Sylvia Osborne-Calierno spent a lot of time at the Juice Bar Collective as a kid. She grew up in North Berkeley and her family was friends with Clea MacIver, a longtime core member of the collectively run, mostly vegetarian take-out restaurant in the Gourmet Ghetto. Osborne-Calierno recalls visiting the tiny counter-service lunch spot, often after soccer practice, where she’d refuel on smoothies and sandwiches. More than just a deli, the Juice Bar Collective was a place to get food “made by people who care,” she said, where “the community feeling was real.”
When the 42-year-old collective closed in Feburary, Osborne-Calierno and many others were wistful that another “so Berkeley” institution was gone. So, as she and her best friend Jeremy Scheiblauer prepare to open their new to-go restaurant Fava in the same space this summer, they strive to pay homage to the former collective’s spirit and ethos, bringing fresh, healthy and homemade food to the area.
Osborne-Calierno and Scheiblauer met around 12 years ago, while cooking at Chez Panisse. Neither chef had gone to culinary school, but both have backgrounds in the arts (Osborne-Calierno earned a masters of fine art in painting from Mills College; Scheiblauer, who’s originally from Santa Cruz but currently lives in Moraga, is still an active artist and musician). Different paths led them to Chez Panisse as young chefs and different paths led them to leave for new projects a few years later — in 2012, Osborne-Calierno moved to Barcelona, Spain, where she and her husband opened Toto; around the same time, Scheiblauer helped open a fast-casual lunch spot called Heyday in San Francisco, where he was the executive chef.
But as many who work at “Chez” come to realize, Alice Waters’ iconic restaurant is a place like no other. Both eventually returned to the “mother ship,” cooking downstairs in the restaurant up until about three weeks ago, when they officially quit their jobs. The ties still bind, however: the duo are currently collaborating with Waters on an upcoming cookbook focusing on nutritious, affordable and sustainable school lunches.
Their Chez Panisse pedigree and connections will no doubt flavor the offerings at Fava. Osborne-Calierno and Scheiblauer plan to offer a curated, mainly vegetable-focused menu of rustic salads, soups, wraps and refreshments. There’ll be a heavy nod towards Middle Eastern cuisine but they will also dabble with flavors from other regions. Everything on the menu will be made from scratch and will showcase the freshness of locally sourced, organic produce.
“We’ll be like the teenage version [of Chez Panisse]— bolder, spicier, ballsier and in your face.” — Sylvia Osborne-Calierno
But don’t expect a fast-casual carbon copy of Chez Panisse. The food will be equally fresh, but less refined and the flavors will be amped up a few notches with loads of citrus, herbs and spices. (“We’ll be like the teenage version — bolder, spicier, ballsier and in your face,” Osborne-Calierno joked.) Staple dishes will include the likes of a beet salad with lentils, homemade yogurt and fresh herbs; farro salad; and drinks including mango lassi and seasonal fruit juices. There will be a few meat-inclusive dishes, but even those will highlight the accompanying vegetables and herbs. And menu items they can’t make themselves on site, they’ll bring from favorite local makers. Fava’s flatbreads, for example, will come from Reem’s California, Reem Assil’s Arab bakery in Fruitvale, delivered daily. Prices will likely hover between $10-12 for most items, with specials featuring fish or meat priced slightly higher.
Osborne-Calierno said one of the first ideas she had for Fava was to put up hooks on the wall, where they’d hang up crates of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farms. This wouldn’t just be for show; the chefs would use the bounty straight from the crates to make the day’s offerings. Still, both chefs, who have a deep respect for the old-school, insist their take-out spot will not be precious, pretentious or fancy. They slapped on a fresh coat of paint (with the help of Osborne-Calierno’s father) and they’ve updated some of the old kitchen appliances and equipment, but overall, Fava will not look too different than when it was the Juice Bar Collective. Like the old spot, there will be limited seating (just a couple of tables outside) for those who want to enjoy their lunch just out the door.
The chefs say they will likely hire one or two staffers to help them prep, cook and serve customers, but both plan to work daily — in aprons, not chef coats, and Chuck Taylors.
“It will be real people making real food,” said Osborne-Calierno.
The partners aim to open Fava on July 22, but they know the date may slide back. But it’s not the delays and all the worries of opening a new business that keep them up at night.
“We’ve got big shoes to fill,” Osborne-Calierno said. “There’s a feeling that the community has for the space and we have to live up to it.”
Fava will open as a lunch-time only spot, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; hours will expand to include breakfast and possibly evening hours, if there is a demand for it.