The Real Story Of Why One Of LA’s Best Restaurants Is In Trouble

And why the story behind it is much more complicated than owners Ari Taymor and Ashleigh Parsons seem willing to admit.


As the chef Ari Taymor tells it, he and his business partner Ashleigh Parsons were two naive idealists, blithely foraging in the face of factory farming while trying to do something different with Alma, their independent 39-seat restaurant in downtown Los Angeles that was a hit in the national food press soon after opening in the fall of 2012. Taymor was just an inexperienced but hardworking 26-year-old when he started Alma as a “pop-up concept” restaurant in early 2012, not long after eating a fateful piece of lamb that, the press has repeated, set him on the path to cooking.

But dreamers don’t always make the most astute businesspeople, and so the young Parsons and Taymor, who is now 29, turned to a powerful businessman to help guide them through some difficult decisions. And then, as Taymor is now telling it, that businessman tried to take their restaurant from them, and then he sued Taymor and Parsons. Now Alma is on the brink of shutting down, victims of bullying by a Hollywood bigwig bent on revenge.

To save their restaurant, Taymor and Parsons launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo to raise $40,000 in legal fees to fight the charge, with the likes of James Franco and Alison Brie throwing their weight behind the campaign to #SaveAlma. “While his accusations are unfounded, this individual vowed to attempt to bankrupt our business, using the lawsuit as a form of retribution for our having declined their advances for ownership of Alma,” the crowdfunding pitch says.

But court documents examined by BuzzFeed News portray a much more complicated story than the straightforward bullying narrative. According to these documents, Taymor and Parsons accepted help from the “wealthy and connected member of the Hollywood entertainment community” for months — specifically, January 2014 through the spring of 2014 — without formalizing their business relationship; Parsons acknowledged in an email filed at the courthouse that his assistance came “at a very crucial moment.”

The former adviser, a business manager named Michael Price, claims in his lawsuit that the novice restaurateurs were incompetent at running their business and would not have a functioning restaurant were it not for him. The suit shines a light into the recessed-wall corners of a high-end restaurant, where a whimsical chef served instant enchantment to a moneyed public — a fantasy that turned corrosive.

The adviser relationship started because Price was a frequent diner at Alma. And everyone involved acknowledges that on Jan. 5, 2014, Taymor, Parsons, and Price met to discuss problems the restaurant was facing, and Taymor and Parsons asked for help from Price. In the lawsuit, Price says he was offered a stake in the restaurant at that meeting and that, believing this, he proceeded to offer financial and legal assistance which was vital in keeping the restaurant afloat. His complaint says the initial vague offer of partnership was later clarified in a verbal agreement on April 14, 2014 that he would have a 20% stake in the business.

In documents BuzzFeed News examined at the courthouse, Parsons and Taymor do not state exactly what was offered verbally in that April meeting, although an email Parsons sent to Price May 27 hints at it: “we have realized that we would like to remain an independent business,” she wrote, suggesting that a different proposal had been floated. In that email, well after the meeting in April, Parsons and Taymor offered Price a 7% profit-sharing deal in writing, which he rejected immediately; the next day, they offered to set up a payment plan to reimburse the money he had spent on the restaurant.

Taymor, Parsons, and Price’s lawyer declined to comment on what happened in the intervening weeks, citing ongoing litigation; Price did not respond to a request for a comment. He filed a lawsuit against them last July. His attorney wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News, “After he did everything they asked, and they thanked him in writing for saving the restaurant, they refused to live up to their agreement. This is a simple issue of fairness.”

Taymor is presenting a different version of the story. In an interview he gave to Grub Street this June, Taymor said Price seemed to want nothing in return when he first became an adviser. The complaint, however, quotes an email Parsons sent to Price in December 2013 — around the start of the more formal adviser relationship — saying “we would love to see whether you would be interested in being involved as we continue to build this company.” Taymor continued in the recent interview that as time went on, “it became clear that this individual wanted some kind of repayment, so we offered a profit-sharing agreement. In the middle of negotiations, well after we had presented our initial offer, we were sued.”

