FOOD:Organic commitment


La Sirena takes the plunge in switching over to organic foods from independent family farms.

June 01, 2007|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

Scott and Janet Cortellessa were scared. They were losing sleep, and when they did manage to doze off, La Sirena nightmares danced in their heads.

This heroic young couple are the owners of La Sirena and they had just made an enormous commitment to the use of sustainable agricultural products in their two Laguna Beach restaurants and the two new ones they will be opening in Irvine and Manhattan Beach.

Their involvement in environmental sustainability and organic food in their personal lives began with the birth of their three children. Making the world a healthier and better place for their kids became an important part of their lives.


When they opened the first La Sirena, they were already focused on quality and freshness; everything was made from scratch, and they used no trans fats or lard.

They took another step in this direction about a year ago by changing over to biodegradable and recyclable paper products and packaging. But what they really wanted to do was switch over to sustainable foodstuffs, organic and natural, from independent family farms.

They began to go to natural foods expos and shows and explored options with their regular suppliers. At first, they were shell-shocked by the prices, which were two and three times higher; but they were swept up by the excitement and enthusiasm of the people in the industry.

They were in the process of developing a full service restaurant in Manhattan Beach where they felt they could charge a little more without making a noticeable impact. At the same time, they were working on opening another branch of La Sirena in Irvine.

After much deliberation and a lot of uncertainty, they decided to back up their beliefs with action and make all of their restaurants "green."

Janet says that at that point they thought, "If anybody takes the risk, it might as well be us."

Once they had made this decision, however, they found it was not so easy to find distributors for the products they wanted. Now that they were going to be buying for four restaurants, a small boutique farm couldn't consistently supply the quantity that they would need.

It has taken them nearly a year to put all the pieces together and they are still looking for sustainably raised shrimp and other fish as well as organic cabbage.

Coastline Pilot Articles Coastline Pilot Articles