Q+A with Visual Artist Matt Armendariz + Food Stylist Adam Pearson of Long Beach, CA

Thank you Matt & Adam for opening the doors to your amazing studio to lark! We are fascinated with the original Art Deco build dating back to 1924, making it just shy of 100 years old!

We loved how you cared for the building and how you really got into all aspects of interior design (one of our favorite realms).

The studio is a great combination in design, photography and full of good energy…and our chef cannot believe his lucky stars to have a beautiful, convenient, and fully functional kitchen (rare on a lark!).

Below are some fun Q + A’s for everyone to get to know you more: 

Adam & Matt on a super fun (& delicious) lark with Chef Kyle Powers at Urban Americana in Long Beach.
Image captured by the talented Talia Pashey.

How do you know each other?  We met online many many years ago, went on a date and have been together ever since!

How did your professional relationship evolve?  We both fell into our careers serendipitously and while we both perform different jobs within the photography world, it’s nice to have our work paths travel together.

What made you take “the leap” in pursuing your passions full time?  It was a necessity! We both wanted to work and like most things you must give it your all to get it off the ground. So we did. It’s easier said than done I realize.

You have done so much amazing work for magazines, books and just about anything that needs a great photo, what is/could be your dream duo project?  We’ve worked on so many amazing projects all over the world, I think at this point we are the happiest working with amazing people from all creative disciplines. As long as everyone is kind and the vibe is there, we’re happy!

As it is essential to your craft, why FOOD?  Food unites us. We all eat. We are all experts. We know what we like and what we don’t. It’s inherently political, sensual, personal. We have an immediate built-in common element with everyone through food.

What is your most memorable meal (one you made or one you’ve had)?   We’ve eaten in Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world, dive spots from coast to coast, and while they’ve all be once-in-a-lifetime experiences, we both tend to remember the meals that are personal, humble, and focus on the connection between people. I’ll never need another 29 course tasting menu!

What is your most prized ingredient for meals OR for photographing? There’s not one ingredient! All of them make our jobs so interesting and worthwhile!

What is your idea of perfect happiness? When life, work, health and energies are in balance.

What is your greatest extravagance? Adam: Caviar, fragrances, and skincare.  Matt: Champagne, my Oudh collection, and long summer days in the pool! With bubbles, of course.

What do you find yourself saying when people ask what it’s like to be a food photographer / food stylist? It’s quite a mystery to so many people; we’re usually met with “Wait, that’s a job?!”  The conversation then moves to what people THINK we do, as they think we use fake ingredients and slight-of-hand tricks. Alas, we do not.

What is your current state of mind? Clear.

If you could change one thing about how people look at and/or enjoy food, what would it be? We need to remove the shame-based aspect of food. Subsequently, we also need to remove the sanctimony involved with our food choices. Of course we can all make food choices that benefit the growers, the farm workers, the animals, the environment, but we don’t need to use these and things to brag about and make others feel less. But back to my shame-based statement… how many times have we said “Oh I deserve this because xyz” or “I can’t have that because I didn’t work out”?  Food is food. It’s for everyone and we deserve to eat what we like, not because we’ve earned it.

Who in the food world inspires you? José Andres for using his voice and heart for the entire world.

What words or phrases to you over-use? Adam: “Fuck.”  Matt: “Totally.”

What do you most value about food culture? It unites us. We can argue about politics and religion all damn day, but we all eat. 

What do you think the future of dining is?  It changes every few years. What’s new on the horizon next year will be dated in 3 years. It’s ever changing. So the future of dining will be anything and everything.

What is your motto? Be kind to yourself so that you may be kind to others.

Any favorite photos — perhaps one that comes with a fun behind-the-scenes story?   I could never pick any favorite photos!

+ + +

We love all the thoughtful answers (definitely food for thought) and can’t wait to step into their inspirational + gorgeous studio for welcome drinks & mingling leading up to a four course chef crafted meal and wine pairing…all while enjoying the (rediscovered) art of conversation.

Modern. Organic. Inspirational. Come on a lark with us!

Studio Armendariz + Pearson
428 West 10th Street
Long Beach, CA 90813
(x-streets Pacific + 10th)

Saturday, July 23, 2022, 6:00-9:00pm
$178 per person all inclusive 4-course chef curated meal + wine pairing
by the talented Chef Taylor Elam of Merkato

Purchase Tickets: Let’s Go On A Lark!
(non-refundable/absolutely transferable)

Lark x Chef Taylor Elam of Merkatö

We love that lark has become a platform for talented people who are passionate about their craft. Hence, we are thrilled to introduce Chef Taylor Elam of Merkatö. We met pre-pandemic and reconnected on (nearly?) the other side as our first opportunity to create + collaborate arrives 12/2/21 in the form of a private pop, with equally passionate guests, at the super hip Cleobella Boutique in Sunset Beach. 

