Interview: Rory's Place Ojai

We couldn't be more excited about soon to be open Rory's Place Ojai, the product of ever inspiring sisters Rory and M...

Posted on June 01, 2021

We couldn't be more excited about soon to be open Rory's Place Ojai, the product of ever inspiring sisters Rory and Meave McAuliffe. The restaurant will feature the freshest ingredients sourced from the abundance of farmers in the area, locally made sourdough plus natural wine pairings. We joined them at Rory's Ojai home for a backyard cob oven feast and caught up on their plans for the restaurant, first food memories and more.

Tell us a bit about your childhood - what was it like growing up with parents running a bakery and a gallery in Los Angeles?

Meave: The bakery was a magical place when we were young kids.  We would stop by on the way to school when it was just sunrise for our mom to check in and for us to make our lunches before heading to school. The bread bakers would already be pulling fresh loaves out of the oven, the air filled with the intoxicating aroma of fresh baked bread. The cooks would start to trickle in for the day and food would be appearing as if from thin air, and there we were pulling fresh cookies out of the oven for our lunches. I loved all the movement and energy and purpose, it was like a well choreographed ballet performed every morning at the crack of dawn. I was in awe and I knew I wanted to have a restaurant one day when I grew up.

Rory: The gallery was a bigger player in my life - I worked summers there in college and studied art + film & video in school. I think our dads sensibility in art and design is definitely going to inform the way our restaurant space feels - and will undoubtedly inform the art we put on the walls, which is great. I tried to do a project in high school about why there are so few women artists (because of the male-centric Western canon) and I documented all the artworks on the walls of our house to prove my point. It turned out half of the works were made by women and about a quarter of those women were gay. So my project failed to represent my thesis, but I learned that my dad didn’t suck and I should trust his taste... for the most part ;)

What’s your earliest food memory? 

R: Mine is probably drinking “cappuccinos” aka just foamed milk and giant (like the size of my face) 90’s style chocolate chip cookies at the bakery. 

What inspired you two to open a restaurant? Why Ojai?

R: Meave has wanted to have her own restaurant since she was a kid, and has been a chef her whole adult life; at Gjelina in Venice, Saltwater in Inverness, and various places on Martha’s Vineyard, and after a few seasons of private cheffing (which she considers a break because she’s a work-a-holic) she was deciding what was next. That search almost took her to Healdsburg’s The Shed and to her own all day cafe in Hudson NY, but wildfires in CA and a break up in MA rendered her momentarily available so I stole her and made her come back to Southern California. 

M: And I've been coming to Ojai for over 10 years and have been so in love with the nature, hot springs, hiking, swimming and mountains.

What are each of your roles at the restaurant? What’s it like working with your sister?

R: Meave will be the head chef! I’ll be front of house, managing our staff, pouring wines, and getting my hands into the food whenever possible. 

Working together has been great, we are very much on the same page with how we want our place to feel, where we want to take risks, where we want to play it safe. Meave's an incredible chef so that makes things very fun.

Favorite local spots or Ojai pro-tips?
M: There are endless hikes and swimming holes here to discover, but I would be upsetting all the locals if I told you where they were ;)
When we moved here before the pandemic hit, I loved going to greater goods to hear friends play music, hear amazing talks, and watch documentary screenings. I hope they re-open soon. Post pandemic, yoga in the park with Serge of Light and Space Yoga has been a life saver. Its always nice to get a cortado and see our neighbors at Beacon Coffee, plus there's tons of amazing surfing near there as well.

All images by Maly Mann