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the suicide bunny Meet this self-made woman who has built a vape empire in a male-dominated industry.

With UFC’s Nate Diaz.

rightful king

the cannabist We session with TV’s first Chief Cannabis Correspondent, competitive eater and published author Ryan Nerz.

09

issue

We sit with New York Art Scene’s current torch holder Brian Kirhagis and talk about art, music and the current state of the union.

january/february2016


january/february2016

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contents features the people’s champ

36

With UFC’s Nate Diaz.

the cannabist

26

We session with TV’s first Chief Cannabis Correspondent, competitive eater and published author Ryan Nerz.

rightful king

70

We sit with New York Art Scene’s current torch holder Brian Kirhagis and talk about art, music and the current state of the union.

the suicide bunny

56

Meet this self-made woman who has built a vape empire in a male-dominated industry.

departments 5 8 12 14

Editor’s Letter Vapelife: The Voice Is Yours Vapelife: Policy of Truth Vapelife: A Message From CASAA

16 Vapelife: Not All CBD is Created Equal 20 New Products 88 Gastronomics

on the cover UFC’s Nate Diaz. Page 36.

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issue 09 | jan/feb 2016 Published by fr3shLAb creative group, llc President, Founding Partner Richard Coyle RICH@TOKEWELL.COM Creative Director, Founding Partner, Ryan Furuya RYAN@TOKEWELL.COM Editor-in-Chief Saul Goode Co-Founder, Senior V.P., Operations Cindy Galindo CINDY@TOKEWELL.COM Director of Finance Yvonne Morton YVONNE@TOKEWELL.COM Contributing Writers Leilani Anderson, Alex Clark, Cindy Galindo, Rene Galindo, Ruben Galindo, John Jenkens, Mike Landers, Roy Mannaquil, Steve Pastel, Maximilian Sterling Contributing Photographers Kenji Furutani, Leah Moriyama, Saul Vargas, Bayle Whitt Tokewell Magazine is published bi-monthly by fr3shLAb creative group, llc. Tokewell Magazine does not condone the illegal use or obtainment of cannabis. All content within this magazine is copyright protected and may not be reproduced in part or in whole without explicit written consent from the publisher. Tokewell Magazine is strictly for entertainment purposes only, and is not to be held liable for any misleading or inaccurate material produced herein.

Š2016 Fr3shlab Creative Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. tokewell po box 444, alhambra, ca 91802 Ad Sales INFO@TOKEWELL.COM tokewell.com tokewell tokewell

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Within both of these paradigms, we have come to a point where good ol’ home innovation and inventiveness is meeting real world design and production. The black markets have exploded upon the legitimate business world to the tune of billions of dollars. Regulation and legislation that we have fought long and hard for, are finally coming to fruition. Yet, this is only the beginning...We as a community must remain vigilant and ensure that these fledgling industries continue on the correct path on our way to freedom, health and wellness. We must monitor ourselves as well as our compatriots because we are living on the bleeding edge. There are no established experts but ourselves and as we carry our torches into the darkness, we must keep in mind that we are paving the way for all those who follow. Information is our most valuable weapon and our most precious ally. With this in mind, I invite you to join us on a journey of discovery and enlightenment leading to victory and liberty.

“Aspire to inspire before you expire” is a quote from Eugene Bell, Jr. that means more to us now than ever. We are extremely excited to welcome in 2016 with optimism, gratefulness and positivity but before we move forward, we need to take lessons from the past. We are immensely thankful for the success and blessings we’ve had in just over the course of our first year. Reflecting on what has transpired around the world in 2015

welcome

Welcome to Tokewell Magazine. We strive to bring you to the cutting edge of technology, design, lifestyle, and culture for both MMJ and Vapor.

from our triumphs to the lowest points of our humanity. The commonality between success and failure is–unity. Let’s be the best version of us we can be and lead by example. We have all been blessed with a clean slate and we need to seize new opportunities that are presented before us. We need be cognizant and recognize the negativity that poisons our energy and holds us back from where we were meant to be. Remember, be active, fight for your dream and most importantly, don’t just talk about it, be about it. There’s no limit to what we can do collectively. Aspire to inspire. #TogetherWeRise

Sincerely,

Saul Goode Editor-in-Chief

Stack Paper, Catch Vapors.

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vapelife

the voice is yours WORDS

ROY MANNAQUIL CEO, ROYBOT VISION/ROYBOT SAUCE

Vaping, like many subcultures before it, was born and bred by individuals with extreme passion. Though still in its infancy, it has seen extreme growth and innovation. It has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of people, yet continues to face trials and tribulations and is now under the microscope. We as the early adopters have been able to bring this to its current place in society as an alternative form of nicotine consumption. For many others, vaping allows them to enjoy the sensation without nicotine at all. We’ve transformed vaping into a whole new lifestyle extending beyond the hobbyists and collectors to now include cloud blowing competitions, “tricksters” and coil artists. But where does it go from here?

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How we are seen from the outside world is up to us. We all are ambassadors of vaping and need to act and react responsibly. People in the industry as well as vaping enthusiasts are well aware of the community and overall positives of vaping. However, one big concern from those outside of vaping is the argument of marketing to children. Yes, I can see how that point of view may be valid to a point, but flavors alone cannot be the target of blame. Alcohol has been offered in similar flavors that can be said to be “targeting children” can they not? Though, I think it’s quite unfair for some to make such judgments when we come from a society where underage drinking and smoking is glamorized on television, it is up to us to come together as an industry and unite as one voice. We’ve been doing a great job of policing ourselves and preparing for future possible regulations, but let’s find other places we can improve. I N STAGR A M:

vapingroybot


vapelife

the policy of truth WORDS

JOHN “JJ” JENKINS OWNER/CEO, THE VAPOR SPOT

Our industry is kinda strange. Does it ever really feel like we’re not dancing on quicksand to anyone else? There’s such joy in the eyes of my clients...And I want to cushion them from the harsh world of Senators and anti tobacco zealots and people that just don’t GET IT. But that’s not realistic. I can’t shield my clients from the truth. They need to be the ones picking up a phone or rattling off an email to some Senator or town council that doesn’t GET it. So as the proprietor of the Vapor Spot, I try to inform about how advocacy works. But its a fine line between sounding politicial and trying to inform someone. I’ve seen eyes glaze over at the mention of the word “senator”. But i think thats the difference between push and pull. We gotta stop pushing and start pulling if you know what I mean. Because, man...those commercials the anti-tobacco groups in California keep running are lame. And the only time I’ve ever seen an ecig in a kids hand was in those commercials. So chew on this for a minute...I’ve been in biz longer then most...and our opponents keep saying we target kids. Kids? Really? With no allowance money, no jobs, and it is illegal to sell to under 18 year olds already. Kids? What a straw

