Before the pandemic, Brian Bornemann, 31, was a young chef on the rise. In 2019, he took the position of executive chef at Michael’s Santa Monica, bringing fresh ideas and new relevance to the Westside institution. But Bornemann has no plans to go back. “The old fine-dining business model, which we knew wasn’t working before, really, really didn’t work through this,” he says.
In the middle of 2020, Bornemann met Leena Culhane, also 31, an artist and touring musician, through mutual friends. The two soon started dating, and by summer they launched a pop-up called Crudo e Nudo, serving sustainable, creative raw-fish preparations. “We were both sort of reeling from this massive transition that we were undergoing with our work,” says Culhane. “It was really such a natural partnership of different skills and also wanting to stay creative.”
In February, the couple found a brick-and-mortar home in a storefront that was once a juice bar. They renovated the space themselves and set it up as a multifaceted operation. Not only is it a raw bar where you can enjoy a glass of biodynamic wine and tuna tartare on Gjusta bread outside on the patio, but it’s also a place to grab a quick coffee or some of the ice cream that Culhane makes under the moniker Crème Fatale. You can even pick up some pristine fish to cook at home, along with Bornemann’s favorite products, like a white soy sauce and yuzu olive oil.
While Bornemann is thankful for the experiences he was afforded at Michael’s—and wrote Michael McCarty a note saying as much—he’s quite excited about this new venture. “I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to do something on our own and really create a solution for how to sell food and beverage in a profitable way.”
Crudo e Nudo, 2724 Main St., Santa Monica.
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