Getting to Know: Breakaway Cafe
In Los Angeles, where dreams are born and reinvention is a way of life, two brothers, Nick and Zach Bayse, found themselves at the intersection of passion and opportunity. Their journey, intertwined by the threads of brotherhood and a shared culinary vision, unfolded from the kitchens of New York to the heart of LA. We had the privilege of sitting down with these dynamic siblings to unearth the story behind Breakaway Cafe, a culinary gem that emerged during the tumultuous times of the pandemic, revealing a journey of resilience, camaraderie, and a relentless pursuit of their gastronomic dreams.
Nick and Zach, both transplants to New York, embarked on parallel paths in the city that never sleeps. Nick delved into the intricacies of kitchen life, honing his skills in the back of the house in the employ of many Michelin-starred restaurants. Meanwhile, Zach ventured into the world of casting for print commercial advertising. Fate intervened, guiding them back to Los Angeles, where the notion of a shared venture began to really take root.
"We've always talked back and forth about wanting to open something together. So it was kind of perfect timing when I moved back to LA to join forces on that," Nick reminisces. Zach chimes in, revealing the initial foray into the culinary world, "We basically started out as a catering business, catering shoots I used to cast."
The trajectory of Breakaway Cafe took an unexpected turn when the LA Cooking School, a nearby neighbor, offered them the keys to their cafe space. The brothers seized the opportunity, transforming the venue within a week.
"They offered us the cafe and said, 'Hey, would you guys want this space? It can be yours starting next week.' It was kind of like a turnkey situation," said Zach. The cafe opened its doors with an organic buzz, fueled by word of mouth and a supportive neighborhood. The brothers navigated the challenges of the pandemic, finding solace in the timely lift of the mask mandate and the return of office-goers.
Reflecting on their culinary roots, the brothers debunk the notion of a traditional upbringing filled with familial cooking traditions. Nick laughs, "I mean, honestly, no. We were brought up with maybe a lack of household cooking." Yet, it was precisely this absence that fueled Nick's curiosity. He found his culinary calling in high school, where a cooking class sparked a passion that led him straight to the kitchens of New York.
"It's gratifying making stuff and eating it as well and tasting good," Nick reflects on the allure of culinary artistry. While Nick's culinary journey in New York embraced the artistry of classic French cuisine, Breakaway Cafe offers a different palate. The menu, carefully curated by the two brothers, emphasizes elevated, approachable food.
"We want beautiful food, but not something that's just in for now. We want to have a menu that we can have for the long run," says Zach. From classic French influences to the challenges of crafting a breakfast-centric menu, Breakaway Cafe embodies a commitment to simplicity, freshness, and seasonality.
In an era where sustainability and healthy eating are buzzwords, Breakaway Cafe takes a pragmatic approach. Nick sheds light on their sourcing practices, emphasizing the use of whole ingredients.
"We get in whole vegetables. We're not buying pre-cooked and cut stuff," he explains. The commitment to a sustainable approach extends to their catering endeavors, emphasizing a zero-waste philosophy. “The stuff that we use for Cater Cow, it's whole kale in that we clean, take off the stems then sweet potatoes whole that we get in, cut, roast, everything. It's just very kind of simple, wholesome, tasty cooking.”
Forging Community Connections
The heartbeat of Breakaway Cafe lies not just in its culinary creations but in the relationships cultivated within its walls. Nick underscores the significance of customers, acknowledging the diverse age range of their clientele.
"People ask us all the time, what is your clientele age range? And honestly, it's from 15 to 80," he shares. The brothers pride themselves on fostering a family-like environment, where staff knows customers by name, echoing the Cheers-like camaraderie.
The brothers recount the early days of relentless toil, where the cafe was a two-person operation from dawn till dusk. Zack vividly recalls, "We'd get in at 5 A.M and then leave at 7 P.M." Overcoming challenges, they built a solid team, witnessing the transformation of Breakaway Cafe into a bustling hub with a dedicated staff.
With an eye on expansion, they envision multiple Breakaway locations, fueled by the same commitment to consistency, hospitality, and wholesome, tasty cooking. As the interview concludes, the essence of Breakaway Cafe lingers—a story of tenacity, culinary passion, and the belief that great food transcends trends. The brothers, navigating the complexities of the culinary world, stand as a testament to the indomitable spirit that fuels their gastronomic haven. Breakaway Cafe is not merely a restaurant; it's a testament to the power of culinary dreams, woven into the fabric of LA's diverse and dynamic food landscape.