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man argument! But let’s say we’ve been rubbing our greedy little small businessman hands together...and plotting to overtake the youth of america with flavored liquids...where are they? It’s been over 6 years! Surely my demographic of young vapers would be trending younger and younger, right? there should be a flood of new vapers, fresh from High School...Victims of six years of Vapor Propaganda!!! These doors should be busting with 18 year olds...right? RIGHT? Nope. Our numbers of 18-21 year old vapers continue to SHRINK every year. It has dropped to a very low 3%, and we’ve seen our over 35 and older segment grow even larger. Hate to rain on the ONLY argument most senators and tobacco haters keep spouting...Vaping companies don’t target kids, we target adults that dig some different flavors. Did I mention that High School smoking rates are at historic lows? As a vaping client, I’d be pissed off that these are YOUR representatives spouting this nonsense. And using 70 million bucks in funds just for commercials! I’d recommend starting with an organization like CASAA to really put your feelings forward into action. Give em hell guys...with SCIENCE! (and always be respectful of your elders) 2016 is gonna be a good year though I predict. New and safer gear that will rival RBA building is here already. Amazing new juices. Amazing new friends. Will the greener side of the vaping industry fully blossom in California in 2016? I know the Vapor Spot is ready for it all. Here’s hoping that 2016 will be the year that common sense wins on a political level. I just read that England will be prescribing them by doctors as smoking cessation tools, quoting them at least 95% less.

WEB SI TE:

thevaporspot.com


Visit the ORIGINAL Vape Shop established 2010

THE VAPOR SPOT Sunset Strip Sherman Oaks, West Los Angeles Sacramento

www.TheVaporSpot.com


a message from casaa vapelife

WORDS

ALEX CLARK

tomorrow, there will still be a grace period before they are enforced. In that time, states and municipalities will take the opportunity to enact their own laws that needlessly restrict consumer access, use, and awareness of these potentially life-saving products.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit dedicated to protecting adult access to, and awareness of, vapor products and other low-risk alternatives to smoking. CASAA was formed in 2009 in response to the FDA inappropriately instructing U.S. customs to seize shipments of e-cigarettes as unapproved drugs. We continue to fight against unreasonable regulation at the federal, state, and local levels and work to promote Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) policies that will help reduce the public health impact of smoking. Although there is a great deal of focus on the e-cigarette regulations proposed by the FDA which will wipe out 99.9% of the vapor market, it is important to remember that we face regulatory challenges on multiple fronts. Even if the damaging FDA regulations were finalized

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Legislators are increasingly proposing additional taxes on vapor products in the wake of budget shortfalls and declining revenues generated from cigarette sales as smokers make the switch to low-risk alternatives. These proposals are routinely justified by scare campaigns designed to mislead the public into believing that low-risk, smoke-free vapor products are just as harmful as smoking. As a result of such misinformation campaigns, hundreds of municipalities and roughly half a dozen states have banned the use of vapor products in the same places where smoking is prohibited. In some cases–for example, Oregon and New Jersey–laws have been passed that go so far as to prohibit vapor retailers from allowing customers to sample products in the store before they buy. Since their introduction to the US market shortly after 2007, e-cigarettes have helped millions of smokers transition away from smoking. The adoption rate has been impressive and, by many accounts, vapor products


6.2%

Only

of US smokers will quit this year.

(http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/mmwrs/byyear/2011/mm6044a2/intro.htm)

Do we tell the other

could be one of the most important advancements in public health in the past 50 years. CASAA has collected thousands of testimonials (testimonials.casaa.org) from users that have experienced the beneďŹ ts of switching to smoke-free products, but we need millions more. Likewise, our membership is over 125,000 individuals and growing every day, but we need millions more consumers who are engaged and communicating with lawmakers. If there is one thing you can do right now to protect your access to vapor products it is to JOIN CASAA (it’s free!), learn how you can get involved, and TAKE ACTION.

WE BS IT E :

casaa.org

43 million

to just keep smoking?

SUPPORT TOBACCO HARM REDUCTION POLICIES www.CASAA.org A public service message from the Consumers Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association

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vapelife

not all cbd is created equal WORDS STEVE PASTEL CO-FOUNDER, SKELETON KEY AND LOIRE VAPEUR

The CBD market is somewhere between vitamins and contraband, between myth and science, and between information and propaganda. CBDs health and medicinal benefits are widely publicized through the internet and on television. Publicized health claims list many benefits from simply reducing pain and anxiety to life-changing miracles like preventing cancer.

CBD, contains terpenes, fatty acids, and even trace amounts of vitamin E. 99% pure CBD or “crystals”, is not naturally occurring. It is created using solvents and chemicals such as Hexane. The chemicals/solvents are then stripped to give it a colorless, tasteless effect. Although it may easier to formulate with, the efficacy is lost when creating the single molecule 99% CBD.

The growing demand for CBD is giving rise to a broad range of new CBD products in 2016. It will be a major challenge for new consumers to make educated buying decisions. Given that the CBD market is new, standards do not exist yet, and it is easy for an uninformed buyer to end up with a product that does not meet their expectations.

Crystalline CBD products are like caffeine pills where the focus is primarily on the effects. Hemp Extract CBD is its antithesis, it is the natural essence of its biological origin, and like the complexity and variation of a cup of coffee one rarely considers the caffeine. Hemp Extract CBD like coffee can differ tremendously depending on plant breed, season, and soil location. CBD hemp extracts usually have an earthy tone or woodsy flavor profiles. However, in rare instances CBD can have a pleasant truffle-like aroma. The variation in flavor characteristics may place it among coffees and teas as a pastime. As CBD moves into the artisan market, we may see an environment develop much like the wine industry, where connoisseurs give value to flavor profiles.

First of all, not all CBD products are created equal. CBD is an unregulated market filled with unscrupulous businesses. Many products advertise a certain CBD concentration, however, when tested, either have no CBD or well under the posted amount. A lot of this is due to a general ignorance on the blending of CBD. Many companies made calculation errors that led to smaller CBD concentrations than declared. In the beginning of 2015, CBD products were so inaccurate that the FDA tested products on the market and issued warning letters to several companies who were claiming false CBD concentrations. Consumers should insist receiving independent testing results from their vendors. Besides the concentration, buyers need to also be aware of the differences in CBD quality. The total plant complex naturally derived hemp

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Our current nicotine based vape market is limited to the dwindling smoking population whereas CBD has the potential to make vaping more than just smoking cessation. Vaping for wellness is the future. WEB SI TE: loirevapeur.com I N STAGR A M: loirevapeur WEB SI TE: skeletonkeymech.com FACEB OOK: skeletonkeymech


