I like to have my space ready for my return. I find that no matter what challenges the day might bring, if my space is in order when I get home, I can let go of the stress of the day's events quicker.

 

People enjoying breakfast at a sunny table at Amara Kitchen in Highland Park, Los Angeles | Photo by Justin Chung with Canyon Coffee

 

Had you always wanted to start a restaurant? What was the impetus?
Only about a year before opening AMARA Kitchen had I even considered opening a restaurant. I had been cooking and hosting a lot of dinner parries at home, and I started to feel the joy cooking for others brought.
The impetus was an opportunity and the shield of naivety. The opportunity was that the rent at our current location was incredibly low when we first opened. The naivety was that, since this was my first time starting a business, I didn't even think of all the other overhead owning a restaurant entailed! But my friend and then-business partner jumped on the opportunity and figured the rest as we went. 
 

A barista pulling Canyon Coffee espresso at Amara Kitchen in Highland Park, Los Angeles | photo by Justin Chung

 

We remember when Amara was brand new! Since then, you've doubled the size of the restaurant and are working on opening #2. Did you envision this back in those early days?
I wish i could say I had a master plan, but the truth is that we just rode the waves as they came and adjusted when we needed to. I never had an end goal or an expansion plan. I just knew I that I couldn’t let this fail, because it was all I had.
 
 

Ally Walsh enjoying a cup of Canyon Coffee at Amara Kitchen in Highland Park, Los Angeles | Photo by Justin Chung

 

What's your favorite part about running a business?  
That it's always changing and evolving—as is my role in running it.
 
 

Espresso being pulled on a La Marzocco Linea PB 2-group with AB at Amara Kitchen

 

What's your favorite part about having Amara Kitchen?
 
I love the culture of working in restaurants, there is a real sense of family and community. It is really hard work and can be stressful, but in that type of environment you get to know people's true selves very quickly, so the relationships made are genuine and meaningful.
The short answer would be: the people I have gotten to know as a result of owning Amara.
  

Cookies and muffins in the sun at Amara Kitchen, and a 5lb bag of Canyon Coffee espresso | photo by Justin Chung

 

Amara Kitchen in the pre-open morning quiet of dawn | photo by Justin Chung

  

Pastries and Canyon Coffee at Amara Kitchen | photo by Justin Chung

 

Canyon Coffee's Beachwood Espresso on-bar in Los Angeles | photo by Justin Chung


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