The farm has officially landed on the beach! Hailing from the piers of sunny California, Malibu Farm Miami is officially open for business. This laid-back health conscious haven is set to tempt your taste buds and raise the bar for eco-friendly dining. We sat down with genius founder Helene Henderson to discuss bringing her Malibu cool to the east coast, hosting dinner parties for 200 and how she attracted such a loyal following of chic surfers and A-list celebrities.
Tell us about creating the Malibu Farm brand!
HELENE HENDERSON: I was a private chef and caterer for a long time. And for fun, I would teach cooking classes out of my house in Malibu. I wanted the classes to be fun and freeform, instead of structured. So there were no recipes. People would come over and we would walk around my backyard, pick the produce, and make a meal. Then, somebody suggested that I write a blog, so I could do the classes how I wanted to and post the recipes after.
What was the name of your blog?
HH: I thought, "I live in Malibu. I have chickens, goats, and pigs. Malibu Farm? Is that taken? No." And that was the moment. That was the name of the blog, which had the cooking class recipes on it. But, the second it went up, we started to get hits. And that started the classes for a couple of years, at my home.
Did any notable celebrities come to your house for a cooking class?
HH: Pink came very early on, and Beck.
How did you set up your house, so it was restaurant ready?
HH: We would set up a long table with stream lights. My older son and his friends would work the dinners and be the servers. And, we had a little band and they played music.
Would you say Malibu Farm was a pioneer of farm to table, health-conscious cooking?
HH: I would say, what we were, was one of the front-runners of a more inclusive experience. One of the things that I personally didn’t like about being a private chef in catering was that at the time, restaurants were either vegan, or you were going to a steakhouse. There was really nothing in between. And what I always set out to do was combine the two, so that at the table, we could all eat and break bread together.
From organizing cooking classes in your backyard, how did you decide to then open a restaurant on the Malibu Pier?
HH: I was doing these dinners. And at first, I would do one dinner on Friday nights. But the set up was enormous. So we decided three nights would be much better. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. 200 people a night, 600 people in a weekend.
Were you overwhelmed?
HH: No, it was easy! The only problem was I was living in a residential neighborhood, running essentially an illegal underground restaurant, in my house. But Malibu was so small, everyone knew what I was doing and people had to buy tickets. So I had a product to sell, but I had nowhere to do it. So then, I tried to go to other people’s ranches and farms around Malibu. We would joke around and call it Malibu Farm on the run.
Then, my husband read an article in the paper that the Malibu Pier was completely vacant. So he said, why don’t you ask the Malibu Pier. And he’s very persistent when he has an idea. So, I sent an email to them.
What did they say?
HH: They said, "yeah, that sounds great, the pier's completely vacant! Why don’t you come." And I went, but I didn’t even know how to make a dinner at a pier.
HH: My dinners had always been on farms. Part of our concept for the dinners, which was what made them so fun, is that you would come and get a map, like a menu. This menu might say, "In the front yard, meet the chickens and have deviled eggs. By the barn meet the goat and have goat cheese pizza. By the beehive, meet a bee maker and try local honey." It was like a treasure hunt and was all tied into the farm. And on the pier, there was nothing to see other than the ocean.
So what did you decide to do?
HH: A three day pop-up. But this idea of a three day pop-up turned into a 6-month pop-up. And now, here we are in Miami.
Is this the first Malibu Farm you opened out of state?
HH: We’re also open in Lanai at the Four Seasons.
Can we expect farm-to-table cooking at your Miami Beach location?
HH: Yes. And more and more local providers are coming to us.
In the future, do you think you’ll open a restaurant again located on a farm?
HH: It’s funny because we opened our first restaurant on the water, and now all of our locations are on the water! But I would love to be on a real farm, absolutely!
Photography by: Photography Courtesy of Malibu Farm Miami Beach