THE LEADING SUPPLIER OF PREMIUM WHOLESALE INDUSTRIAL-GRADE CBD TO THE VAPE INDUSTRY

#VAPEFORWELLNESS #VAPEWITHPURPOSE

TOPFLIGHTDISTRIBUTION.COM FOR INQUIRIES: SALES@TOPFLIGHTDISTRIBUTION.COM


new products 20 tokewell magazine


With their core mission to provide vape enthusiasts with stylish and functional vape devices, the artisans at Asmodus have done it again with their latest installment–The Snow Wolf. The Snow Wolf is the perfect marriage of modern technology and classic looks which equates to the perfect vape lifestyle accessory. The Snow Wolf comes in two sizes: the 200W and 75W mini, both regulated with temperature control for added safety and vaping customization. The Snow Wolf comes in an array of colorways Nike would be proud of. Moreover, if your pockets allow, the Snow Wolf is also available in a limited white/ gold option for the ruling elite. So, whether you’re calling shots from a corporate boardroom or chucking billowing clouds, this mod is a reflection of class, sophistication and functionality. WEB SI TE:

asmodus.com

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Elixir Vape Co. has done it again! They have released a limited batch of Bliss from their new line–Speakeasy. Their first line Epothecary featured common herbs and vitamins to create distinct physical effects for wellness. But now their new line, Speakeasy has taken this to the next level with Bliss. The flavor profile is a delicious, tart strawberry margarita with a splash of vanilla cream. The formulation is comprised of yerba mate, a herb that is known for its stimulant properties mated with kava to produce a blissful experience. It’s clear that in 2016, the artisans at EVC will continue to push the envelope through the vape wellness and nutraceutical channels and we can’t wait to see what’s next. W EBSI TE:

elixir-vape.com

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Session and Speaking:

C H IE F C A N N A B I S CORRE S P O ND ENT RYA N N E R Z TA L KS TO TO K EWELL

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Few people these days can lay claim to being an enigma, but the man known as Alfred Ryan Nerz may have a strong case. Yale graduate? Check, Competitive eater? Check. Published author? Check. TV’s First Chief Cannabis Correspondent? Checkmate. The man of many hats, long days, and high aspirations has carved out quite a unique path for himself, and his perspectives on cannabis culture both in the U.S. and abroad have won him a great many fans and accolades. His book, Marijuanamerica: One Man’s Quest to Understand America’s Dysfunctional Love Affair with Weed is regaled as something of a Kerouac-ian cannabis crusade, a road-trippy tale of danger and discovery in regards to marijuana culture and use within the United States. His work with Fusion TV as the How did you end up creating your position at Fusion TV? I had written a book entitled Marijuanamerica, and I had previously been working for NPR and my boss there came down to Fusion and was working on a new TV show. While I was working on a morning show, they decided that they wanted me to do a cannabis segment that we could keep doing and I was in – as long as it was serious. I created The Cannab-

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network’s Chief Cannabis Correspondent has helped to educate and entertain the mainstream in regards to the benefits of cannabis consumption and legalization - something he is very passionate about. “I didn’t want the pieces to be stupid stoner jokes, I wanted a more serious, positive, journalistic approach to the subject,” Ryan says regarding the inception of his TV role. Ryan’s points of view can also be found in his many writings outside the pages of his Marijuanamerica novel, with a range of pieces for outlets like Esquire, The Village Voice, and Time Out New York, to name a few. We caught up with Ryan to tap his ever evolving brain for clues as to how his life has taken shape, as well as his unique (and usually right on) takes regarding all things cannabis.

usiness Report. It went well enough as a segment that the CEO of the company wanted me to do a pilot. In a couple of weeks I put together some segments I had done previously, added some connective tissue and it’s been on from there. How has the reception been thus far? It’s been really good. It’s ironic that I would be doing this show in Miami which is not a legal state, and is in the south, I feel

like I’m a little bit of a vacuum down here where I don’t get a lot of feedback. Fusion is a branded cable network but it’s not like a CBS or an ABC, which is our parent company, so when I go to Denver or certain places and get the feedback it lets me know I’m on the right track. I want people to take legalization seriously. Why do you think cannabis is so polarizing? I think the origins of the


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plant itself have a little to do with it. I actually got to meet met with Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Head of Harvard Psychiatry Department. He was like “Cannabis is a ‘sui generis’ plant (one of a kind). In its effects, it can be like alcohol, like aspirin and even like basil all at once. It’s so many things that it can be both frustrating and misleading when people try to treat it as one thing.

think it will be taken off as a Schedule 1 drug in most states either medically or recreationally. It’s definitely become a buzzworthy topic throughout the U.S.In the 2016 election, it’s almost more popular to be pro-marijuana than anti-marijuana. Advisors are telling candidates that an anti-stance would be detrimental to their campaign and that’s a first for sure.

How did you get the idea to start writing about it? I grew up in Indiana and was really straight laced, I played sports, and was also a serious academic kid. The stoners were my friends and they would say things like, “You’re a pothead who doesn’t smoke pot.” I was pre-Med, in a fraternity, playing hockey and soccer, and I wasn’t enjoying any of it. I wanted to write, do art, and I started using marijuana and hanging out with creative people. I started doing independent videos, writing more, and after I graduated, I went to New York City and got really interested in marijuana as a topic since it started to become more mainstream like “America’s worst kept secret.”

What other countries do you see as making strides toward legalization and acceptance? Uruguay is already lined up to federally legalize it but they are trying to figure out exactly how to do that. Canada’s new Prime Minister looks really on board. The Netherlands have surprisingly taken a back seat. I’ve heard of a lot of collectives in Spain and they are making great progress. Portugal is another county experimenting with legalization—and that’s for all drugs. Of course Jamaica is also working on it. I think once people see the money rolling in and the taxes being used for positive things, everything will change.

What do you think about the future cannabis in the U.S.? I think the future here is limitless. I think we are finally leading the way. Places like The Netherlands, Jamaica, even Vancouver, BC were all ahead of us. Now we are making the best product, we’re creating the most cutting edge businesses, we’re not quite there on the research side yet though because it is still a Schedule 1 drug. We’re using it for kids with seizures and it’s clearly working but we don’t have the documentation that it works just yet. Within 8-10 years I

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Do you think people who meet you from the cannabis community have preconceived notions about you? Do people always want to smoke with you? Sometimes that can be the case. When your face and name gets associated with cannabis, they assume that you just want to get super stoned and do dabs, of course I’m not here to judge anyone’s consumption but there are levels to the motivation. That’s with anything though – there’s no need to take 20 shots of whiskey, either. It’s all good, to each his own, and even in that scenario, you’re probably better of doing a bunch of dabs than 20 shots of whiskey (laughs)


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What forms of consumption do you favor and what are you seeing out there currently? I don’t think flower will ever go away because of the rituals of smelling it, breaking it up, choosing bong, joint or blunt; there’s a social aspect of that but I think within the next five years I think vaping is in the lead. You go to Denver and there are people in a nice four-star restaurant vaping in between their appetizer and their entrée. You can control your high, it’s a bit better for your lungs, it is discrete and it is consistent. With edibles, you can’t always get that consistency and you don’t want to necessarily always associate it with eating. Dabs can be more of a very ultra-recreational party mode consumption method.

