Photography by Becky Reams
We live in a city where the daily news is dominated by headlines shouting violence, pollution and gossip; a reality that makes it difficult to focus on the positive, the heartfelt, the authentic. Particularly in LA—one of the few cities whose primary industry requires you to have a brand manager for both your career and your personality—maintaining buoyant optimism is nearly impossible. It is even more rare to be pleasantly surprised by anything at all.
In meeting Lauren Bowles and Patrick Fischler, however, prepare yourself to be surprised twice.
The public-facing professional personas of these two actors are quite distinctive. Lauren cut her teeth as the bird-flipping waitress on “Seinfeld,” and currently inhabits the role of spell-wielding Wiccan Holly Cleary on HBO’s “True Blood.” As for Patrick, let’s just say that he has a flair for choosing contentious characters: unsavory insult comic Jimmy Barrett on AMC’s “Mad Men” and creepy sponsor Gabriel on Showtime’s “Californication” are just a few.
In short, you’d expect this couple to make an intense first impression. As such, you might approach a dinner invitation to their home with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity. You would soon discover, fortunately, that both Lauren and Patrick are very, very good at their jobs. That is to say: They are nothing like the dark characters they so convincingly portray.
At their home in the Palms neighborhood, two small but endearingly mighty rescue dogs (Roscoe and Lady) and two shy but disarmingly adorable children (daughter Fia and her playmate), greet guests at the white-picket gate. Outfitted in a cheerful gingham shirt chosen by his wife, Patrick follows right behind his tiny greeters with the magnanimous kind of welcome that includes effusively hugging strangers. Lauren breezily handles introductions while collecting ingredients for dessert and conducting a tour of the herb garden.
Back in the kitchen, the kids help Lauren with the chocolate glaze she is making. Looking up from her BabyCakes cookbook, she gushes that BabyCakes founder Erin McKenna “is basically like Angelina Jolie to me—I’m so starstruck by her!”
McKenna’s vegan doughnut recipe has quickly become a favorite in the house, particularly for Patrick. “If he ever thinks about leaving me,” Lauren giggles, “all I have to do is make these doughnuts and that will be the end of that!” Roscoe the dog fastidiously licks the floor near Lauren’s feet as she bakes. Eying him nervously, daughter Fia exclaims loudly, “We better eat the donuts fast so Roscoe doesn’t get them!”
She’s right to worry: At least one recent holiday in the Fischler-Bowles house has ended with a chocolaty trip to the vet. Apparently, the six-pound pup is a bit of a wizard when it comes to getting chocolate from the countertop.
Meanwhile, the family’s other dog, Lady, is politely watching Patrick prepare the savory portion of the meal. As he breaks down a mango for an Asian-inspired quinoa salad, he waxes philosophical for a moment:
And it worked, clearly. In addition to pickled daikon, Fia counts curried eggs among her current favorite foods.
While both Lauren and Patrick are quite adventurous in the flavor profile department, they are wary of consuming animal products. As for Fia, Lauren says, “We introduced her to fish but we stopped doing that as much because fish has become so scary. Everything is scary these days.”
Like most responsible Californians, she is concerned about the acidification and pollution of the oceans, about GMOs and about the far-reaching effects of factory farming.
“Mass-produced meat has had such a negative effect on our food safety,” she laments.
“Even just since the 1970s, factory farming has changed the ecology of our country drastically. The impact on the environment is devastating.”
By way of example, Patrick clarifies that they will eat meat occasionally at restaurants where its source is plainly identified and its preparation clearly responsible. Tar and Roses in Santa Monica is one such restaurant, where Chef Andrew Kirschner wins their vote for flavor, style and conscientiousness.
Patrick relates wistfully, “I keep going all around Los Angeles and having great meals, but this place is at another level. There’s Tar and Roses, and then there’s everything else.” Patrick has a little bit of restaurant street cred to back up his evaluation: He is the namesake for his father’s landmark restaurant on the PCH, Patrick’s Roadhouse.
Although Patrick spent quite a bit of time there from childhood through adolescence, he hasn’t stayed involved in the restaurant’s daily operations since the death of his father. For Patrick, the restaurant remains an extension of his father’s larger-than-life persona, a thread in the tapestry of the family’s history. Something that does play an active role in Lauren and Patrick’s daily life is his father’s approach to engaging with the community. Patrick says “What we do a lot [which I learned from my dad] is to introduce ourselves to the owner if we really enjoy a restaurant or a meal.” In this way, they build relationships with people around the type of food they like to eat and the sorts of culinary values they want to encourage.
And so, in this city that is frequently saturated by the superficial and the slanderous, Lauren Bowles and Patrick Fischler are a pleasant surprise. They acknowledge hard truths about food policy. They practice what they preach at home and help promote like-minded food philosophers. They are buoyant examples of living mindfully and delineating personal doctrine based on both relationship-building and fact-finding.
And that’s not an act (although they can do that pretty well too).