South Pasadenans are thrilled to welcome and congratulate new owner of The Munch Co, Michelle Hammond, who took over in April and is excited to revitalize a beloved South Pasadena lunch spot. Many remember original owner Celeste Iliss, as does Hammond, and we’re pleased to tell you that while she is certainly bringing new life to this special place, she has received some of the original recipes and honors Celeste’s legacy by keeping some of those classics on the menu. Hammond says “we’ve tried to keep the most memorable and favorite sandwiches and have restored them to the originals. Celeste’s longtime manager, Jessica, graciously came in and taught us all the special details that go into making these particular sandwiches, which was wonderful.”
Over the past few months, Hammond was able to gauge which of the original sandwiches were the most popular and also fit with her philosophy of fresh ingredients, often locally sourced, that can always be made fresh. For this reason a few have fallen off the menu like the meatball and the egg salad but she will be able to offer them periodically as specials like the sloppy joes she featured on 4th of July. Hammond was very active in the creation of the South Pasadena Community Garden, so fresh ingredients are very important to her and she sources vegetables for her seasonal specials from the garden.
The Munch Co. under Hammond’s direction is evolving, as she explains, “we are a gourmet sandwich shop that has deli roots. We’ll always have the deli meats sliced by hand for all of the Munch classics and other sandwiches but then we also incorporate home cooking like slow cooked chicken for our chicken salad and bowls because we are branching out into bowls and salads as well. It’s a place to meet your friends and have lunch and we hope to eventually branch out to serve breakfast and coffee as well.”
Hammond says her philosophy is about balance. “I love to eat good food, I like to eat nutritious food and grow what you eat” she says, “at the same time I don’t like to hide the fat or hide the sugar. We may have a baked potato fully loaded with sour cream and bacon but we’ll also have a cucumber salad and kombucha.”
Having worked for many years in film production, owning her own company here in town allows her to be close to her children and really be “in” the community. Hammond explains “it’s always been a dream of mine to figure out a way to have a business created around my passion. I still love production but you only have one life so why not try a different road?”
There was a fantastic and festive turnout for the Grand Opening held during this week’s Arts Crawl where Henry Tull played jazz piano as guests perused handmade jewelry by Astali and enjoyed snacks, sandwiches and cool drinks. The official chamber ribbon cutting was held at 5pm with family and friends gathered to hear Chamber President Laurie Wheeler begin the ceremony by saying “welcome Michelle! We’re so excited that you are carrying on this traditional place and updating it with new menu items while keeping old favorites.”
Council Member, Diana Mahmud added “Michelle is a beloved member of the community.” Mayor Michael Cacciotti thanked Council Members Bob Joe and Diana Mahmud for attending and said, “you are a part of the revitalization of our city” and speaking to the crowd he said, “remember, every dollar you spend here in town comes back to the city in sales tax. Congratulations!”
Faith Lee from Assemblyman Chris Holden’s office congratulated Michelle and presented her with a Certificate of Recognition, while Christian Daly from Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office was thrilled to find out that Hammond offers vegan options on the menu because he is a vegetarian and said, “I always look forward to taking care of South Pasadenans and I look forward to coming here and having lunch”. Evette Kim from Senator Portantino’s office was also on hand to wish Michelle the best of luck on behalf of the Senator.
Flanked by her children, Ethan and Audrey Martinez, Hammond was emotional as she thanked everyone for coming out for the opening. When asked what had caused the emotion Hammond said that she had recognized someone in the crowd that she hadn’t seen in quite a while and seeing her just made her realize how far she’s come and how glad she is to be a part of the community. Of the turnout she said, “I just want to say thank you so much for the support from everyone in the city. It meant a lot for me.”
The Munch Co. is located at 1028 Mission Street in South Pasadena. (626) 441-1036
Staff Journalist, Noah Hernandez was a contributing author.