“When you think it has enough flavor, double it.” That’s the motto of Jeff Olsson, and the words ring oh-so-true as I taste his cauliflower with vadouvan, cashews, and raisins inside his bustling Buellton restaurant Industrial Eats.
I’m quite surprised by the impressive amount of vegetarian options on the menu, especially since there is a butcher shop within the restaurant. “Sometimes the addition of bacon is great,” Jeff clarifies with a knowing smile. “But if the ingredients stand on their own, why mess with them?”
Jeff and his wife, Janet, bought New West Catering in 1999, and started dreaming of opening a restaurant adjacent to their catering business nearly a decade ago. “It all came around very organically,” explained Jeff, who attributes his success to the fact that the food they provide is “very much driven by what we want to make, as supposed to what people want.”
Not only is Olsson providing incredible dishes that range from smoked pheasant and wood-fired pizza to beef tongue pastrami reuben and pancetta-wrapped shrimp, but he keeps the prices remarkably affordable. “That’s something we always wanted,” he said. “We even serve wine in industrial hardware.”
A conversation with Jeff is easy and totally captivating. He displays two striking tattoos on each of his arms, which are an homage to his dogs. They both died few months after the Olssons opened Industrial Eats.
He puts down the butcher knife to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I suppose making the leap from paycheck earner to business owner. Janet and I really had no idea what we were doing but somehow we succeeded!
What is your current state of mind?
Planning the next step. A second restaurant? A bigger restaurant? Scrapping it all and moving to Ireland….
What is your most marked characteristic?
Patience. Not getting flustered
Who do you most admire?
Janet. For both putting up with me and allowing me to do the things I’ve done.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s good, honest work. It’s a trade, a craft. And you never stop learning. The youngsters are always coming up with crazy new techniques; crazy old techniques are always being rediscovered.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Janet, Willbe, Shady, and me on a beach anywhere with a week off, an endless supply of beer and chardonnay, lots of foie gras, and 49 pig ears. (Willbe and Shady are our dogs.)
What is your greatest fear?
That Christmas song, “Carol of the Bells.” Freaks me out.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Willbe’s titanium canine crown.
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
Not taking themselves too seriously.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Which talent would you most like to have?
Play the trombone.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would still have hair….
Where would you most like to live?
I’d love to move into the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur.
What is your most treasured possession?
The awesome mug I got, made by “The Chemist” who deejays a show called Doom Corporation on KCSB, for pledging a few years back.
What makes you laugh the most?
The dogs. Especially the one with the titanium crown.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Hunter S. Thompson
On what occasion do you lie?
When I say the food will be ready in three minutes….