The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2014

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122  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2014 W hile their fields of expertise differ, both Bruce Kalman and George Pitsironis believe in pouring their heart and souls into the customer's experience. Opened in early 2014, Union marries Italian cuisine with the farm-to- table movement, and to complement Bruce's cooking, George chooses boutique and local labels from Italy and California. The pair wants to make every patron feel special, in an intimate setting with a hands-on approach. When THE TASTING PANEL stopped by, Union had been open and busy for its first nine weeks—without even having a sign up yet. Before moving to California and opening Union, Bruce, who also owns a pickling company, had been cooking for almost 30 years in New York and Chicago. On the other hand, George had decided to leave the restaurant industry for good after working as a somm at a number of prominent establishments, then turned his efforts to selling wines including his own label, Inception. Until a mutual friend introduced him to Union and Bruce, George had no intention of returning to restaurants, but now his views have changed: "I never thought I would enjoy coming back, but our small scale operation makes it feel much more honest—it isn't about the money." Both agree that having shared viewpoints and goals makes Union a unique endeavor and much less stressful than when they have worked for others. Bruce sums it up: "It's been fun. George looks at wine like I look at food. We are both very thoughtful and a lot of love goes into our selections and pair- ings—we do it for the guests." –Emily Coleman THE "5" LIST Bruce Kalman and George Pitsironis' Top Five Faves Real foodies. These guests truly taste the food and can't talk because it touches them. They don't try something just for the trend of it. An eye opening experience. We love discov- ering something new and realizing that the chef/somm/etc. are doing it right, especially when it is something you should have known all along. Finding other passionate people. We love meeting industry colleagues who just get it—who realize it's a people business. The perfect service ballet. You strive for everything to click while attending to the guest, and when it does, it makes the night fly by. A look of euphoria on a customer's face when they are enjoying themselves, and you know there is nowhere they would rather be. Bruce Kalman and George Pitsironis' Top Five Pet Peeves Wine that is served too warm or too cold. California's room temperature is too hot, so we ice down our reds briefly before serving. Meat in a bag. Some chefs cook all of their meat sous-vide without knowing how to cook a proper roast. There is a time and a place. An inaccurate wine list. Anything that is incorrect from punctuation to availability— somms need to always review their list carefully. Patrons who want to rewrite the menu. There is a fine line between customer service and straining the staff when it comes to menu alterations. Guests should be open to the experiences you prepare for them. A staff that doesn't care. We won't tolerate it in the front or back of house, because you need everyone to care about the operation. 3 4 5 1 2 1 2 3 4 5 Bruce Kalman and George Pitsironis Executive Chef/Proprietor and Wine Director of Union in Pasadena, CA Taking Inventory with. . . Executive Chef/Proprietor Bruce Kalman and Wine Director George Pitsironis of Union in Pasadena, CA. PHOTO: JEREMY BALL

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