Elizabeth & Jason, the Akron super couple behind Urban Eats
as told to Chris Horne
Urban Eats was my first real Akron sanctuary. I’d sit in the corner with a dirty chai and dream about quitting my job and starting a magazine. Once, I even shared my idea with the friendly lady taking orders, Elizabeth Tyran. She was so enthusiastic I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I should.’ When we launched, she wrote for us and even set up the party. While her partner, Jason Scala, wasn’t as quick to embrace me, he now literally does, regularly with a big, friendly bear hug. They are integral to the way I see Akron. More importantly, they are family. Enjoy this little profile, but trust me when I say they’re so much better in real life. Grab a bite and strike up a conversation when you do. It worked for me. — Chris Horne
What we asked Elizabeth…
Chris: How does an art major end up co-owning a restaurant? Is it a creative outlet for you?
Elizabeth: I was dating a classically trained chef who I shared a great love for food and art with. We sat on a stoop on Main Street one day where we had our own little art gallery and said wouldn’t it be cool if we could start a pop-art cafe. That’s the short answer. …To say it’s a creative outlet for me is an understatement. From designing our monthly menu items, to decorating our walls with Jason’s art, to working within the realm of live musicians at Musica, not to mention coordinating events and handling our creative marketing — my creative outlets are many and those are just the ones that are strictly tied to the cafe. And yet I wish I had time for more. I wish creating and designing is all I had to do sometimes. Too many ideas, too little time, and you want to give each one you really go after its due diligence.
CH: If you could go back, what would the current you tell the you that was just starting out?
ET: This is a hard question for me. If I’m honest about starting the business part of me might say don’t do it. It is insanely stressful at times and there are a lot of reasons for that. But the freedoms I spoke of earlier and how proud I am of what Jason and I have created makes it all worth it, so I think that’s what I’d go back and tell myself, it will be hard, but it will be worth it.
CH: When you’re having a rough day, what makes it better?
ET: Jason. As long as he’s not the reason for the rough day. : ) And just having one of those really good days in the shop. I don’t mean sales; I mean people coming in because they like what we do. There’s an ultimate satisfaction when someone really appreciates and wants more of what you’ve created, it’s reaffirming to say the least. We have such awesome customers, many of them are friends now.
CH: Why are you so damn nice all the time?
ET: I like to have fun, being a crappy person isn’t fun. Ergo niceness, which isn’t to say I’m nice ALL the time, those people are aliens. (See, not nice).
What we asked Jason…
Chris: How does an artist end up a chef and co-owning a restaurant?
Jason: Well, I definitely started out a chef. It’s something I started setting into motion back in high school. As for the art, that’s something I just kinda fell into 10 plus years ago. I had a friend who inspired me to start painting and it seemed I was pretty good at it so I just stuck with it. And for the restaurant part of things, we just kinda fell into that as well. It’s amazing what can happen when you have such a wonderful partner!
CH: When you were getting started as a chef, what was the hardest thing to figure out — and what is it about being in the kitchen made you want to stick with it?
JS: Just learning how to cook really. It’s all about training and over the years I’ve had some kickass teachers. I’m very fortunate for the path I’ve found during this crazy career. As for sticking with it, until cooking came along I didn’t really stick with many things. I found most stuff boring and just kinda gave up but cooking was different for me. I finally found a way to express myself and I was amazed how good I was at it.
CH: What’s it like to go into another restaurant and order a meal — are you taking notes, making a critique, just enjoying the grub, or what?
JS: I’m just happy I’m not the one doing the cooking. It’s like a mini-vacation but at the same time I can gain inspiration. Just like when I go to a museum and look at someone else’s art; it’s easy for me to appreciate the work someone else has done
CH: Why are you so damn nice?
JS: I had great parents who taught me how to be a good person is part of it, I think. …Another part of it is my wonderful girlfriend Elizabeth. Spending 10 years with her has had a big impact on me. She is so nice and amazing to everyone that has really opened my eyes. I have learned so much from having her in my life. I just like to be good to my friends and the people I care about. …But beware. Below this kind, charming exterior, there is a person who you don’t want to end up on the bad side of… Hahahahaha!!!
(Photos by Ilenia Pezzaniti)