In court documents, Parsons, Taymor, and Price all acknowledge that he was an important adviser. Price’s complaint describes his attorneys sorting out Alma’s lease problems (they had two leases on the same space). The complaint says the company had no accounting records, no knowledge of when bills were due, and no awareness of how much money was needed to run the restaurant; an email from Parsons filed at the courthouse confirmed that the restaurant’s first clean profit and loss statement came after Price began helping them with their finances. Price’s accountants, the complaint says, fixed significant problems in the restaurant’s tax filings.

According to Price and his attorneys, Parsons and Taymor were so inept that they needed his help in virtually every aspect of running their business. The complaint describes a time when Parsons ordered so much expensive wine that there was no space to store it all in the restaurant, and cases of it were left outside in the blazing heat next to the Dumpsters. On their spring 2015 menu, the price of a bottle of wine ranges from $44 to $170.

Taymor described “initial pickles” in the business in the Grub Street interview, including improper tax filings. Taymor blamed an unscrupulous accountant for these problems: Price’s complaint alleges that the restaurant had misreported or failed to pay “[basic] restaurant and payroll taxes.” The complaint also states that Taymor and Parsons themselves took improper advances from Alma and had not paid taxes — hence personal loans on which Price cosigned. In an exhibit from the lawsuit, Parsons portrays Price’s role in these “pickles” as something more: She wrote in an email to Price, “We would not be where we are without your help and your resources.”

It’s a common scenario, said Joe Spinelli, president of Restaurant Consultants, Inc. These types of partnership lawsuits happen frequently, although in terms of the agreement itself, “Most of the time, that would be put in writing: It’d be very clear,” he told BuzzFeed News. Many restaurant owners, particularly smaller ones, make the accounting and tax mistakes described in the lawsuit: “90% of the time, it’s because of inexperience,” he said. “A lot of time it’s because they don’t have a good foundation. The place starts out without a lot of good underpinnings.”

Spinelli, who said he’s worked in restaurants and consulting for more than 40 years, said, “With a lot of these chef-owners, they specialize in one part of it, and they don’t really understand the other part of it until they get in trouble.”

Taymor told Grub Street this June that the restaurant had no investors, and that they “got the doors open” with about $25,000. “We definitely grew up upper-middle class, but nobody was coming in with a trust fund to build a restaurant,” he said in the interview, although Parsons wrote in an email to Price that Taymor’s parents had “invested their entire savings” in Alma. Moreover, Bon Appétit reported in 2012 that the restaurant opened on a budget of “less than $50,000” — a figure repeated in Alma’s crowdfunding pitch.

To fight this lawsuit, Taymor and Parsons are asking for what they term a “community effort”: The restaurant that sits in an area where more than a thousand homeless people live had $40,890 in donations by publication time. Alma has been dropped from the suit, though, which makes it puzzling that Parsons and Taymor’s crowdfunding campaign is called “Save Alma Restaurant” — the lawsuit is now against the individual owners, and not their company. The restaurant owners did not comment on why this was, and Price’s attorney did not clarify on the record why Alma had been dropped from the suit.

While seeking donations, the restaurateurs are emphasizing their urban garden and their outreach program to teach public school students about “wellness.” In Alma’s crowdfunding campaign, the restaurant is described as “more than just a restaurant.” “We have always acted with full integrity and with care in terms of our business ownership, our employees, our community of friends and advisors and our sourcing,” Alma’s owners wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News.

And while a tattoo on Taymor’s left forearm reads Tout Sera Fini — “everything will end,” which he has called his mantra — it is unclear whether the words are a source of comfort now that the end threatens.

“We believe that Alma has just begun to fulfill its potential and embody purpose as a business and as a force in this community,” the proprietors of the 3-year-old restaurant wrote in their crowdfunding campaign. “We along with our advisors and legal counsel maintain wholeheartedly that we did nothing to deserve these charges.”

