Mercado La Paloma through Cara’s eyes

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The Mercado La Paloma is a charming and vibrant space filled with restaurants and non-profit organizations.  Chichen Itza is a Yucatan restaurant at the center of the Mercado, not only for where it is situated in the market, but for its eleven successful years in business.  Chef Gilberto Cetina and his son, Gilberto Cetina Jr., have been at the Mercado since day one.  Their story warms the heart, and their food satisfies the belly.

Both men previously had careers outside of the culinary arts (Cetina a civil engineer, Cetina Jr. a computer technician) before making their living at Chichen Itza.  Nevertheless, food was always a part of the family.  Cetina’s mother had a restaurant in Yucatan, Mexico, and special occasions were always celebrated by cooking large meals.  It wasn’t until spaces became available to vendors at Mercado La Paloma that Cetina decided to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant, just like his mother.  Just after the grand opening eleven years ago, Cetina Jr. gave up his job to join the staff.  Cetina and Cetina Jr. share a passion for cooking and working in the restaurant industry.

Through authentic Yucatan cuisine and incredibly engaging personalities, the father and son team have created a community for Yucatecan people living in Los Angeles.  Family and friends gather every seven days for Sunday supper, and Cetina and his son are at the heart of this weekly occasion.  They have incorporated family values into their business, and the community that they have created proves it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUy5VQ991Mk]

Working with the Mercado La Paloma on this project has led to a large amount of possible opportunities for the future.  Despite all of the great services that the Mercado offers, publicity and marketing seems to be a weakness.  (Their website has not been updated since 2007!)  The way the vendors and business owners welcomed two Annenberg students and video cameras with open arms makes it clear that they are eager for the attention.  Their products are good, and it is time that more people know it.  We decided to take our project one step further by thinking of ways to highlight the most intriguing aspects of the Mercado.  We hope that our relationship with the Mercado continues so we can work on a new website that is updated with videos (such as the ones we did for this project) and profiles of the people at the Mercado.

This second video is an example of the type of video we would produce for the Mercado.  It is a nice supplement to the video about Chichen Itza because it is about creating a community at the Mercado through art, as opposed to food.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EREBilw3jx0]

Here is a map  of the Mercado La Paloma and the surrounding neighborhood.  One can see the market’s close proximity to USC and downtown Los Angeles.

 

Click here for a 360 degree tour of the Mercado La Paloma!

Treatment, Take Two

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Working Title

From Father to Son: A Chef’s Legacy

Log Line

The head chef and owner of Chichen Itza, Gilberto Cetina, is preparing to retire, which means passing the business along to his son, Gilberto Cetina Jr.  How will the new owner honor his father’s legacy once he takes on full responsibility?

Story, Characters, and Themes

My story focuses on the future owner of Chichen Itza at the Mercado La Paloma.  When Chef Cetina retires in two years, he will hand over ownership to his son, Gilberto Cetina Jr.  I am curious to know if Gilberto Jr.’s upbringing prepared him for this job.  Growing up with a chef would introduce one to the kitchen at an early age, but I wonder if there was always an expectation for Gilberto Jr. to follow in his father’s footsteps.  Chichen Itza has been a family operation since it opened eleven years ago, so Gilberto Jr. has been working at the Mercado (and at a second Chichen Itza location that closed in 2009) for most of his adult life.  Has he ever wanted to do something other than cook and own a restaurant?  And even if he does love being a chef, has he ever thought about opening his own restaurant?  Or has he always been content with working at his father’s business?  These are questions that I will ask Gilberto Jr. in my interview with him.  I will also hold an interview with Damon Turner, a coordinator at the Mercado La Paloma, to provide some historical context regarding Chichen Itza.  In an interview that I have already conducted with Gilberto Sr., I could see the passion he has for Chichen Itza and the Mercado.  I will be interested to see if Gilberto Jr. has the same passion.  Once Gilberto Jr. takes over the family business, he can either honor his father’s legacy and avoid making any changes, or he can experiment with new menu items.  The theme of traditional vs. modern will become a large part of the piece when I talk to Gilberto Jr. about his plans for Chichen Itza’s future.

Stylistic Approach

This project will consist video of people cooking food, people eating food, and of course, people talking about food.  However, this will not be a typical review of Chichen Itza like one would see on the Food Network.  I will only be incorporating food elements to show how traditions are passed down from father to son.

Sound will play an important role in this project, as it will help the viewer understand the amount of work done at Chichen Itza.  I want to hear the sounds of people chopping onions and grilling chicken, ordering at the register and chatting around the dining table.  If I am successful in doing this, it will create a B-roll that is effective.

I would like to conduct a little survey of customers for my secondary project.  Chichen Itza has been around for eleven years and it clearly has created a devoted audience.  I think it would be nice to honor the family business by asking people how long they have been coming to eat at the Yucatan restaurant and what their favorite item on the menu is.

Target Audience

This video will appeal to anybody who likes stories about family, food, and tradition.  It will start a conversation about our responsibilities to our parents, and living up to their expectations.  Gilberto Jr. will tell me that he is taking over as owner of Chichen Itza either because he is as passionate about the restaurant as his father is, or because it is his duty.  Regardless of his answer, it will make for an interesting story and one that will get people thinking about this father and son relationship.

