Chef of the Moment: Union’s Bruce Kalman, fresh in Old Town

Bruce Kalman is executive chef at recently opened Union in Old Town Pasadena.
Bruce Kalman is executive chef at recently opened Union in Old Town Pasadena.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For the Times)

Bruce Kalman is the executive chef of Union, the northern-Italian-meets-California-cuisine restaurant in Pasadena’s Old Town, where the local farmers market schedule is written on a prominent chalkboard in the dining room and the menu is sprinkled with his “vine-to-jar” line of pickles. Kalman, a New Jersey native, started his culinary career at a family-run pizzeria, attended the culinary program at a local college, then worked in New York with David Burke and in Chicago with Paul Bartolotta. His executive chef stints include restaurants in Chicago; Phoenix; Santa Fe, N.M.; and finally Los Angeles, at the Misfit in Santa Monica and the Churchill in West Hollywood. (He left the Churchill to form Bruce’s Prime Pickle Co.) On his menu at Union are dishes such as mussels with guanciale, pea tendrils and fregola sarda; salmon crudo with olive purée and pickled purslane; house-made pastas (squid ink garganelli, tagliatelle with pork ragù and spelt cavatelli with leafy broccoli and pesto di rucola); as well as porchetta and lamb saltimbocca.

What’s coming up next on your menu?

Our menu changes constantly, but right now we’re working with rabbit, baby octopus and a lot of stone fruit in dishes like pici with rabbit sausage and rapini; baby octopus with beans, tomato and guanciale; charred shishito peppers with salsa verde, lemon, Parmigiano-Reggiano and bread crumbs; and a stone fruit crostata with mascarpone and wildflower honey.

Latest ingredient obsession?

The locally caught seafood from Wild Local Seafood. All of it is insanely delicious — California king salmon, white sea bass, vermilion snapper.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?


Phorage on Overland. I get the pork banh mi with an egg.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives?

It’s a tough call between my plating spoons and my Peugeot pepper mill.

The last cookbook you read, and what inspired you to pick it up?

Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food.” This is what we believe in at Union, simple food prepared from the best and freshest ingredients.

37 E. Union St., Pasadena, (626) 795-5841,

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