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If you were an early riser in Ojai on July Fourth, maybe you glimpsed the Ventura Brush Goats’ herd of 100 herbivores trot quickly through the golden, backlit Ojai Meadows Preserve, then along an empty Highway 33, past the topiary OJAI sign by Vons, wait calmly for the green traffic light, then continue down the Ojai Valley Bike Trail.

Claud Mann is one of Ojai’s most beloved foodies, whose long career has seen him work as a chef, restaurant consultant, TV cooking show host, food writer and publisher, and healthy school meals advocate. Now, his passion is sourdough bread, and as the co-owner of Ojai Rôtie, he’s in charge of baking hundreds of loaves each week, which are available at the restaurant as well as the Ojai Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. He speaks to Kerstin Kuhn about his lifelong love of feeding people and why sourdough bread is a pursuit not for the fainthearted.

Ojai Magazine: When did you first become interested in food?

Claud Mann: I grew up in Berkeley in the 1960s and 1970s, and at that time the American renaissance was taking place there. Even before Chez Panisse opened, people were approaching food, cooking, and ingredients in a very different way. The culinary scene in Berkeley and San Francisco was just phenomenal; there was so much variety and so many different cuisines. My mother had a feeling that I wouldn’t get married for a long time, so she decided to teach me how to cook.  Read moreBread Mann

“With rugs made from microplastics, you are separating yourself from the earth when you step on them. All these synthetics and plastics and the things that are supposed to make life ‘easier’ and ‘cheaper’ — they’re not healthier and they’re not connected or grounded to the earth.” — Moorea Morehart

“You feel love’s presence in nature,” Christine Morehart reminds me as we roam through her Ojai orange grove under late-summer blue skies. Moorea Morehart stands close by, smiling at her mother, her white prairie dress billowing on the afternoon breeze. The two women are part of a growing and essential environmental movement — a return to authenticity for natural materials in interior living spaces. Read moreGrounded in Nature, Patrona Textiles

Promoting sustainable and resilient local food systems that reconnect people with the food they eat, Ojai Roots is part of the growing movement of regenerative farmers producing healthy food in ways that heal and improve our soils and the environment.

Origin Story

Ojai Roots is a regenerative, no-till, multi-farm food system project that began in an urban garden in a small backyard in Los Angeles, while Evan Graham Arango attended law school. He graduated to his parents’ 30-acre Ojai property in 2018, where he converted an acre — a dilapidated residential golf course — and evolved it into a highly diversified, well-organized farm and community-centered business. The small area now produces enough food to supply many local restaurants, deliver 150 weekly residential CSA food boxes, stock his local farmers’ market booth, and make appearances in several local markets.  Read moreLaying Down Ojai roots

Editor's Note