2020 impacted all of us, but most commonly, it has introduced us to an opportunity for Change.
As we are all beginning the new year, I reflect on who I am: I earned the name “Fast Eddie” at age 16, performing at Raji’s in Hollywood as a touring punk-rock drummer. Then in my early 20s, I was an undefeated-champion bike jouster on the streets of 7th and Santa Fe, while for work, I barbacked at the infamous Three Clubs.
The LA artist community has always been close to my heart, inspired first by an LA underground rock-club institution called Jabberjaw. Constantly getting shut down by the Fire Marshall, I used my day job as a kitchen designer to research its permits to understand why, and I would later work with other music venues like: The Smell DTLA, Spaceland, The Echoplex + The Regent … in the spirit of preserving the LA arts community.
Becoming a “restaurant consultant” was not the plan. But life took a turn, and suddenly I became inspired by a different breed of artistry. Chefs. Bartenders. Coffee geeks. Folks looking to open their dream businesses. I remember the Ethiopian couple whom I met at Factor’s Famous Deli dreamt of opening their first restaurant; the young Chef Josef Centeno who worked at a dying Korean restaurant looking to present his “bäco” to the world; or the unassuming Niki Nakayama who set my culinary passion course to sail when she insisted that I try her underground dinners served over a deli counter in Arcadia.
These were pivotal moments in my life that have led to who I am today. I am Fast Eddie: the fixer, the expeditor, the architect, designer, kitchen guy, the permit guy, and many other not-so-pleasant monikers received from City or County department workers, or from folks skeptical of restaurants going into their neighborhoods.
But it turns out: I have always stood up for the little guy. The underdog, the misfit, the artist. Even in junior high, I incited a riot between rival gang members to stick up for a kid with cerebral palsy. I am the underdog, too, often misunderstood. I closely relate.
2020 led me towards expanded inspiration, of doing greater, much larger, good.
I was witnessing a community become vulnerable, a community that I have spent a couple of decades fighting passionately to preserve. I felt possessed to take action.
An emerging identity evolved out of me, one as a hospitality advocacy leader. Bravely, I will call it “my” industry. I have marched virtually and organized countless meetings with City, County, State, and Federal legislators to influence and change policy impacting my community. I’ve formed allyship. With others, I helped to form the Independent Hospitality Coalition. I’ve collaborated with the Bay Area Hospitality Coalition and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association for state assistance on rent.
I worked with my skillful FE team and a new mentor named Mott Smith to propose a series of recommendations to change zoning codes being passed THIS WEEK. I submitted (the now approved!) Health Department changes impacting small independent restaurants. Today, we met with state officials to change ABC alcohol licensing rules. This new route, seemingly a fork in the road, has made a lot of sense to me.
Recently, I have suffered a few losses, both family and professional. Alongside me, my FE team has endured — adapting and also evolving. They have trusted me, too, by making sacrifices for our own survival. I’ve learned to let go, and I’m proud to share the reins of FE with my new business partner. Many of you already know the greatness of Manny Diaz.
Together, we will bring to Los Angeles an improved us — whatever you want to call us. And me, as ever, I am ready to serve.
Here’s me holding a set of plans, belonging to a dreamer like you, with my nephew Reese. He’s 20 now.