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You have also quit smoking cigarettes. What was your process? It took me a long time to find an e-cig that worked for me. I started with cig-alikes then I went to a bigger mod with a tank and I think vaping has added a couple of years of my life already. (laughs) I have to ask, but did your foray into competitive eating stem from your cannabis use? It didn’t actually come from the munchies! (laughs) An old buddy of mine got involved with the International Federation of Competitive Eating. He was telling me that world was insane and full of characters so I wanted to check it out. I was actually a host of their competitions for like four or five years, so while I was writing, I would host these events. I went to Maui for an

onion eating contest, I went to England to do a mince pie eating contest, and I went to Singapore to do a chicken satay contest I went five years in a row to the Stockton Deep Fried Asparagus Competition. So prior to the book I was immersed in that world and for the book I wrote about it called Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit, I trained, I competed myself, and I definitely used marijuana to get myself in the right mode. I would make the case that it’s actually harder to do competitive eating when you’re stoned because the speed element and the taste become too overwhelming to you in that state. There were some guys who were young stoners trying to use it as an advantage, but it was funnier than anything.


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, The People s Champ WORDS

MAXIMILLIAN STERLING

SNAPS

CINDY GALINDO

We sit with UFC superstar Nate Diaz and talk about growing up in the 209, his brothers unjustiďŹ able suspension and how a certain Irishman took a page out of his playbook. issue 09 january/february 2016

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D

eep rooted in the streets of Stockton, California the future looked bleak especially considering that it logs in annually as one of the cities with the highest crime rates in the US. Meet Nate Diaz one-half of the infamous Diaz Brothers who have dominated the mixed martial arts promotion UFC for the better half of a decade in violent fashion. Fortunately, Nate didn’t fall victim to his surroundings and found solace in both the boxing ring and octagon versus gang violence and hustling corner blocks like many of his friends. Opting to follow his brother Nick’s footsteps, Nate started training in MMA at the age of 14 and quickly realized this was something he was good at. His passion for the sport led him to compete in MMA promotions WEC, Strikeforce, and Pancrase in Japan and ended up winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 5. With some of the fiercest and staunchest supporters, the Diaz brothers ended up becoming the UFC’s

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biggest draws before newcomers Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. With both brothers rapidly ascending to superstardom, something outrageous happened. In 2015, Nick Diaz was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission 5 years for his failed drug test at UFC 183 for testing positive for marijuana after fighting Anderson Silva who happened to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs and only received a 1-year suspension. With this appalling judgment handed down by the NSAC, Nate is currently tasked with holding down the fort for his brother and he’s doing just that emphatically. His last win against Michael Johnson after a little over a year hiatus garnered him “Fight of the night” honors was a brilliant showcase of Nate’s skillset as a complete fighter. It was also highlighted with an expletive-laden tirade aimed towards newly minted featherweight champ Conor McGregor during his interview with Joe Rogan right after the fight. Like Nate said


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in his post-fight interview, “We can do this shit tonight. Whenever. Next week..” Some people might consider this typical Diaz bravado and arrogance as a lack of respect for their opponents but the thing that people fail to realize is this isn’t staged, this is how they really feel. Nate is not one to mince his words. Hopefully, the UFC makes this happen because there’s really no other fight that would generate the type of buildup and competitive flare that a McGregor vs. Diaz main event would generate. Nate might not be the best brand ambassador complete with pull quotes and witty catchphrases required to be a UFC poster child, but make no mistake he means what he says, and says what he means. People need to remember that Nate is a fighter from the hood. He’s keeping it 100% and has no intention of swapping out a RepHard tee for an Ermenegildo Zegna Bespoke. Fighting is what he’s good at. Extremely good at. He’s not in the fight game to test his skills or be in the

40 tokewell magazine

limelight. He’s in it to win it. His partial hiatus in 2014 was attributed to the lack of competition and meaningful fights. He does not want to be an MMA journeyman or a paycheck-to-paycheck fighter. Everybody knows that the career of a combat fighter can be short-lived due to the violent nature of the sport and Nate isn’t trying to be a statistic or casualty of his craft. The Diaz brothers are definitely the most polarizing fighters the promotion has seen due to their oftentimes lackadaisical attitudes and unwillingness to conform to being company men. For that same reason, they are loved as well. Don’t let those optics fool you, they take their work very seriously. When Nate isn’t training for his next fight, he’s running a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy with his brother Nick in Lodi, California. We sit with Nate Diaz and find out how this kid from the 209 overcame being a product of his environment and how he plans on demolishing the competition ahead in the UFC.


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What was it like growing up in Stockton, California? Growing up in Stockton was alright. It’s a small town so you get to see a lot of the same people you grew up with, good and bad.

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Like many people from small towns that found success, why did you decide to stay? It’s where I’m from. My friends are here, my family, my gym. Don’t get me wrong, I like to get the hell out and travel when I

can, but I always come back to recoup. This is where home is. What was it like to get back into the octagon after a year hiatus? It felt good to get the win and back on track. I just had to sit


back and see what was going on. I was waiting for something to happen so I had a reason to fight again. I don’t want to fight for the sake of fighting. I wanted good fights and a reason to do so. I was waiting for the

momentum build up. Do you think there’s a double standard in the UFC when it comes to you and Conor McGregor? I do. This guy comes in and

does what I’ve been doing for my whole career and now he’s something special. I feel like he’s been watching my brother and me over the years and doing the exact same thing. The difference is that the UFC is pushing and

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marketing that and people think it’s great. I can’t hate on him though. There are a lot of people hating on him right now but he’s doing a good job. I recognize that and can’t take anything away from him. He just peeped game and pushing it. I feel like everything I’ve done and worked for, he’s done the same exact thing and has all the success. Now, that’s a good reason for me to fight. What are your thoughts on your brothers suspension? It’s ridiculous. I mean you’re taking his livelihood and career from him. It’s high-level bullying. I’m glad the NSAC realized their wrongdoing and reduced his sentence. It’s just been great to see all the support and backup he’s received. Even Cher stuck up for him! (laughs) Do you think cannabis will ever be legal in combat sports? It should be. It’s the fight life and they should encourage it for the wellness of the fighters. You train all day. It’s a 24 hour a day job.They already take your food and water to make weight. They should absolutely legalize it. What’s the alternative? Drug yourself with all types of medication? It’s the perfect thing for all athletes. Do you consider cannabis a performance enhancing drug? Its performance enhancing because it makes your quality of life better in my opinion. It enhances everything you do. You

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can train harder as well. but not like taking steroids in the physical sense. For instance, If you’re a lazy fuck, you’ll be passed out eating chips and cookies. If I know that I gotta run or train for an event and I’m feeling lazy, I’ll toke up and get right to it. I know I’m gonna do the run regardless, but if I gotta do it,

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I might as well be lifted. I support the movement 100% Thanks for the interview. Any last words? Shout out to the Cesar Gracie fight team, Rep Hard clothing, Ziggys and Tokewell. Happy new year and let’s keep things positive.


