Tender Greens co-founder Erik Oberholtzer seated. Photo by Westside People
Tender Greens co-founder Erik Oberholtzer and his two partners each come from the world of fine dining, but they wanted to do something different. So it’s no surprise their small chain of 12 sleek restaurants — two on the Westside — offer extraordinary food at a modest price.
We caught up to Oberholtzer at the company’s Marina Del Rey store where the restaurant’s casual feel and bright colors welcome customers to quick and easy counter service.
“The idea was to democratize slow food,” Oberholtzer said. “For 15 years, I had been cooking for the 1 percent. The idea of sustainable farming and local ingredients and organic and all this stuff is not new to me, whether in my lifestyle or in my professional cooking, but often times this sort of cooking carries a heavy tariff and limits access to a lot of people. So we wanted it to be more of a daily experience.”
At Tender Greens, nothing on the menu is more than $11 and many of its chefs come from fine dining as well. “Big salads” make up half the menu while vegans and vegetarians are easily at home.
To give back to the community Tender Greens created the non-profit Sustainable Life Project, which offers three-month culinary arts programs to emancipated foster kids at risk of homelessness. Students visit local farms and learn how to work in the kitchen during paid internships. The company’s hired 10 of the graduates full time.
“It’s a great opportunity for these kids who have never worked and never had a bank account,” Oberholtzer said. “Rather than just writing checks and sending out food, we are trying to break cycles of poverty through what we do, which is food.”
He recently showed off the restaurant’s butternut squash ravioli with hand-made pasta cooked with walnut, a little butter and sage, alongside it a house salad with blood oranges and radishes for a delicious light lunch.
TenderGreens.com 13455 Maxella Ave, Marina Del Rey – 201 Arizona Ave. Santa Monica
Pictured:Marina del Rey Executive Chef Roy Arendse with co-owner Erik Oberholtzer, seated.