Ever since Crossroads landed on the corner of Melrose and Sweetzer in Los Angeles 10 years ago, it's been recognized for exploding the formula of the average vegan eatery. "Crossroads is an intersection where vegans, flexitarians, omnivores, and meat eaters can cross paths to share a delicious meal and a good time", says founder and chef Tal Ronnen in a statement. Ronnen wanted a space offering something delicious for every diet, despite the fact it's a no-meat establishment.
Recently, the chef realized a long-time-in-the-making collaboration with his most dedicated customers and creative partners, drummer Travis Barker. On days when he isn't filling stadiums, the musician can often be found munching on Ronnen's plant-based sweet corn ravioli, or putting in hopeful requests with the kitchen. Barker paired up with California-based tattoo artist Tim Hendricks to design ink-inspired hoodies and t-shirts in honor of Crossroads's 10th anniversary this year. On the occasion of the release, the chef and musician sat down with CULTURED to discuss kitchen etiquette and the reasons why veganism is punk as hell.
CULTURED: Why did you decide to go vegan?
Travis Barker: I grew up skateboarding in the punk rock/hard core scene, and veganism was popular. I also never liked the taste or texture of meat and used to put it in my pockets to hide it at the dinner table as a kid. I also love animals and don’t believe in killing them in order to eat.
Tal Ronnen: I stopped eating meat when I was 16 to impress a girl in high school!
CULTURED: Best tip for someone new to the vegan lifestyle?
Barker: There’s so many more options than you think. Crossroads is a great starting point.
Ronnen: Lean into it! Try and find meals that are easy for you to create or restaurants that are easy for you to visit.
CULTURED: Travis, you’ve designed a tattoo-inspired hoodie for Crossroads. Do you think it’s possible to make veganism edgy?
Barker: A vegan diet has always been rooted in punk rock/hard core music since I was a kid, and has always been cool.
CULTURED: Tal, what's it like being a vegan amongst other omnivorous chefs?
Ronnen: Both have the same challenges, just a different set of ingredients. At the end of the day, we face the same ups and downs. I guess cooking without any animal products might be a little more challenging, but there is no playbook and not as many people in the industry to go to for advice.
CULTURED: How would you describe your creative partner?
Barker: Tal changes the menu seasonally and is always so creative and also open to suggestions of things me and my friends and family want to try. Tim [Hendricks] is a legend, and I’ve wanted to collaborate with him for a long time. He is so talented and easy to work with. It wasn’t about creating merch; it was about collaborating with Tim.
Ronnen: Travis has been a partner since day one and has always looked out for the restaurant. I would say it goes beyond him being creative, he’s a savvy business guy and always points us in the right direction.
CULTURED: You’re hosting a dinner party. Who do your first three invites go to?
CULTURED: What’s the dish that represents where you're at in your life right now?
Ronnen: Actually, it’s not just one dish. We change our menu four times a year with each season, so this is a tough question to answer right now! We just rolled out our summer menu, which is my favorite season, so look out for dishes with watermelon, corn, peaches, zucchini, and okra.
CULTURED: Best song/food combo?
Barker: "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure with Crossroads's sweet corn ravioli.
CULTURED: Underrated ingredient?
Ronnen: Nutritional yeast is a great ingredient used in plant-based cooking that can add a lot of umami, and sometimes a cheesy flavor to sauces and dressings.
CULTURED: What would be your last meal?
Barker: My mom’s manicotti and tapioca pudding.
CULTURED: If you two were co-hosting a dinner, what would have to be on the menu?
Barker: Impossible cigars, calamari, fried olives, meatball pizza, and the sundae for dessert. All my Crossroads favorites.
Ronnen: Our watermelon salad in the summer, for sure. I think it’s Travis's favorite salad. It’s very simple, just a balsamic glaze on the plate with pieces of yellow and red watermelon, Persian cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, toasted pistachios, olive oil, and feta cheese made from coconut.
CULTURED: What in your kitchen do you splurge on, what do you save on?
Barker: I splurge on chocolate Ripple milk and spoonfuls of almond butter, sometimes peanut butter Puffins cereal. Besides that, I’m really not a big snacker. I mostly eat when I need fuel.
Ronnen: We’re very lucky to be in Southern California where there are some of the best producers and farmers in the country. We definitely save on not having to spend money on expensive animal protein, and because of that, we don’t have a lot of waste. We literally get produce delivery six days a week to the restaurant.
CULTURED: Tal, what do you wear while you cook?
Ronnen: I was always very traditional: black pants and a white chef jacket. During Covid this changed, and I’m a little more casual now.
CULTURED: A kitchen etiquette rule you live by?
Ronnen: There are many, but here are a few that are helpful for all kitchens: work clean, make sure you announce your presence as well as any potential danger, always support each other, try not to get offended in the heat of the moment if someone rubs you the wrong way. Always take care of your dishwashers—they never get the respect that they deserve, and a kitchen could never operate without them.