When my husband and I first moved to Silver Lake, like many Angelenos, we made the Hollywood Farmers’ Market our Sunday ritual. Growing up a valley girl, I was excited to have such a wide selection of organic produce, freshly baked breads and fun specialty items, such as Mediterranean dips and hot sauces just 10 minutes away.
As a former member of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market management team, Ariell Ilunga understands the power of having some of the best food L.A. has to offer at your fingertips. But not everyone can make it to their local farmers market, nor does every community have one. So, Ilunga devised a plan for her specialty grocery store brand, Carla’s Fresh Market, “to keep the good stuff in the county seven days a week.”
She launched Carla’s Fresh Market in 2021 in the middle of the pandemic and juggling parenting and virtual learning. Her daughters are just as excited about their mom’s new business, and they talk about it all the time. “They are already negotiating their salaries,” Ilunga says. “Which I thought was going to be in blueberries. But they have recently discovered money.”
Ilunga, too, was introduced to the wonders and joy of the L.A. food scene at a young age. Her dad used to clip restaurant reviews from L.A. Weekly, and her family would go around the city trying new restaurants. When she was seven years old, her family took a trip to Hawaii, where she noticed escargot on the menu. Her dad explained what they were and encouraged his daughter to order them. Surprised, the waiter made sure that’s what this young girl wanted to order. Ilunga remembers they were delicious. Since then, her passion for food and food makers has grown into a desire to make sure everyone has the chance to discover fresh, local food from our culinary city.
Some of the curated selections now available at Carla’s Fresh Market, such as California-based Brightland olive oil or Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce, are welcome additions to any kitchen, whether you’re an aspiring chef or just want to add a kick of flavor to everyday meals. You can shop seasonal and anytime pantry boxes at the online storefront. For example, the Valentine’s Day boxes featured a dozen oysters from L.A.-based caterer Perlitas Oysters. The beautiful packaging makes it an instant unique gift option, too.
Be on the lookout for Carla’s Fresh Market’s first retail location, opening in northeast L.A. later this year. For more information and to order one of their signature elevated pantry staples, visit carlasfreshmarket.com.