The Founder of NYC’s Cult-Favorite Café Thinks Avocado Toast Will Never Die
Welcome to Kitchn’s series Kitchn Crush, where we highlight some of the coolest, most inspiring people in food you need to know about right now..
Despite what many people may think, Heather Tierney, the creative director and founder of The Butcher’s Daughter is not, in fact, the daughter of a butcher — although the story kind of fits.
Before she created the veggie-friendly, bi-coastal juice bar and café (which currently boasts four locations plus a food truck in New York and Los Angeles,) Heather had a meat-and-potatoes upbringing in the landlocked state of Indiana. After moving to New York City in her early 20s, she opened her eyes to a world of kale salad, fresh-pressed juice, and avocado toast. It didn’t take long for Heather to combine her knack for envisioning and designing spaces with her goal to create the best avo toast in the city. Thus, The Butcher’s Daughter was born.
Nowadays, Heather lives with her husband and 1-year-old son, Marley, in LA, where the plant-based options are even more plentiful. We caught up with Heather while she was in the middle of leather shopping to talk about her favorite fresh ingredients, what her early days of reviewing restaurants taught her about the hospitality industry, and why she’ll never get sick of avocado toast.
What inspired you to open a “vegetable slaughterhouse?”
The first Butcher’s Daughter came about because I had started juicing at home and it took two seconds for me to realize that I was not going to want to clean my juicer every day. You had to take it all apart, there were like 900 pieces, and it was just not going to happen. (I did it, like, twice.)
Then I decided that we needed a juice bar in the neighborhood that I could walk to; I needed professional help. I found a spot right around the corner from where I lived and decided to create my own juice bar. But by the time it opened, it morphed into a full-scale café with avocado toast and other really healthy food.
How did you come up with the name The Butcher’s Daughter?
I wanted to design it like a butcher’s shop and have vegetables hanging from the meat hooks. I knew how I wanted it to look, how I wanted to design it, but I didn’t know what I wanted to call it.
There is this mushroom called Farmer’s Daughter and I’ve always loved the name, so then I came up with The Butcher’s Daughter from there. The idea is that there’s this daughter who is rebelling against her father. She grew up around a ton of meat but is actually really excited about vegetables. This is HER butcher’s shop.
When I’m in the restaurant, people will ask, “Is your father really a butcher?” because they want it to be true. My dad was definitely not a butcher, but he does like steak a lot.
Do you consider yourself more of a designer or a restaurateur?
I consider myself a designer who happens to own bars and restaurants. I love creating spaces and experiences, and also love the food world in general. I wouldn’t call myself a chef, though — I come up with concepts and someone executes them.
What did you learn from being a restaurant critic at the beginning of your career?
That was like 100 years ago! I feel like I’ve seen every side of the industry now, because I used to be on the other side. I first amassed a lot of knowledge about the restaurant industry and food trends just by writing about it. Then I stepped onto the hospitality side and learned about actually owning and running a business and all of the challenges that come with it. I almost feel like I know too much now!
Your life straddles NYC and LA. Which city fits your personality more?
Definitely LA. When I was younger, I think I would say New York. I moved there when I was 22 and I remember sleeping on the floor of my SoHo apartment because I didn’t have a bed. I was just so excited to be there and loved the “city that never sleeps” mentality. When I got older, I wanted more of an outdoor lifestyle, which you can’t really get in New York. I craved being by the ocean and ended up moving right to the beach. After doing New York for 12 years, I was ready to move. It was really hard to leave, but I love coming back now (except in the winter).
How did menu items like carrot lox and cauliflower grits come to be?
The carrot lox and cauliflower grits were our executive chef Rich Rea’s idea, in LA. The carrot lox truly looks like lox! We tweaked the recipe for days to make it super savory and added dill and capers for the full effect. As for grits, they’re traditionally a heart attack on a plate. But when you add cauliflower into the mix, it’s a whole different dish.
Can we please talk about the “CBD Your Dish” option? BD Williamsburg is one of the first places in New York to offer it.
The option started out at our Venice location. You could CBD your coffee, smoothie, juice, or anything you want. It’s been so trendy out here in LA for a few years, so I don’t know if New York is just late to the game or if it’s really just hitting it. Marijuana laws are more lenient here in California, so it’s more fully embraced. It’s a different culture.
Read more: Here’s What You Need to Know About CBD Oil
What fruits and veggies could you never live without?
I’m making food for my 1-year-old son, Marley, and he loves broccoli, so I’m falling in love with it again too. My husband and I have it in veggie stir-fries for ourselves. We also have a really amazing farmers market in Venice that I love to shop at and buy literally every type of peach. I love weaving them into salads, like a white peach with some burrata, balsamic, and greens.
Has the Butcher’s Daughter team found an elusive solution to beet juice stains?
When you juice beets, it gets sprayed on the wall and literally looks like you just slaughtered something — it’s like the scene of a crime. We definitely don’t have a secret to getting the stains out. But we did ruin a lot of aprons over the years. We used to have these really cool light denim aprons and they were just demolished by beet juice (and juice in general). You should honestly just make tie-dye with it.
Your design company is called Wanderlust Design. Where are you wanderlust-ing over right now?
There’s such a long list, but I’ll give you the short-term list: I have to go to Los Cabos, Mexico, before the end of the year. There are some really cool eco hotels there. There’s one called Acre that has a little pet donkey named Burrito and I need to go snuggle Burrito. There’s also an adjoining place to stay called Flora Farms, which has culinary cottages and hay lofts. So I’m dying to go there. I’ve also got to get to Morocco — that’s number one on my list. I think I’m going to spend a month there and fill up one of those huge containers and come back.
Who’s inspiring you on Instagram right now?
Right now I’m loving @ElleDecorationUK. It’s my favorite design magazine. I also check Michael Moore’s account (@michaelfmoore) when I can. He’s not afraid to call it like it is, and I love his new documentary [Fahrenheit 11/9]. But to be honest, I try not to be on Instagram too much because there’s so much to be seen and there’s so much inspiration that it’s almost kind of a black hole. Now that I have my son, I only allow myself 15 minutes a day.
How do you recharge when you’re feeling low on creative juices?
If I can just go somewhere for a day or two, I’m totally recharged. In LA, we’re close to so many cool day trips and weekend trips, like Sonoma and wine country, or going to Big Sur or New Mexico. I also love going up to Ojai, CA, which is an hour-and-a-half north. It’s a cool town with avocado farms. I’m always looking for avocado farms because we go through so many at BD (4.5 million per year).
Speaking of, will you ever get sick of avocado toast?
Oh never. Marley is already eating smashed avocado and loving it. We’re an avocado family. They’re so good for you so I don’t think we will ever get tired of it.
What should be the next big food trend?
I think that everyone should eat less meat. It’s not even that we have to cut it out entirely but cut back for sure. That’s a Butcher’s Daughter diet. The environmental effects, if everybody chips in, are so huge. We’re kind of already seeing this become more mainstream in restaurants.