Treatment, First Draft

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PLEASE NOTE!  THIS IS THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY TREATMENT WITH AN OLD IDEA FOR MY PROJECT.  I have left it up to show the changes that I have made to focus my story.  Today’s pitch really taught me a lot and I feel that the second treatment accomplishes much more than this one.

Log Line

Mercado La Paloma is an old clothing factory that now contains a food court with two of Los Angeles’ highly ranked restaurants.  Chef Gilberto Cetina, owner and head chef of Chichen Itza, is working to bring Yucatan cuisine to the surrounding community.

Story, Characters, and Themes

My story focuses on Mercado La Paloma’s restaurants and their relationship with the surrounding community.  Chichen Itza is the perfect example of how Mercado La Paloma serves the people of Los Angeles.  My interview with Chef Cetina taught me who Chichen Itza’s customers are, and why they are there.  During the week, students from USC and businessmen and women from downtown create a large lunch crowd.  Chef Cetina said that on the weekends, on Sundays in particular, approximately 95% of his customers are from Yucatan.  It seems to me that unless people work or study near Chichen Itza, they are traveling from around the city to eat at the Mercado.  When I asked about people who lived near the Mercado, however, Chef Cetina said that nobody living in those residential areas knows about the community center at all.  Why is Mercado La Paloma unknown to those living two or three blocks away?  Chef Cetina says this could be due to the 110 freeway that separates the Mercado from more populated areas.  I hope to also bring this question up with Damon Turner, one of the Mercado’s coordinators, in an interview on Thursday.  While Chef Cetina is my main character, I will include thoughts from Damon and Chef Cetina’s son, who will one day take over all responsibilities at Chichen Itza.

High quality food and a restaurant’s relationship with the community are themes that will also be in Megan’s video.  Megan is my project partner and she will be putting together a similar video that focuses on a Peruvian restaurant called Mo-Chica.  Chichen Itza and Mo-Chica have two different stories involving Mercado La Paloma, and we are interested in seeing how they compare and contrast.  So far, we have been able to determine that Chichen Itza, which has been at the Mercado for eleven years, serves traditional Yucatan food, while the two year old Mo-Chica is offering a more modern take on Peruvian cuisine.  Each chef’s approach to working in the food industry also seems different.  Chef Cetina has kept his business in the family by working with his wife and son at the restaurant.  He plans to retire in two years after devoting the last eleven to the Mercado.  Chef Zarate of Mo-Chica, on the other hand, has made it clear that he will continue to open restaurants that put Peruvian cuisine on the map.  I am interested to see what other themes connect the two video projects.

Stylistic Approach

This project will consist video of people cooking food, people eating food, and of course, people talking about food.  However, this will not be a typical review of Chichen Itza like one would see on the Food Network.  I will only be using food to explore how the Mercado La Paloma is fulfilling its mission to “revitalize our neighborhood, bringing together new economic, health, social, and cultural resources under one roof” (www.mercadolapaloma.com).  Because of this, I will be sure to also capture images of the area surrounding the Mercado.

Sound will play an important role in this project, as it will help the viewer understand the environment at Mercado La Paloma.  I want to hear the sounds of people chopping onions and grilling chicken, ordering at the register and chatting around the dining table.  If I am successful in doing this, it will create a B-roll that is effective.

Target Audience

It is clear that poor marketing and publicity is a factor in Mercado La Paloma’s struggle to attract members of its community.  Once Megan and I learn more about this, we hope to create a website that features Chichen Itza and Mo-Chica.  These are the two most reputable and most popular restaurants at Mercado La Paloma, and their neighbors should be aware of what wonderful food and resources they have nearby.  Our website could also include audio slideshows with profiles of the Mercado’s other business owners.  There is a woman who does clothing alterations in a corner of the building.  There is also a Persian food stand with a woman who bakes cakes.  Who are they and how did they end up at Mercado La Paloma?  A new website with this information could help the Mercado let the community know all that they have to offer.  While these extra pieces will most likely not be a part of our LA Story Project, it will give Megan and I something to work on after boot camp is over.  Damon has mentioned holding an event where we show our videos to friends, family, and members of the community after they are completed.  The opportunity to showcase this work to those at the Mercado gives this project a whole new meaning.

Tapping into my inner foodie

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As a Los Angeleno and foodie, I had heard the names “Chichen Itza” and “Mo-Chica” before, but never “Mercado La Paloma.”  It turns out that these Yucatan and Peruvian restaurants, respectively, are both a part of a larger marketplace not too far from the USC campus.  The stars were aligned in my favor and Rachel was selected to be my project advisor.  She chose this unusual food and culture center, Mercado La Paloma, for our LA Story Project.  Megan and I are both journalists with an appetite, so we became immediately interested in our project topic.

