Q&A: Paul Hibler Fills Us in on the Growth of His Restaurant Empire

EastBorough, Superba Food + Bread, and more of what’s on Hibler’s plate right now.

Paul Hibler, whose Pitfire Pizza concept continues to spawn projects as diverse as a dimly lit cocktail bar in Orange County (Pie Society) and an award-winning farm-to-table Italian joint (Superba Snack Bar), is about to launch a second location of his O.C.-based EastBorough. The Vietnamese eatery will open next month, along with Hibler’s other project: Superba Food + Bread, an extension of his collaboration with chef Jason Neroni. Here, we talk to the chef and entrepreneur about what’s next.

Thank you for putting cocktails at Pitfire on Fairfax (It’s my ‘hood)! Is there a plan to roll out full bars at other Pitfire locations? Will future Pitfire locations have cocktails?
Based on the success of Pie Society and the full bar in Fairfax, we are planning on folding a cocktail program into all future Pitfire locations.

Where are you looking to open future Pitfire locations?

Beyond Pitfire: Are there any changes coming to Superba?
Superba as a company is continuing its search for new American food. We are growing. During the next year, Superba Food + Bread will open in Venice, and as many as two other Superba joints—with slightly different concepts—may appear in L.A.

Would you consider partnering with other chefs in the future, as you have with Jason Neroni?
Absolutely. Jason is a very important part of the Superba ethos. Together, we look forward to working with other talented chefs. It’s all part of the process.

What’s happening with Superba Food + Bread?
Superba Food + Bread will be operational this Christmas. We have our team assembled and will make a formal announcement soon. It’s still going to be a bakery with a new American menu. If I said dinner, you might think hipster meatloaf and sous vide mashed potatoes. And that ain’t it. We are proud to be working on our own unique coffee program with the awesome folks at Stumptown. Right now, I’m focused on the communal aspects of the place. I live two blocks away so I don’t want to mess this up.

Tell us about your foray into Orange County.
So far, one year in, we are slowly learning about Orange County. The one thing I know for certain is that even though the O.C. and L.A. are right next to each other, it would be a mistake to think they are one and the same. Tastes and preferences and what works are all totally different. Things we take for granted in L.A. have to be proved in the O.C. I’m not saying one is better, just that both areas have their own thing. It must be respected.

Will you be expanding beyond L.A. in 2014 or 2015?
During the next two years, you will see both Pitfire and Superba push out of L.A. Being from San Francisco, I am excited to see how Pitfire plays in the Bay Area. And, so many concepts are rushing into pizza right now, we feel that Pitfire needs to take some steps to make sure we get the real thing out there.

What new concepts are you working on now?
We are just finishing up our work with EastBorough, a Vietnamese eatery with cocktails in Culver City. And, I am working with Noah Ellis on a project that is so diabolically simple and cool that it makes me smile every time I say the name…, but I can’t say the name. There is a lot of magic dust coming out of my collaboration with Daren Romanelli with The Pancake Epidemic and I hope to work with him soon. Internally, we have begun spinning propaganda with Max and Frederick Guerrero, the kids have a lot of cool stuff coming out of The Oinkster. They just opened a creative space and gallery called Slow Culture in Highland Park. I feel like they are just dripping with talent when it comes to building a brand and starting an authentic conversation with your fans.

Have you considered writing a cookbook or a book?
Yes. We have been approached. I’m waiting for the light bulb moment. Cookbooks have never been better than they are today. Unfortunately for me, the title “Fear and Loathing” has already been taken.

What are you most excited about as you look towards the future of dining?
I love seeing the good work of talented people pushing the food needle back towards a more fundamental, healthful, and sustainable place. Because of the increased interest in food and the cult of personality around chefs and entrepreneurs, I feel like people, especially young people, are more in tune with what they are buying and putting into their bodies. It’s a great step in the right direction.