WORDS

RENE GALINDO

SNAPS

BAYLE WHITT

In a multi-billion male-dominated industry, meet the woman who created one of vape games most prominent lifestyle brands out of necessity. We sit with this self-made entrepreneur to talk about her passion for public service and how that mindset yielded her an empire known today as - Suicide Bunny.


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2015 was unquestionably the year of female empowerment as evidenced by the global exposure and accomplishments that Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, and the USA women’s soccer team have garnered. The commonality that each of these influential women shares is that they all have conquered insurmountable odds in “maledominated” genres and demolished everything that stood in their way along to their paths to success. While not in the mainstream limelight like her sorority of accomplished sisters, one woman is taking a page from their book and writing her own story of success. Meet Pip Gresham - the owner and CEO of the world famous vape brand Suicide Bunny. Like the female pioneers that changed the game before her, Pip is making her mark in an industry and movement that has literally changed billions of people’s lives for the better. Growing up in the lone star state, Pip is no stranger to hard work and putting in her own sweat equity to achieve her goals. As a result of her drive, she obtained two degrees in counseling and teaching during her collegiate tenure. Her work ethic, passion, and philanthropic nature are what guided her to an early career in social services post-college. Pip loved the work she did and it was a dream come true, but her entrepreneurial nature left her feeling like something was missing. Pip knew she was destined for more than a typical 9-to-5 gig. The recipe to any successful business is to solve a problem and provide the solution. Pip and her husband knew they needed to quit smoking and that was the catalyst that prompted her to focus on options to kick the habit, “I started researching ways to quit smoking and tried everything with no success. That’s when I looked into vaping.” Well like all good things, it was born out of necessity,”

says Pip. That train of thought is what helped her launch her own company. “There was really no good e-juices at the time that worked for us, so after extensive research, I started mixing my own. It was mainly for our personal use but as we started going to vape shows and people started to try it they would post it on Facebook. That’s when it started to pick up locally here in Dallas.” said Pip. With her highly successful e-Liquid brand Suicide Bunny going full steam, she realized she needed to quit her job and focus all of her energy full time in order to fulfill the demand for her elixirs. Fast forward to the present day, her business has grown exponentially larger but she’s managed to find time to balance work and family. When time permits, Pip spends time with her loved ones and enjoy the fruits of labor which entail an outdoor and active lifestyle coupled with her affinity for old school cars and hot rods, “I wouldn’t say that I’m a gearhead, but I like to go fast!” divulges Pip with a coy smile. With a successful business under her belt and a small fleet of cars, she’s definitely setting the standard for the boys to aim for. That said, let’s find out how this self-made woman went from going to being a public servant to serving an entire nation. Were you a former smoker? I went to college right after high school and that didn’t work out quite as I thought so, I ended up dropping out the first time around. Unfortunately, like most college students, it’s also where I picked up a bad smoking habit. Did you ever go back and get your degree? I did and got a degree in counseling as well as my teaching credentials. It’s funny to me because I was the girl that didn’t like to follow rules and was kind

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of rebellious. I didn’t really believe in going to college, I ended up getting two degrees. It’s crazy how things work out. I worked in my field of study for about 3 years before changing careers. How in the world did you get the nickname “Pip”? Actually, my husband Scott started calling me that. I’d always have these crazy ideas and get into sticky situations to the point that he used to say, “You know, you’re like Pippi Longstocking! You’re always getting into trouble!” The name was shortened up and has stuck since then. (laughs) What was the catalyst that sparked your foray into the vape industry? Like all good things, it was born out of necessity. For instance, the plastic ends of shoelaces. No one pays attention to those but someone made those out of necessity. It was the same for my husband and I with smoking, it was necessary for us to quit. I wanted to help him when he wanted to quit smoking. I’m one of those people who believes I can fix anything if I just research it. So I started researching ways to quit smoking and tried everything with no success.

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That’s when I looked into vaping. How did you get started in the vape business? There were really no good e-juices at the time that worked for us. So after extensive research, I started mixing my own. It was mainly for our personal use but as we started going to vape shows and people started to try them, they would post their reviews on Facebook. That’s when it started to pick up locally here in Dallas. When did you know things were getting serious? I had to do everything from home at first. I live in a fairly nice suburban area and I’d have people come at all hours picking up boxes of product. We’d joke about it being a drug house because that’s what it looked like. It wasn’t until an online retailer, who’s no longer in business, placed an order for 500 units. At that point, I was able to grow my business enough to buy office space, build a lab and have the necessary things to mass produce. It all just happened so fast and furious. I mean up until then, I hadn’t even had labels or a name. I had to come up with the name and artwork all at once.


Your branding is amazing. What inspired the name Suicide Bunny? Well, “Suicide” came from the “Suicide Girls”. I felt that they really embraced female empowerment and had attributes that I myself wanted to portray. “Bunny” was kind of a play on the industry being mostly male dominated and I wanted a softer tone to the name. There are some people who argue that the vape industry is marketing to children, what would you say to that? I can see why some would say that, but I don’t think it all falls on the makers of the products. We can take all the necessary steps and measures on our side, but It’s up to the stores and shops to do their part in preventing these products from ending up in the hands of children by carding and following the age restrictions. We really need to do our due diligence and take an industry that has provided so much opportunity seriously. With everything you have going on, how do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do? Family is very important to me so I make the time to be with them. I don’t care what you do or what line of work you’re in, you can always find time for family. I like going outdoors hiking, camping, you know, just being active with my family. I also love hot rods and fast cars. For example I have a fully modded Porsche 911 Turbo with a one of kind body kit. This technician

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had to come down from Russia just to install it for me so it’s the only one like it. I also have a chopped and bagged ‘67 C10 on the floor complete with suicide doors and it is my love! I have a ‘51 Mercury which is still in progression and coming along nicely. Shout out to Marc Williams, who is my friend and builder. He owns Plano Speed Shop, which has done all the work on my vehicles.. Where do you see yourself and this industry in 5 years?

Gosh, I really don’t know, I’m a day by day kind of girl. I will tell you this, I hope I’m around long enough to see the death of cigarettes. It would be nice to see that in my lifetime.


