Co-Owner: Buddha’s Belly
7475 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Yelp: 3.5 stars
Interview Date: Monday, June 21, 2010
Evan Silver, co-owner of Buddha’s Belly, got his start in the liquor business – his grandfather was co-owner in Vendome Liquor, one of the most famous liquor stores in Los Angeles. Pioneers of the holiday gift basket, Evan found himself working in the store and making deliveries during school holidays.
While he was in high school, his parents’ neighbor opened a cool new restaurant, California Pizza Kitchen, in 1985. “It was the ‘hot,’ cool place to eat and work,” says Evan. “I got a job there at sixteen as part of the opening team of the second location.” After just one summer, he was part of the team, and he continued to work when he could during breaks from high school and college.
“When I finished college in 1991, the economy was not quite where it is today, but it was bad,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what to do, and so I was working as a server at the CPK in Marina Del Rey. My friend who was working there with me got promoted to management, and I figured that if he could do it, I could, so that became my goal.”
Soon after, Evan was promoted to management and ended up working in every CPK in the area. “I saw that there were lots of different ways to do the same thing,” says Evan. He settled in at the CPK Wells Fargo Center and was working there when the L.A. Riots broke out. “They (headquarters) called me immediately to make sure I was OK, which made me feel like I really mattered to them,” he says.
After 10 months, Evan was called in by the HR manager, Don FitzGerald. “I wasn’t sure why I was being called in,” says Evan. “You just never know if it’s going to be something bad.” It definitely wasn’t bad … Don offered Evan the position of director of recruiting based on his knowledge of the company, his understanding of its culture, and the fact that he speaks Spanish fluently.
“It was a phenomenal opportunity for me,” says Evan. “Over the course of seven years, we went from 26 to 84 restaurants, and I was involved in hiring teams for many of them. I was traveling the country to interview, develop and train our management teams. I learned so much about the industry and how to run a restaurant.”
In 2000, Evan felt that he was ready for a change. He was hired by an executive search company, where he worked for 2.5 years. “I was ready to stop telling someone else’s story and begin telling my story,” says Evan.
Long-time friend Jonathan Chu had always wanted to open a restaurant, and over the years the friends had talked about many different concepts. “We got together and decided that there was no place where we could get good noodles from all over the world,” says Evan. “Everything from Udon to Pad Thai – it seemed like a great concept.”
In 2002 the friends became partners and hired Hisashi Yoshiara, a classically-trained French chef. They found a great location on Beverly Blvd. “We met with the owner, who was considering multiple offers for the space,” says Evan. “We were really glad that he chose us.”
In January 2007 they opened a second location in Santa Monica, and they are now looking at other Los Angeles locations to further expand the concept. “Our goal since Day 1 was to be multi-unit,” says Evan. “We’re looking to open 1-2 restaurants per year in the next three years and then ramp it up after that.”
In describing what it’s like to own a restaurant, Evan told me “Yesterday I brought a laptop and a pipe wrench to work – that’s a pretty typical of what it’s like to be in this business.” As for what he likes best about working in the restaurant business, Evan says it’s being a part of the community and watching customers achieve milestones over the years.