The next day, the three girls met for lunch and a bit of exploring.  The space is resemblant of a warehouse with a fresh coat of paint.  Bright colored tablecloths and displays of art give the mercado a vibrant feel, matching the variety of ethnic cuisine being offered.  Five or six different restaurants surround the outer edges of the mercado.  Restaurant is an overstatement.  It is more like a food court minus Panda Express and Cinnabon.  I also couldn’t help but notice how clean the place was; it is clear that people really care for the mercado.

Aside from the Yucatan and Peruvian cuisine, one can also dine on burgers, Thai food, and Persian food.  I have to admit it is a bizarre mix, given that the mercado is mostly inspired by Latin culture.  After having lunch at Chichen Itza, which has been open for eleven years, it is clear to me that the food here is something to talk about.  Without having dined there yet, I know that Mo-Chica is also a stand out due to its reputable chef and shi shi Peruvian menu.  The quality of the food starts to get me thinking about how Mercado La Paloma is serving the surrounding community.

The mercado is in a very odd location, even with USC only a few blocks away.  There is nothing immediately surrounding the building except for the DMV.  The next closest businesses or residences, including the university, are all walking distance from McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and other equally grotesque fast food chains.  So who comes to eat at Mercado La Paloma, and where are they coming from?  The idea of “food pilgrimages” has always fascinated me, and it seems as though we have a perfect example here at the mercado.  Considering I drove all the way from Culver City for chicken and plantains, and would have done so regardless of my LA Story Project, I think I qualify as somebody who would go the distance for a good meal.  Am I alone?

Megan, Rachel, and I had the pleasure of talking with Chichen Itza’s head chef, Gilberto Cetina.  We chatted business and he said that after low sales from 2007 to 2009, things started looking up in 2010 and that 2011 has been a good year.  (So good that he’s about to take a three week vacation in Cancun.)  I didn’t need Chef Cetina to tell me that business is booming – I could tell from the long line of customers during the lunch rush.  When we asked him about his customers, he said that generally people come from much further than the surrounding community.  At his bank a mile away, only one employee out of thirty had even heard of Mercado La Paloma.

So I’ve found my story.  In a deserted section of Los Angeles there stands a market with high quality food and a desire to bring it to those french-fry-munching soda-guzzling consumers.  USC students are ignoring what is in their backyard, while a majority of the mercado’s customers come from miles away.  Through interviews with Chef Cetina, his son, and Damon Turner, one of the head coordinators of the mercado, I hope to discover how a delicious “foodie” restaurant has brought in so many people from around the city, and how they will work to reach out to those living and working within arm’s reach.

Baby’s first audio slideshow

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Dace in the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library

After an enlightening visit to the Doheny Memorial Library to meet with Dace in the Special Collections department, I am on my way to creating my very first piece of digital journalism.  We spent a majority of our time in the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library sorting through an overwhelming amount of photographs, documents, and newspaper clippings containing bits and pieces of the history of Los Angeles.  As we browsed the Special Collection, I was tempted by the idea of focusing my library project on the glitz of the Hollywood Bowl or the tragedy of Bunker Hill.  However, I kept finding myself drawn to the history of Feuchtwanger himself.

Lion Feuchtwanger was a German-Jewish writer who fled Europe and settled in Los Angeles during World War II.  His collection of books, papers, and photographs is housed in the Special Collections department of the Doheny Memorial Library.

Lion Feuchtwanger's photo on display in the Special Collections department

While his large amount of old plays, poetry, and novels was impressive, I was more intrigued by a stack of books on a table.  USC Libraries has published Feuchtwanger’s memoir “The Devil in France: My Encounter with Him in the Summer of 1940” for students and visitors to take and enjoy for free.  A PDF version of the memoir can also be found here.  Tomorrow, I would like to ask Dace more about why USC has taken the initiative to share Feuchtwanger’s story with the student body through free copies of “The Devil in France.”

Get your free copy of "The Devil in France" at the library

Interview questions:

1) Could you please give me a brief background of the life of Lion Feuchtwanger and his wife, Marta?

2) What is the connection between USC and the Feuchtwanger couple?  How did his collection end up at the Doheny Memorial Library?

3) Would you say that USC students are familiar with the life and works of Feuchtwanger?

4) What do you hope students will get from reading “The Devil in France”?

5) What is the library’s goal in distributing the free books?  Do you think that the goal has been reached?

6) Has USC distributed free books before “The Devil in France”?  If so, what were they and how were they connected to the library?

I like my three photographs and I think that they are a good foundation for my story.  The photo of a photo of Feuchtwanger sticks out because it perfectly captures his presence in the library.  He is surrounded by sculptures of dancers, which seems appropriate because of his work as a playwright and his collection of theatre books.  I am also proud of this photo because I was able to capture the image without the overhead light reflecting on his face.  It took me a while to figure out the proper angle for a successful photo of the frame.  The photo of Dace in the library works because it gives the viewer a good sense of environment and mood.  The librarian is standing alone in the photo and one can most likely guess that the room is very quiet.  Having Feuchtwanger’s name at the top frames the image well.  I am the least happy with the look of the free books photo, but it is important for the telling of my story.  I will definitely try to take better photos of the stack of books tomorrow.

Until then…