Now Serving: Cookbooks & Conversations
Go into any Angeleno’s kitchen and you’ll be sure to find a stack of beautifully chosen cookbooks. The selection gives you a snapshot of who they are via what they like to cook as well as insight into what kind of cooking they’re curious about exploring. And the perfect place to source a book for the cook in your life is tucked inside Chinatown’s popular Far East Plaza. Welcome to Now Serving.
As soon as you step inside this small but mighty cookbook store, you’ll see two people pulled away in two separate corners, engaging in two separate conversations. Meet owners Ken Concepcion, a chef and his wife Michelle Mungcal. Both are easy to talk to and chock-full of knowledge, so it’s no surprise they’re both wrapped up in a conversation about cooking. Michelle has a little more help than Ken, with baby Frankie strapped to her chest. Frankie occasionally throws out some suggestions (we just don’t know what they mean … yet).
“I didn’t go to culinary school I learned on the job so I feel cookbooks were a way for me to try and compensate,” says Ken. He relied on a library of cookbooks to consume the knowledge he needed. That’s why the pair has made sure to make Now Serving an accessible and well-sourced space, “The last time L.A. had a dedicated cookbook shop was in 2009 (Cook’s Library),” says Ken when talking about how other cities like NYC have always had highly regarded cookbook shops at the ready (Kitchen Arts & Letters). Ken wanted to offer the same to L.A. So after years of talking about it, Ken left the hectic hours of fine dining behind and the two opened up Now Serving last September.
On the shelves, you’ll find a specialized mix of vintage cookbooks, previously owned cookbooks and the latest greats, all perfectly sourced by the duo. You’ll find anything from a signed copy of a classic like Jeremiah Tower’s “New American Classics” to Alain Ducasse’s out of print “Grand Livre de Cuisine” (Culinary Encyclopedia) to the latest cookbooks like Alison Roman’s “Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes.” This shop tends to every level. This isn’t a “better than thou” shop, it’s not a minimal museum cookbook shop where things feel too precious to touch, it’s simply a community focused cookbook shop intent on serving you something special.
That’s why the two want to steer clear of the limited shelf life some authors experience due to the expiration of their popularity or hip factor. Here instrumental cookbooks stay forever young. “There were so many books that were instrumental to Ken coming up as a cook, and so we try to have some of that because that also opens it up for the sense of discovery for young cooks or like a home cook,” says Michelle.
So whether you’re a seasoned industry giant or someone just trying to impress their friends this weekend with a home-cooked meal, Now Serving should be at the top of your weekend to do list.
Written by Linda Hosmer | Photography by Chimera Singer