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Nourishing Community

South L.A. Cafe Hospitality joins NHM as its new food and beverage service provider, bringing an innovative approach to hyperlocal Museum dining

Celia and Joe Ward-Wallace in front of the Otis Booth Pavilion at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Published February 2, 2023

When NHMLAC sought to reimagine its food and beverage program, a search was launched for a new service partner to not only bring great food and a welcoming vibe to the Museum, but also an innovative and community-centric approach to hospitality. With a goal of amplifying the Museum’s commitment to be of, for and with Los Angeles, the right partner would also be an ambassador for the Museum’s mission to inspire responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds through a demonstrated passion for sustainability.

NHM found all this and more in South LA Cafe (SLAC) Hospitality. SLAC, a long-standing community partner, was the obvious choice, given their deep and trusted ties to the South Los Angeles community, business acumen, approach to building community, and sympatico values. The new food service program encompasses NHM’s soon-to-be-named restaurant, exclusive catering for NHM and La Brea Tar Pits, and a new grab n’ go-style cafe at NHM Commons, the Museum’s new wing set to open in 2024. 

Led by CEO/Co-Founders Joe and Celia Ward-Wallace, SLAC Hospitality became the new food service provider on February 1, with the objective of providing a unique museum dining experience to our visitors, centering hyperlocal restaurants, cafes, and chefs whose values and offerings are reflective of the communities in which they live and serve.

Table for Three

SLAC created SLAC Hospitality with NHM’s three-pointed star in mind—the grill, catering, and cafe. Each facet of the food operation will be managed by SLAC Hospitality in partnership with a key operator, and will also feature a range of offerings from local South LA subcontractors. Post & Beam has been tapped to operate the NHM restaurant (set to open mid-March), a new casual concept featuring sustainably sourced, family-friendly fare and spotlighting delicious grab-and-go options from other local chefs. Located in South L.A.’s Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw District, Post & Beam is a family-owned, award-winning eatery and a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for Best Restaurant in 2022. SLAC Hospitality will also partner with a reputable, community-minded caterer to provide exclusive in-house catering for onsite events, working closely with NHMLAC’s Special Events team to produce high-end and unique experiences for weddings, corporate parties, and more at NHM and La Brea Tar Pits. South LA Cafe will operate the cafe at NHM Commons, which will open its doors in 2024 with the rest of the NHM Commons expansion.

Renovation of the restaurant began on February 1. Through mid-March, SLAC Hospitality is partnering with local eateries to bring in food trucks and pop-up food stands to ensure our visitors have excellent dining options during the transition, including a variety of family-friendly, vegan, and gluten-free choices. Current vendors are Post & Beam, Dulanville (a partnership between Dulan’s and Hotville Chicken), and FRO plant-based frozen yogurt. 

Serving Happiness

South LA Cafe Celia and Joe

The Ward-Wallaces are thrilled about strengthening an existing, trailblazing partnership to spotlight L.A.’s hyperlocal and diverse culinary traditions. SLAC, a Black-owned, family-owned business whose mantra is Coffee, Community, and Connection, has been partnering with NHMLAC’s Community Engagement team for years, supporting the grassroots work they do to improve the lives of the community they serve.

The alignment makes so much sense to Joe and Celia, whose flagship café, South LA Cafe — a community coffee shop, market, and cultural center in the heart of South Central Los Angeles, is at its core, a welcoming space, just like NHM and La Brea Tar Pits. SLAC’s mission of service goes beyond the delectable offerings of coffee cakes, croissants, chai and mocha lattes, however. The cafe arose as an anti-gentrification effort for cultural preservation and also a safe haven for disenfranchised community members to gain access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food while living in the middle of a food desert.

This stance is natural for Celia Ward-Wallace, who is also an internationally recognized expert in the fields of social entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, and community building. “We believe that food, housing, employment, education, and health care are all human rights that everyone should have,” she says.

South LA Cafe Storefront

“At SLAC we have a motto: 'everything we do is through partnership.' The collaboration with NHM is not only an embodiment of that, but also sets a new standard in the industry," said Joe Ward-Wallace. "The Museum has doubled down on its commitment to the community and local small businesses, and choosing to partner with us as a cornerstone of their guest experience and brand is a tremendous honor. This opportunity has provided our company with the rare chance to compete in this space and evolve our company. We are proud to be partners with a like-minded institution to help grow our business and mission.” When the SLAC Hospitality vendors set up a culinary home at NHM, they’ll be helping us expand the table even wider, one scrumptious bite at a time.

Inquire about our Special Events spaces at NHM and La Brea Tar Pits here.