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Kerala Style Potato Curry

Kerala Style Potato Curry – I had posted the recipe for one of my favorite South Indian foods called “Appam” a few days back. The potato curry (urulakizhangu curry, urulakizhangu meaning potato in Malayalam) is a kind of stew that goes really well with Appam. Vegetable Stews are the favorite side dishes when it comes to breakfast dishes made from rice, like appam, puttu, noolappam etc. And how it tastes is something that you can only experience. It is difficult putting it in words.

Kerala Style Potato Curry

Most stews made in Kerala has coconut milk as an essential ingredient. And the process of extracting milk from coconut is not an easy process. But the solve to that is the readymade coconut milk that is available at the local stores. A workaround that I learnt from my mother-in-law is to use the normal milk used for drinking. You need to be careful when using it and add it at the right time else your curry is all gone.. :)

The best part about the curry is that it is not time consuming. If you are short of time, this is the best option. Not that the other options like the dry chutney takes a lot of time, but of all other curries, this one takes very little time.

The ingredients in the curry is also something that would be readily available at home anytime. So with that said, let us get on to the recipe now.

Kerala Style Potato Curry

Kerala Style Potato Curry


  • Potatoes(Uralakizhangu) – 2 large size (diced)
  • Chopped Onions – 1 (roughly chopped)
  • Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Garam Masala Powder – 1 tbsp
  • Ginger-Garlic Paste – 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Green chillies – 5-6 (slit length wise)
  • Drinking milk – 1/2 cup (boiled)
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Whole Dry Red Chilli – 2
  • Curry leaves – a few
  • Salt – as per the taste
  • Oil – as per required


  1. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds.
  2. Once the seeds starts crackling add curry leaves, whole red chilli, green chilli and chopped onion.
  3. Saute onion for few minutes then add ginger-garlic paste and fry till the raw smells goes off.
  4. Now add potato and mix well.
  5. Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and garam masala powder and give it a nice stir.
  6. Fry the mixture until the raw smell of masala’s goes off.
  7. Add water as per required and cook on a low flame until the potatoes gets cooked properly, covering in between.
  8. Once the potatoes gets cooked add milk and remove from the fire. (Don`t allow the dish to boil after adding milk)
  9. Serve along with hot and crispy appam or this can also be served along with Idiyappam.
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The post Kerala Style Potato Curry appeared first on The Tastes of India.

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35 God-Awful Things Coconut Water Tastes Like

Are you absolutely sure we’re meant to drink this?

Aqua_marinka / Getty Images

1. Sour water
2. Messed up water
3. Fermented water
4. Expired milk
5. Expired water
6. A coconut but something’s wrong with it?
7. Water but something’s wrong with it?
8. Donkey urine
9. Dog urine
10. Cat urine
11. Human urine
12. Maybe a horse’s urine mixed with a zebra’s urine?
13. Like someone peed in a coconut
14. Like someone cried into a coconut and then you found that congealed liquid 10 years later
15. Like someone whispered a curse into a coconut and it became a drink
16. The pools of water that gather on a dead animal after a gentle rain
17. The fluid inside a glowstick
18. Like someone squeezed water out of a ferret
19. Like someone sprayed a hose on Shia LaBeouf and then squeezed the water out of his ponytail
20. Like someone filtered water through Benjamin Franklin’s grave
21. Like a random man sneezed into a coconut and then you had to drink it
22. Cheese-flavored water
23. Like water filtered through the seats of a taxi cab on a hot day
24. Like a big, burly man chopped down a tree, sensually removed his tank top, rang out the sweat, and then served it to you as a beverage
25. The liquid that forms on top of yogurt
26. The floor of a gym
27. A tangy mistake
28. The water in a swimming pool full of sweaty children
29. A melted goat
30. The spit inside a French horn
31. The spit inside a trombone
32. The spit inside a clarinet
33. A violin that someone spit on
34. Water that you can’t totally see through
35. Maybe the coconut’s own pee???

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