This month we are thrilled to partner with the team at Outerlands, a restaurant in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, to celebrate the launch of our new Open Kitchen collection. Outerlands is known for its menu of seasonal food and rustic dishes and the strong sense of community created by the space — it’s no surprise the restaurant has become a legend among locals. Read our interviews with the owners, chefs and experts behind Outerlands and try their original recipes here.
Dave Muller and Lana Porcello began their careers as artists, but a desire to support their community led them to open a restaurant in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset. Since then, Outerlands has become much more than a side project, but an extension of every aspect of their lives and creative endeavors. Read on to learn their story and get inspired.
Tell us about your backgrounds and how you got into the restaurant business.
Dave: During art school I kept myself employed in the restaurant industry. I worked front of house, some back of house, and a long stretch of bartending while studying art in school. Lana’s family had a specialty foods company growing up, so she had a small business background. We met working in a kitchen and that was a great segue into a partnership; we both had key components to contribute, and it felt very balanced.
We had always anticipated art as a career path, but were looking for alternative ways to meet this goal in our working lives. We approached this restaurant as an artistic project, to see if we could simultaneously fuel our creative ambitions while sustaining ourselves financially. It has been incredibly hard work, but it has also been incredibly rewarding to continually apply the things we learn along the way- about ourselves and what we can do in this format- to make the project better and better.
How does your art background influence what you’re doing now?
Dave: Starting a business is a satisfyingly creative process on many levels: in our case, the business structure, the physical interior, the curation of food and product, and the interface with our community all engaged us in a similar process to that of making a visual or other creative piece. Creative collaboration is also important to us, and it’s wonderful to work with someone like Brett whose skillset and personal vision inspire us to push the envelope further on we can accomplish together.
I previously ran a small gallery space with a few good friends and fellow art students, and that experience was similar to what we’re doing here now. Curators are coming through – meaning every person who chooses ingredients or plates a dish. Food is now recognized more as art, and it’s great to see people engage with it in a more visceral way. Lines are blurring in a lot of arenas: what is art, what is work, what is artistic and what is not.
Why Outerlands? What was your goal in opening the restaurant?
Dave: Our ultimate goal was to create a business that could support us in making art, but it has transcended that in so many ways.
Lana: We’ve learned a lot about our purpose as we’ve gone through the process. Initially, we wanted to have work that would provide us with the opportunity to have studio time. Then it became a kind of extension of a community art project. Now, we’ve learned that what we wanted was to create a situation in which community, work, home life, and artistic practice are all a part of how we express ourselves creatively. At some point we realized we were creating a path toward opportunities- in the arena of our personal creative goals- that we hadn’t anticipated before we began.
How did you decide on a location? What’s special about it? Tell us more about the neighborhood and your neighbors.
Lana: We moved out here so we could be closer to the ocean. We came at a moment when a number of friends were also beginning to build their lives here, and we wanted to contribute something special to this growing community. We were excited about the farm-to-table movement happening in San Francisco, but our district hadn’t yet experienced it as fully as more centralized areas of the city, so we wanted to address that need.
Dave: With the proximity of the ocean and Golden Gate Park, we’re wedged between two incredible natural zones. Surfing is a big part of our lives, as well as walking on the beach or fishing and crabbing nearby. This is a big part of why we’re raising our family here, along with the community of families and children that have made it a uniquely close-knit and supportive neighborhood.
What is your approach to entertaining at home? Any strategies you swear by?
Lana: Simplicity in our approach leaves room for unexpected magic to occur, for subtle comforts or splashes of beauty to come forth and shine—and for the guests to feel that, in entering the space and experiencing what it has to offer, they had a hand in creating the joy and amusement that comes out of an evening. We try to involve everybody in the process and have it be something we share together, not just a serving experience.
Dave: We are very potluck oriented. There’s lots of grilling, sitting on the floor – we keep it casual and really try to focus the time on catching up with friends.
What makes a great dinner party?
Lana: As with any creative endeavor, a successful event is achieved with the willingness to be surprised and changed by the process. This means allowing the purveyors, cooks, and guests to create the atmosphere through the experience of working together, and allowing that process to inform the beauty and originality of what is put on the table and how it is shared.
Who are your favorite people to have around your table?
Lana: The people who contributed to the bounty of the meal before us. We are so grateful to be in the position where many of the people we work with in this capacity are long-time friends who have built their livelihood alongside ours. In this way we are able to enjoy each other’s contributions to the many layered process of cooking and eating together on the levels of both deep-rooted affection and admiration for each other’s evolving craft.
What are some of your go-to dinner party dishes?
Lana: Out here in the fog, soup and bread. The cheering warmth and coziness in these items easily brings people together, and like good wine can lead easily to jovial conversation.
What’s on your dinner party playlist?
Dave: We play a lot of casual, fun music. There’s a lot of variety: everything from heavy metal to quiet jazz to old, old country.
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