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WEB SI TE:

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A R T I S A N A L

C O L L E C T I V E

Rightful King WORDS

MIKE LANDERS

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eing a product of your environment is one thing, but being a prophet of your environment is quite another. Lofty for sure, but the mentality behind artist Brian Kirhagis is what has catapulted the Baltimore-born painter and designer into the spotlight as the New York Art Scene’s current torch holder. Brian Kirhagis, or BK The Artist as he is more largely known, is an amalgam of artistic talent and social commentary, representing the Hip Hop Generation and translat-

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ing the virtues of the culture to millennials and the mainstream in one foul swoop. Equal parts Dali and RZA, it is creation and commentary that propels his messages across the artistic disciplines of surrealism, realism, and expressionism into a new archetype; a son of the Harings and Basquiats, translating the streets to the canvas and painting portraits of the future. “I feel like there is this invisible ceiling that has been put over Hip Hop and it’s my goal to help shatter it,” says the student of the culture.


In action, he is doing just that, garnering cosigns and press from the likes of the New York Daily News, Huffington Post, Complex, Design and Trend, and Dame Dash, who believed in him enough to feature some of BK’s work at his own Poppington Art Gallery. While meeting and working with members of the culture he has looked up to since childhood certainly helped to boost his confidence, he remains very focused and secure in his mission, so don’t expect to ever be able to

pigeonhole this dynamic visual creator. “Language can be such a barrier,” explains BK. “Everybody speaks differently, but everybody sees the same. You don’t have a different language of your iris or your cornea, and that is why art is such a universal language and why I think I have been able to connect with such a broad base of people. That’s what the beauty of art is. That’s why I challenge myself to never be lazy with my art. I have to do it justice.” Spoken like a true visionary.

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How did your upbringing inspire you to get into art? Had you always wanted to be an artist? I’m originally from Baltimore, I grew up in Baltimore city. To be honest, being an artist wasn’t really the thing to do, I was involved in athletics and most of my life was pretty normal in that sense. Those close to me knew about my artistic aspirations and my parents were supportive of my talents but they let me do whatever I found most interesting. In high school we won state championships, I wrestled for the U.S. National Team and these were the cool things for me growing up. Things changed for me when I started taking AP classes and my classmates ended up being the nerds that I probably made fun of as a freshman or sophomore. Here I am captain of the wrestling team and these people became my friends and we shared jokes and I went from making fun of them to defending them. That really changed the way I looked at the world. I had opportunity to go to school for athletics but I didn’t believe in those as my future. I grew up by a sign that said 95 North to New York and I knew that was the epicenter of the art world. If there was a place where I could do what I wanted to do, I believed it would be there. The time spent around those “smart kids” also made a lot of other things in my life irrelevant in a way. That change was good for me. It was about people and relationships instead

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of material things and pop culture and it really set me up for what I’m doing now. Did you pursue art education in New York City? What was your next move? I couldn’t get into art school because I didn’t really have a portfolio, so when I got to New York, I went to Hofstra University for Graphic Design. My father advised me that I should have a more versatile degree so that was a good move. I was good at it and I started my own company after graduating and for about two years, art had taken a back seat in the sense that I was setting myself up for the long run. I figured this company could eventually support my art and more sooner than later. That made more sense than just doing the day job thing and being taxed and trying to use the 10% left of me to pursue art. I was hiring employees, getting the company running and the bottom fell out of the economy in ’08, so and all my clients’ budgets dried up. I had to lay off some of my workers and it was really a reset for me. The whole route was supposed to set me up to do my art work but it pulled me further from it because running your own business is a lot of work. After that happened I decided to go full bore and be an artist and some of my same clients began buying paintings and it just kept going, I haven’t looked back.

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It sounds like it was meant to be. I never referred to myself as an artist. I’ve never made a secret that I’m not the best painter, but my technical ability will always get better because I work hard to improve upon it. When I was still in school, I approached Hofstra’s gallery to promote my own show because they had a month where there wasn’t a student show. I made my own flyers, promoted the show. I was just a design student at the time. I thumbtacked drawings to the wall, my mom and dad and brother came up from Baltimore to see it. I remember my mom with tears in her eyes saying, “Bri, you’re an artist now.” I sat there almost like when you’re trying on a new jacket and said, “I’m an artist.” It was new for me. I became almost like the artist on campus who wasn’t part of the art department. I graduated school in ’05, but it really popped for me in 2013. Yeah what happened after you graduated and after the economy forced you to dissolve your company? What did you do? After the economy fell out, I was still a presence in New York. The quality of the work was there but I didn’t really have the avenues to get it out or show it yet. I had a long term relationship with a girl for seven years and she cheated on me which broke my heart. I had a manager who approached

me and believed in me. He was a real street dude and we did some really cool things together, working with Steiner Sports, The Yankees, The Mets, we did a trip to Miami and then he passed away unexpectedly and this was right after the break up. Two anchors of my life were gone and I started losing patience in regards to people not knowing about my art and I vowed to work harder than anybody to make things happen. Most people would have been too frustrated or depressed to continue. How did you find the fuel to keep going? Were you afraid that art might not be the way for you to have a career? I remember in the beginning of August that year I got a phone call from my mother. She was telling me she admired me for sticking to my dream. She wanted to know how I was still going. I was almost 30 at the time and I told her I was following my heart and that this was the only way I knew. I can’t explain it, it’s just like this is who I am and this is what’s inside of me. There was no other way. A week after the phone call, I got an email from somebody telling me that they really enjoyed my article in the Huffington Post. I had no clue what they were talking about, so I googled my name and it was a day I’ll never forget. Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Complex, Design

and Trend, articles over in Spain and the media onslaught the week out from my gallery opening was just crazy. What was your gallery opening for? You were working on an exhibit? Yeah. Some of the media coverage that I began to get compared me to Salvador Dali. It was said that I was like a “new school Dali.” He’s my biggest influence and in my opinion the greatest painter ever to do it. It was humbling but I was like you guys are bugging, I’m not even there yet. Then it became so repetitive I started to wonder does anybody see that I am doing original work? Like, “Stop comparing me to him.” I decided to use it to my advantage. I decided to do a Dali x BK exhibition with the theme of “What if Dali was born in 1983 on the east coast of the United States and grew up on hip hop culture?” What would his works look like? I took 17 of his compositions and remixed them in composition and also in the context of our society for the exhibition, the process took me about a year and a half of painting and planning during this low point in my life. Wow, so you had been just painting and planning despite things going south. Had you done any other exhibitions? A friend of mine, Fumero, had approached me about doing a joint show with him at Dame

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Dash’s Poppington Gallery. I told him we could use the works I had that weren’t a part of the Dali show since I liked his work and had been a fan of Dame forever. Meeting Dame was cool, but my goal was to be his friend, I mean, he’s co-signed some of the biggest movers and shakers of our culture and I wanted to see how I stood up to it and wondered if he would see my talent. Not only did he see it, he became one of my most avid supporters. I showed him my Biggie pieces, and a piece I did based off of a Jay-Z lyric “I’ll show you how to move in a room full of vultures.” He told me that inspired his whole “Culture Vulture” movement, which was really humbling.

