You know Chef Michael Reed as the creative mastermind behind the dazzlingly successful Poppy + Rose brunch restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. You're also probably familiar with his Chicken & Waffle, or Shrimp N Grits, which helped him take home the title of Brunch Champion on the reality cooking show Alex vs. America. You might also generalize him as a "person of color in the culinary world" and try and fit his creations into an appointed box. But Chef Michael Reed wants you to know there's a lot more cooking in this kitchen.
Husband and wife duo Chef Michael and Kwini Reed are the owners of Poppy + Rose in downtown Los Angeles and Poppy & Seed in Anaheim. While both restaurants serve brunch, Poppy + Rose has made it the specialty, with service seven days a week. The stellar outdoor patio, reopening in Summer, also helps to make it a must-visit for capturing the spirit of easy weekend living. While this restaurant might be the whipped cream of the Reed restaurant empire, you have to visit Poppy & Seed if you want to really dig in.
Poppy & Seed is known for dinner service and offers a Chef's Tasting Menu and a "playground" for the Chef to really explore. The dishes are seasonally based and served in an open-air greenhouse.
Both restaurants capture the spirit of American dining, which is steeped in tradition and authenticity but are not afraid to take risks and improve on the original. The poppy in each name is a nod to the state flower of California.
Chef Michael Reed describes his wife's title in the restaurant as "Boss Lady," and it's clear their business thrives because of the genuine support they offer one another. While he's creating and covering the "back of house" operations in the kitchen, she's overseeing everything in the front - as well as the behind-the-scenes work of making sure everything is fiscally sound. Together they have a daughter and a multi-generational household that allows for a more than healthy work-life balance.
While the author of this piece was pretty blown away by the Chicken + Waffle at Poppy + Rose, the Reeds also have recommendations for you. At Poppy + Rose, you shouldn't leave without having The Kitchen Sink, a dish born during the pandemic, which is based in rice and features sweet potato, kale, green onions, and a whole lot more - as the name suggests. The Shrimp + Grits and Biscuit + Gravy are also musts.
At Poppy & Seed, you can't go wrong with the Squash Blossoms, the Tortellini, and the Octopus. The selection of Vegetable side dishes like Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts are also standouts. To really get the whole picture, treat yourself to the Chef's Tasting Menu. It's five courses plus Snacks and can be made Vegetarian.
Chef Michael Reed has been working in the culinary world for almost twenty years in both Los Angeles and New York. He's a classically trained chef and spent time in kitchens alongside Chef Nancy Silverton, among others. This year he's among the semi finalists for the 2023 James Beard Award for Best Chef, but it's for the next section of this article that he really wants you to recognize him. "Chef's doing good work in the community, all year-round."
Both Michael and Kwini Reed are fiercely committed to giving back to their community and have several initiatives to help fight food insecurity. From their restaurant Poppy + Rose in Downtown Los Angeles, they hand-deliver fresh meals to the displaced residents at the end of the day, ensuring there is no food waste. They are also partners with Brown Bag Lady and City of Hope. New for 2023 is The UNI Coalition: We’re in This Together, which is a community youth teaching kitchen that helps coordinate lessons and internships for younger chefs that might not have access to culinary school.
Ready to see what else is blooming? Stay tuned for special Collaborative Dinners with Guest Chefs at both Poppy + Rose and Poppy & Seed. Chef Michael and Kwini Reed are also slated as event hosts for the 2023 Masters of Taste, taking place in Pasadena on Sunday, April 2nd, 2023. Lastly, for 2024, you can look for their newest location, at the West Harbor Promenade in San Pedro.
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