Here’s a fun Q + A to understand why our chefs always have creative control of the menu!

Where are you from and where do you live now? 

From : San Juan Capistrano, California

Current : Newport Beach, California

What is your earliest memorable culinary experience?

I was probably 4 or 5 years old. It was chopping vegetables with my grandma & mother for Sunday dinners. 

What drives you to create food?

To always be better than your last plate.

We feel there is an expression or feeling you want to share with your craft? Are we onto something?

Absolutely. The satisfaction I get when people tell me that was one of the most unique preparations of an ingredient they’ve ever experienced. Those compliments reassure that all those years of hard work have paid off. 

You’ve worked in a quite a few kitchens, can you drop some names or share some highlights (thinking style, pace, vibe, high/low)?

Fleur de Lys, San Francisco – Modern French, classic & fun.  At the time they had a Michelin star. It’s where I got my start as a prep cook during my externship upon graduating culinary school. It’s also the kitchen thats responsible for me growing up. Hubert Keller is one of the nicest French chefs on the planet. That’s saying a lot haha. 

Spago, Beverly Hills – fast paced, elegant & militant. Hands down the toughest kitchen I’ve worked in. 4-6 hundred covers a night. Celebrities & Hollywood socialites were the norm. Expectations were firing high on all levels daily. The hyper focus I learned on technique, balance, detail &  seasonality helped mold me into the chef I am today. 

What should people know about fine dining?

It’s a whole other planet. It can make or break a young cook in the best possible way. It takes a certain kind of person to dedicate themselves to that world. 

What is behind the name Merkatö?

Merkatö translates to market in the esperanto language aka “International Language”. Esperanto doesnʼt belong to a particular nation it belongs to a community of people.

It’s known as a supranational language. Like many others itʼs used to communicate its culture, literature & magazines. Unlike all other languages, Esperanto does not have its own country, nor its own people. Instead, it belongs to itʼs community. We belong to a community.

Merkatö is a new concept launched during the pandemic, can you elaborate on the concept?

Breaking bread will always bring people together. We endeavor to use that language to tell stories, share space, invite partnerships and raise awareness of the farm-to-table process. 

We approach our work and our community with humility. We believe in sustainability and infuse it in all that we do. We respect ingredients, in recipes and in people.

Everyone is unique and deserves a personalized experience. We foster transparency in our work because we are proud of our ingredients, our partners, our employees and our achievements. Everyone is welcome at our table. No exceptions.

Merkatö (and/or your culinary quests) also has had other twists & turns. We like to see you hanging in there, how do you visualize Merkatö evolving?

Merkatö is evolving every day. Food is still the focal point & always will be, but I envision it to grow to so much more than that. Education, product development & destination dinners are new ideas I’ve been working on this last year. I have a small line of products that were approved by the FDA. I see it becoming more of a lifestyle brand as well haha. That sounds funny to me when I say that, but it feels like it having so many layers & ideas. Exciting stuff for the future!

What is your most marked culinary characteristic? 

I am very lucky to work with & highlight some amazing products here in the golden state. I am not a plant based chef by any means. I do love opening peoples minds with vegetable cookery & treating them as you would your favorite wagyu steak. 

Who is on your food prep playlist? 

Oh man hahah. I love everything. Really depends on the menu. Some of my cooking favorites the Grateful Dead, muddy waters, the Allman brothers, Skinshape, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Wilson Pickett, toots & the Maytals, Iggy Pop, Wu Tang, Bobby Womack, Social D. I could go for ever haha.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Quality olive oil.

Culinary school, yay or nay? 

Yay,  City College of San Francisco.

What not so obvious thing should people know about pursuing a career as a Chef?

It’s not as glamorous as the media portrays it. It has its glamorous moments, but there’s typically many years of sweat & tears before applause.

For those who cook at home, what is one easy must do tip you can give them?

Don’t compromise quality. 

Who are your heroes?

Anthony Bourdain

Jeremy Fox 

Paul Bocuse 

Andy doubrava 

Thomas Keller

David Chang

Alain Ducasse

Charlie Trotter

Huebert Keller 

Chris Consentino 

Brandon Jew

Sean Brock 

Modern. Organic. Inspirational. Social Dining. Come on a lark with us!

Although this lark is a private pop, we invite you along through our images & stories.