A Talk with MCC Hospitality Group’s Chipper Pastron
In a time when industry is always changing people’s taste, Market City Caffe is celebrating its 25th year in the food and beverage business and still managing to keep up with these changes and remain authentic. I had the chance to sit down with Chipper Pastron, the co-founder of Market City Caffe, and get to know him a little better. During my interview with Chipper, one of the coolest parts about the restaurant is that we were sitting in a place that opened 25 years ago and for the most part everything was the same: from the layout, the bar, to the coat rack at each table to the menu. Many of the items that I got the chance to taste were from the original menu and are still the most popular items on the menu today! Market City Caffe has such a comfortable and authentic feel to it, and that’s all due to Chipper’s laid-back personality, passion, hard work and definition of a native Californian.
You have so much success and began working at such a young age 13. What was your inspiration?
I’d like to say there was some great inspiration but I was a very active person and just liked working. I had a newspaper stand for several years and was looking for a job and a good friend of my brother was working at a subway sandwich place, Sepi’s Grand Submarine Sandwiches. He got me a job and I loved it and loved the fast pace and activity. Sepi’s was my first restaurant job and I worked there for about 3 years, and through that job got to know one of our customers, a chef of a restaurant in Santa Monica called Ye Olde King’s Head British Pub. I wanted to cook and he got me a job, but when I showed up it turned out to be a busboy position. I didn’t like what I was doing so I went to work at Gladstone’s 4 Fish as a prep cook shucking oysters. I worked for the company for 10 years and by the time we opened Gladstone’s on Sunset and PCH I was a sous chef and then became the chef and eventually a corporate chef and oversaw five restaurants under that company. After that one of the principals and director of operations and I decided to go into business together and we launched our company, MCC Hospitality Group, in 1987 in Pasadena.
How did you know that food and beverage is what you wanted to do?
I never knew that; I fell into it and I loved it. I am fortunate. I didn’t have a grand plan, and didn’t seek out to do what I do, but found something I was passionate about and just did it.
What or who were your influences?
Definitely my business partner Sal Casola Jr. We have worked together for 36 years, and he is a huge influence on me. It wasn’t until many years in the business that I even started to look around for inspiration and there are definitely people in the industry that have inspired me at different times.
What do you want your restaurant to be known for that people will return to it for?
Good values, high quality food and great service. Sounds easy, but it’s not so easy to execute all at once.
What’s the best advice you were given and what advice would you give?
Not to count your hours. Pay no attention to how many hours you work. I would actually give the same advice and that you need to pursue something you are passionate about and something you enjoy.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
This is definitely one of them: to be able to open a restaurant that is sustainable in an ever-changing market for two and half decades. That has to be one of our greatest.
What future projects do you have for the restaurant group and where do you see the MCC group being at 10 years from now?
In California in particular the restaurant business is going through a major reevaluation driven by increases in minimum wage. It’s causing us to re-evaluate what we do in full service-quick service. But full service-casual is becoming unmanageable from a business point of view. It’s not a criticism but the reality. Future projects at the moment are focusing on our brewery and our craft beer.
What do you like to do for fun or in your free time?
Fortunately I don’t work 18 hours a day anymore, so I do have free time. I have four kids, one of whom is here today. I like to spend time with my family, play tennis, bike ride and spend time with friends. Anything I do is usually centered around food.
What is your number one selling dish?
Homemade ricotta cheese and spinach ravioli has been and continues to be the number one.
After our interview, Chipper and his team prepared a table of all the signature dishes, most of which have been served since the day they opened. We got to try the homemade ricotta cheese and spinach ravioli which was absolutely amazing, margherita pizza, burrata & prosciutto pizza and a variety of other appetizers and salads. I can’t wait to see what Chipper and his partners brew up next!