A band of misfits
Making drinks in an old garage listening to reggae all day.
Allan Katz & Danielle Crouch
Danielle and Allan have both been honing their hospitality skills since they were teens. At first, it was the natural response of being clever kids. “The better I am at this, the more cash I make.” Later it became of sociological value to young academics. “The better I understand my guests, the better I understand the demographics they represent. It’ll help refine my work.” But by the time they walked with their degrees, both were hopelessly devoted hospitality lifers. Neither was content to graze with the herd, and both worked hard to distinguish themselves as their respective markets harbored craft-minded rebels determined to elevate American food and drink.
An uncommon attention to why things work make Allan and Danielle unique threats amongst their cocktail culture peers. Rather than eschewing their beginnings with corporate dining benchmarks and their time in the twilight of starched-tablecloth fine dining, they studiously collected service techniques and philosophy wherever possible. At TGI Friday’s Allan learned why his employer was ubiquitous: It was the gold standard for bartenders during the dark ages of the American cocktail. Knowing how to put a carefully constructed drink in front of a guest with a check in 90 seconds or less in a bustling saloon is a valuable skill. Within the genre of mixology-driven bars, it’s basically voodoo magic. The dog-eared manuals from their respective corporate dining days line their office shelves next to the latest must-read culinary tomes because they’re inarguably as important.
Beyond the corporate benchmarks to management within highly influential indie restaurant groups like Hillstone, Innovative Dining, and New York Restaurant Services Danielle and Allan continually sought to learn from the best. Thusly, they worked under leaders of the cocktail renaissance like Dale Degroff, Tony Abou-Ganim, Julie Reiner, and Sam Ross. It was opening Tony’s Bar Milano in NYC where they met and discovered the chemistry that would forever change their careers. Recently they have spent the last five years running Caña, which many aficionados hailed as L.A.’s best cocktail bar under their tenure. Caña was a labor of love Allan and Danielle treated as their own – Each year represented one of five “qualifying laps.” Having far exceeded their own growth expectations for the members’ bar, they’ve packed their lessons learned and are going public again.
Their draft pick from that community is the multi-talented Jen Len. She literally grew up in the business in her native Hawaii amidst her parents’ Chinese restaurants. While attending Cal State she found a greater fondness for bartending than broadcast journalism. Three pivotal years with Sommelier Michael Shearin at Celestine Drago’s Centro coupled with her academically thirsty demeanor set Jen on a path of oenology that’s yielded her a WSET Level 3 and CMS Level 1. As assistant beverage director to sommelier Caitlin Stansbury at the historic Jonathan Club those certifications and her mixing skills honed at Caña went to excellent use. In addition to being Jammyland’s AGM Jen will be directing the wine program, employing her love of exotic flavors to perfectly mate each bottle to the boîte. When she’s not doing that, odds are she’ll be studying agave in Mexico, eating recklessly all along the way.
Jammyland’s chef, Bubba Grayer, was either right on time or really late to his vocational destiny. It’s a highly debatable subject since Allan swears he knew Bubba would be a great chef long before Bubba attended culinary school to go pro. What are beyond debate are his qualifications to shape Jammyland’s flavor. In its conceptual infancy in 2009, Jammyland was intended to harness the current gastronomic zeitgeist that was working so well for upstart local chefs they admired (David Chang) and worked with (Zak Pelaccio, Dave Shuttenberg). Allan dubbed it “the momo-fatty principle.” Utilizing modern tech, classic technique, and a smartly New American touch their work was a prismatic new way to experience ethnic cuisine. It wasn’t long before Allan was doing the math on applying The Principle to Jamaica. After drafting a plan, doing some design, and exploring the space that would later become the first Miss Lily’s, everyone decided to accrue the experience their ambition deserved. Eager to become expert in all things that swim and understand the grand traditions of southern cooking Bubba left NYC for New Orleans. There he cooked with renowned chef and aquatic activist, Tenny Flynn at G.W. Fin’s. After making his bones as a trusted Sous Chef, Bubba traveled to Portland, OR to cook at Troy Maclarty’s flagship Bollywood Theater, whose highly praised interpretation of regional Indian exemplifies Jammyland’s culinary goals. Like Jammyland, Bollywood’s design features the retail of its own proprietary ingredients and a kaleidoscopic appreciation for its cultural inspiration. Content with the lessons of his Northwestern tour Bubba returned to New Orleans to found his own catering company and await the call “to get the band back together.”