Although prospects had looked bleak for months, when four out of five of LAX’s wildly lucrative food and beverage contracts were finally handed out on Monday afternoon— an unexpected beneficiary of the decision is Homeboy Industries’ popular and unique Homegirl Cafe.
In a decision that seems to have been complicated by more than the usual number of lobbyists, personal agendas, and multiple conflicts of interest (see stories byDavid Zahniser and Gene Maddaus for some of those specifics), the special five-person LA City Council panel known as the Board of Referred Powers decided (in a 4-1 vote) to award four of the five of LAX’s wildly lucrative food and beverage contracts and, at the same time, to throw out the bid by the celebrity-packed group that was originally the front-runner in the contract contest.
The fifth contract will likely be rebid in the near future and it is hoped that the whole five contract food and beverage package. (plus three additional airport vendor contracts) will be up for approval by the full city council in about a month.
The Homegirl Cafe—one of Homeboy’s six businesses— is among the vendors included in the bid put forth by Miami-based Areas USA, which was originally figured to be a dark horse. When Areas USA was selected, that meant that Homegirl Cafe was too—along with other food purveyors like downtown Los Angeles steakhouse Engine Co. 28 and Culver City-based gastropub Ford’s Filling Station.
Although it is known for the fact that it trains and employs young women recovering from gang life and/or incarceration, Homegirl Cafe is also an excellent and uniquely LA food purveyor in its own right. (Homegirl describes its fare as “Latina flavors with a contemporary twist.” ) Its fully organic menu features delicate-flavored dishes designed by Chef Patricia Zarate using vegetables and herbs from its own organic garden and other local farms.
Father Greg Boyle was also among those who spoke to the panel at the meeting that concluded late Monday afternoon. When I saw him later on Monday night (at an unrelated gathering), he was extremely pleased, as would be expected, but still seemed a bit stunned by what, for Homeboy, is a very happy turn of events—yet well deserved in terms of the quality of the cafe itself.
The fifth and final contract was not awarded Monday after a winning bid involving some of LA’s best known chefs (Nancy Silverton, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken) was unexpectedly tossed out because of a possible conflict of interest that the LA city attorney’s office believed might trigger a court challenge and thus fatally delay the entire LAX project.
A clearly disappointed Silverton also spoke at the Monday’s meeting. “I want to warn you, If you don’t you’ll help us, the people of L.A. and the visitors to L.A. may be stuck with food choices and food quality that are currently available to them at every off-ramp on every freeway across America.”
(Well, not exactly. Nancy, we love you but you aren’t the only food game in town. Sorry.)
(Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have Homegirl and some of our LA star chefs, La Serenata and Bertha’s Soul Food? )
In the meantime, it feels great to cheer Homegirl’s well-earned victory.