I got to become good friends with Cam and Jim Jones and Dipset. T.I. had hit me up off the Instagram to meet at my studio in Brooklyn. He picked up a few of my pieces and he hit me up the next day to do the cover art for he and Chris Brown’s new single. The relationship and collaborations with Swizz Beats have been fun, too, we just did a show in Miami. To be honest, I have turned down a lot of requests for album artwork because I don’t want to be pigeon holed in that way. I don’t paint for the walls of galleries, I paint for the pages of history. I just want to be that top bar. I know there’s no greater calling or responsibility than the one I have to my people, my culture, and my time.

That’s cool. It sounds like Dame was feeling your movement. Did you guys end up working together on anything? We did his opening and a few blocks away was my Dali exhibition at the Sacred Gallery so he came out to that opening. We had over 1000 people there, the media was crazy and people were saying that it was one of the more exciting shows to happen in New York in decades. He and I continued to build our relationship, I co-directed a video with him for Smoke DZA. One of the things I appreciate about Dame is that he doesn’t do things out of the kindness of his heart, he does things because he recognizes talent. I appreciate him for that and for giving me the alley-oop and knowing that I wasn’t going to stop.

Social commentary plays a big part in what you do. Why is that? We live in this microwave society; everybody’s hungry and they want to put the food in for 30 seconds and eat. Nobody wants to put in the work. With the music now, it’s just about hooks and beats and I feel that art has become that same way. The intricacy of the craft is missing. I’m doing a project now with Joell Ortiz called “Rightful Kings” which will be like a 6-song EP and while he’s writing rhymes, I am going to be painting and we are talking about setting that order straight within the kingdom. I want young men and women to know that they can be kings and queens, despite what society says. He’s such a beast with the bars big artists have stayed away from working with him, and I feel that on the art side with me, that situation has been true in more than a few cases.

Have you done any other collaborations that you are proud of ? I was able to do the 20th anniversary of Enter the 36 Chambers with Wu-Tang, and I am the biggest Wu-tang head. I had a meeting with Power and he wants me to do more art for them and when the time is right we will. That’s an honor. I’ve literally been able to work with or come in contact with people I genuinely am a fan of and who inspire me.

Have the recent mass shootings had any effect on your recent work? I’m leaving tomorrow morning to be with Amnesty International to paint on behalf of a man who was a political prisoner for basically speaking his mind on social media and defending people who had done the same. The whole idea of the painting is how these differ-

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ent cultures aren’t allowed the same freedoms as we are. When the Trayvon Martin situation happened, I created artwork because of it right away. As I’ve grown and the exposure and the platform has grown, it’s almost like these things find me. I think that I have positioned myself to be a voice for a lot of people who think similarly to me. I just feel like there’s a purpose for me that’s bigger than myself and I think my talent happened to where I can put these things into imagery is really needed. Why do you think people have responded so strongly to your art? I’m using this program called “Fast Flow” where I use art for education and the idea is that even when I’m at my studio, people will say that the messages come across as being more interesting. I think all these messages we get, you have to look at who the messenger is. How is it getting out these people or these kids? I’m not lost in how I

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look and the fact that I came up in this culture. I think I feel very familiar to a lot of people and I think when they see what I’m on and what I am representing they gravitate to it. I do feel like my purpose here on earth is to do exactly what I’m doing and the purpose is bigger than myself. You hear all the cheesy lines like “You’re not given more than you can handle, I’m comfortable in knowing that if there was anybody that was given this torch, that I have been blessed with the tools to make sure it is done responsibly. I feel like I’m the epitome of the guy who wasn’t supposed to make it. I think the fact that I have just makes my work that much more accessible for others to want to realize their own dreams. How would you categorize your art within the realms of artistic disciplines and techniques? I believe that “-isms” are used to divide people and define what might not be definable. Surre-

alism. Realism. Expressionism. I’m an artist of the people. You can’t attach an ism to what I do. I don’t need to only use one style or one aspect of my creativity, I think I bounce across five or six different places or styles and it’s hard to define what I do. The answer is that I am an artist of life. I paint from life and experience to make you feel something. But wouldn’t it be easier to attach yourself to a particular style or movement? Maybe, but I treat art like a sport; I want to be a “five-tool” artist. Offense, defense, make my teammates better, etc. If I needed to paint Trayvon in a realistic manner, I want to be able to do that. If I need to convey a message through abstract space and color, then I need to be able to do that. If I step in front of a blank canvas and pick up a brush, I don’t want my skill set to dictate what I am able to do. I’ll leave it up to the rest to decide what type of box to put me in.


gastronomics

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nima e Cuore and famiglia are the words that first come into mind when you sit down at this exquisite restaurant nestled in the upscale neighborhood of Larchmont Village. Familiar to native angelinos, Larchmont Village is home to some of the most coveted restaurant real estate in all of Southern California and it’s damn near impossible to get in without the perfect recipe of knowing the right people and a dash of luck on your side. Entrepreneur and gastro-genius, Chef Steve Vernetti has not only managed to open up a authentic Italian kitchen but has made his family style dining a culinary staple in only a short amount of time. Bringing a touch of the past to the trendy neighborhood along with his extensive culinary experience from Michelin rated restaurants and his world travels, Vernetti feeds everyone like his own family, “my kids have all been big food heads from a really young age. They’ve eaten everything the adults eat - snails, oysters, crab, lobster, steaks. We could take them all over Europe and they’d eat everything we eat at 10 and 11 o’clock at night like Europeans do, which makes life really easy. That’s gotta come from my lineage, my family.” Lucky for us, we’re all famiglia. WORDS

LEILANI ANDERSON H+R PR

SNAPS

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gastronomics How’d you get to where you are today? It’s been a journey. First cooking while I’m in college, and then dropping out of college for the 12th time and moving to England with my new wife - it’s what you do. You’re working at all these great restaurants and you’re learning and you’re doing all these great things, but after ten years, I reached a point where I’d been doing it for so long that I finally broke. Being a chef is a lot of compromises - it’s a really hard, thankless task that you really don’t get compensated for, and until you know what you’re path is and what you’re meant to do and you’re able to cook the food you feel your heart is behind, it’s a tough job. After having done it for so long, coming back from

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England and having cooked in Michelin star restaurants with some of London’s finest cooks of the time, I was broken - I had finally reached my end. I came to Los Angeles and cooked for the Patina Group; helped them open up a new restaurant in Pasadena and it all fell apart right there. I realized that kind of food, Michelin star restaurants? That’s not the kinda cooking I wanna do - I needed to take a break. It was scary to take a ten year break from the kitchens, just to get out and find life and raise children and figure out what was really important to me. It wasn’t until after I had children that I really started to find my own culinary path. After that it was just holding onto it and keeping that inside of me until I found the right place. It

was a twelve year search, but finally this small restaurant became available a few blocks from my house. I think I was in Canada playing hockey with my son when I got one of those miraculous, ‘Hey, there’s a business opportunity you’re gonna wanna look into’ phone calls. Larchmont Boulevard is probably one of the hardest streets in all of LA to get a restaurant in. People try for decades, and it goes way beyond just knowing someone - has to be the right place at the right time. I got the call and I came straight home. Opportunities like this don’t just fall into your lap every day. I brought my checkbook to the meeting and during negotiations, I found out that the shop next to us was also looking to get out. The lady who ran it liked me and agreed


