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From film to food: the culinary craze of Culver City
Coolhaus ice cream truck in Culver City, one of many food businesses in the city.

From film to food: the culinary craze of Culver City

Culver City has an impressive track record in the film industry.  Classic movies including “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind,” both released in 1939, were made in Culver City.

Not only does this city have a rich history in film but also in food.  In 1958, steakhouse chain Sizzler opened its first restaurant in Culver City.

Culver City is also home of Helms Bakeries, which provided bread for the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“Food is not something new to Culver City,” said Steven Rose, former city mayor and current president of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.  “I just think that food has evolved over the years in Culver City, just like the economy has.”

Culver City encompasses about five square miles, and has become a “culinary destination.”

“A culinary destination for me means that you have enough options and choices to fit all palettes,” said Louie Spetrini, director of food and beverage at the Culver Hotel.  “Quality makes it a destination location.”

The Culver Hotel from Sydney Lawson on Vimeo.

There is a connection between Culver City’s quality film studios and quality food.

By 1920 the city had been home to three major film studios including Goldwyn Studios, which later became MGM.  The major reigning studio today is Sony Pictures.

Spetrini said he thinks Sony, which came to Culver City in the 90s, caused the biggest change in the city’s restaurant industry.

“They wanted to create a presence and a quality of life for everybody they were bringing in, when they purchased the movie house,” Spetrini said.

Rose said a resurgence of restaurants occurred around the past twelve years.

One of these restaurants is salad powerhouse Tender Greens, which has 12 locations in California, but opened its first in Culver City about 10 years ago.

“The city had very much a pro development point of view back then, said Tender Greens Co-founder Erik Oberholtzer.  “They were really forward thinking around creating a lively boulevard of outdoor cafes and theaters.”

Tender Greens is less than a mile down the street from Sony.  Oberholtzer said this is another perk to the location.  The restaurant is also near the Hayden Tract, which is essentially a creative design campus with architectural, advertising and design firms.

“Those are our customers,” Oberholtzer said.

Along with the film industry, the location and gentrification of Culver City helped evolve the restaurant scene.

“We are the epicenter of access to the whole of the Westside,” said Seth Horowitz, general manager of the Culver Hotel.  “Real estate prices have gone up through the roof.  The school district is in high demand.”

Culver City is a desirable place to live and chef driven restaurants, not only chains and larger franchises, help put the city on the culinary map.

Ford’s Filling Station was one of these chef driven restaurants.  Ben Ford, son of actor Harrison Ford, was the executive chef of this gastropub.  It closed in June to prioritize opening new locations outside Culver City, but helped the city build its reputation in the restaurant business.

Oberholtzer said along with Tender Greens, Ford’s Filling Station attracted other restaurants.

Today Culver City is densely populated with restaurants and there are more in the pipeline.

Spetrini said an Indian Fusion restaurant will replace Ford’s Filling Station.  Star Chef Michael White of New York is also opening a restaurant called Platform in the Hayden Tract.

Although building new restaurants is welcomed in Culver City, Rose said a new restaurant larger than 1500 square feet must provide parking.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point now in Culver City where it’s feeling the stress of density,” Oberholtzer said. “There’s certainly more competition.”

About Sydney Lawson

Sydney Lawson's passion for television began after college when she was a national spokesperson for the Got Milk? Campaign and she hopes to have a career in broadcast journalism covering features and entertainment.

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