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to sell me her business at a reasonable price. I took over the restaurant in the beginning of 2014, ran it for 8 months, then closed down for 9 months of construction. I was able to put the two shops together, tear down the wall, put in proper bathrooms, we’re gonna have our beer and wine license, and now we’re gonna have a proper restaurant that I can run for the next twenty years. We reopened it about sixth months ago, and it’s been miraculous seeing how it’s building, how it’s growing, seeing how people love and thank you. Having all of our friends and neighbors in this neighborhood, come and thank us for opening up a cool little neighborhood spot. The mayor, who lives in the neighborhood, came to me and said, “We’ve been waiting 14 years for you to open up a restaurant, and now you’ve done it and we love it!” Now we see each other, and it’s not just seeing the mayor here anymore; he’s a neighbor. He is a neighbor and this is his neighborhood spot. He doesn’t shake hands, we hug it out! I’m hugging the mayor of Los Angeles like a friend, a brother. Tell us a little about your restaurant. Los Angeles has tons of fancy places my place is not that place. I’m a family place, something that’s practically gone. This is the golden unicorn, a myth. People don’t even remember or know what a family-style Italian eatery is like. Nothing else here has that mom-and-pop feel - you know, the people who live in the neighborhood, whose kids go to school with all the other kids, whose kids are gonna work there, and their friends are gonna work there too. We’ve got a lot of people in the neighborhood who have been waiting for years for a proper, cool restaurant that they can go sit

and feel relevant in, feel like they’re in New York or Brooklyn or London or Italy, like they’re part of something bigger than Los Angeles has been able to provide for them. You come to my place, and it’s just as if you’ve come to my house - you’ll get the same attention to detail, the same front of the house people who greet you like they’d greet you at my place. Why? Because they all believe in what we’re doing here and they see how it’s energized the neighborhood and made people happy to go out again, to bring their family members. In LA, and especially Hollywood, it’s something that just doesn’t exist. It’s a real honor to be able to bring that to this neighborhood, to my neighborhood, and to be able to cook for my neighbors, because that’s basically what we’re doing here. How does this help you influence the LA food scene? I hope that other restaurants see this formula, see what we’re doing here, and realize that this is what people want. Young people, old people, everyone in between - this is what they’re craving. It’s a little bit of the past that they only know of in stories or in movies, but they never got a chance to see themselves. We’re gonna give them that - the sense of family, the sense of a traditional Italian eatery - so when they go home they’ll still feel a part of that, and they’ll bring some of that to their own children. That’s why we’re here. You only use the best ingredients. Where do your influences stem from? It’s just something I grew up around. We were born in Vegas, but grew up in a remote part of Nevada. We would go to Vegas to visit my father a couple of times a year, and he would take us to all the best food places at all the casi-

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gastronomics nos. My mom and my stepfather bought a farm further out, where we raised and grew lots of different things - we butchered our own animals in the spring, things like that. My mom was raised in an Italian family, and always spent a lot of time cooking really nice meals. She was meticulous on making sure she used only the finest ingredients, everything freshly prepared - no five day simmering stews. Her whole approach to cooking was fresh, precise, and clean

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components. Her influences was French and Italian - no part of the animal was spared. We both grew up with an inside view to how food should be prepared. What about your parents? Are either of them classically or family trained? On her father’s side, my mom’s family has this whole history of bakers from Napoli. My mom, however, can’t bake to save her life. She doesn’t make cookies or cakes or anything like that.

I do, so obviously some of that skipped a generation, but it’s just always been in her blood, and that got passed through to myself and my own children. My father was a big food guy. He had a huge car dealership in Las Vegas, and was known to frequent all of the best dining haunts in ‘60s and ‘70s Vegas. We’d go to places like the Aku Aku Room, and he always knew the maître d’, so they’d bring us special cuts of meat, special pastas, stuff like that. We’d be there


with all these Italian mafia guys making car deals, knocking the bottom out of pastas and roasts. Everything the kitchen could think up they threw out to us, and that was a great way to grow up - in a food based world. Tell us about the first time you realized you wanted to follow the culinary path. I think I was around 8. We lived in such a remote part of Nevada that once a week, my parents would have to drive out to the

‘big city’, Carson City, to buy provisions. My mom had just given me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck and Julia Child, and I was really into it. I loved the descriptions of the food and the way they spoke about traditional French cooking. One day while my parents were gone, I thought that this was my chance to make something. I was flipping through the book and when I remembered that we’d recently gone by a pastry shop, and I remember my parents seeing these chocolate éclairs in the window and saying how good they looked. So I thought, “I’m gonna make chocolate éclairs!” I knew what went into them - pâté à choux (puff pastry), chocolate, and crème anglaise (pastry cream). All of those components could be found in the French cookbook, so I set about making them. I think it took me four hours to make a tray of six weird looking, misshapen chocolate éclairs. But all of the components were there! And you know how when you’re 8 years old, you don’t realize what you’ve done until it’s too late? I put these components together, got one tray done, and the kitchen literally looked like a bomb had gone off. I panicked for a moment, heard my parents’ car pull up the driveway, and that’s when I knew it was all over. I just fell on the floor in tears; I thought I was gonna get in so much trouble! My parents walk in the house and my mother says, “Stevie, what have you done to

this kitchen?!” Meanwhile, my stepfather goes straight for the refrigerator, grabs an éclair, and has it halfway in his mouth when he says, “Janet, they’re delicious!” And suddenly, all was forgiven. My mother says, “Well obviously you’re meant to do this,” and she kept me cooking from that time forward. I’d help out with dinner a lot and always helped prepare for big family meals and celebrations. That kinda grew into this routine where I’d come home from school and sit at the bar and watch her cook every night. There’s this weird osmosis that you inherit just by watching - I never saw my mother using measuring spoons or cups or anything like that. She knew how much her hand held and she knew how much a pinch was and what a spoon was, and watching all of this just really sunk in. It’s just something that I’ve been doing ever since I was a little boy. For everyone! If anyone would come over, I would immediately grab food and cook for them. As I was growing up, I would go over to one of my girlfriend’s house, and her mom would be cooking and she knew that I knew how to cook, and would immediately push me into the kitchen and I would end up cooking dinner for everyone. It’s just kinda the way it went. When your realize it’s what you’re meant to do, it becomes simple. 225 N. Larchmont Ave Los Angeles, CA 90004 WEB SI TE: vernetti.la

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Tokewell issue 09  
Tokewell issue 09  
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