Elizabeth McCoy Talks Tattoos, Family, and Pasta
Written By: Adriana Chavez Elizabeth McCoy Pastaia
Photographed By: Natasha Lee
The Expert: Elizabeth McCoy Pastaia
Credentials: Pastaia, Miro Restaurant Elizabeth McCoy Pastaia
Originally From: West Hollywood, CA Elizabeth McCoy Pastaia
Currently Resides: Hollywood, CA Elizabeth McCoy Pastaia
Pasta is more than just a food; it’s a craft, And Elizabeth McCoy is making her dent in the industry to get your palate craving for more. From her home-grown roots to her love of ancient civilizations, Elizabeth cares deeply about her craft, which is shown in the pasta she creates. At Miro, she’s the Pastaia, aka “pasta maker” in Italian. She collaborates to keep a constantly refreshed menu while heading the pasta program. Her drive is what’s getting her recognized in the industry and there’s no knowing what pasta she’s going to introduce next.
Question: What prompted you to become a chef?
Elizabeth McCoy: There were a lot of factors. My grandfather owned two restaurants in his lifetime and the stories of his cooking and how he ran the line were legendary. My mom grew up actually expediting and working the line with him when she was a little kid—it’s how she spent time with him. My dad had a background as an Italian chef for a little bit. My mom worked as a prep cook at a hospital kitchen. But I didn’t really get interested in it until I went to college and started actually having time to experiment. I went for Classic and Ancient Civilizations so I didn’t exactly start in the culinary field but it was always a passion of mine. Then one day I decided to stop listening to everyone that told me that if I did it for a living I’d get tired of it. I originally started a small vegan restaurant in Hollywood and just learning things to prep. I was a dishwasher there and then one day, I was in Hollywood’s Farmer’s Market and I met this guy named Gavin Mills. We started talking and I asked if I could come study with him a few couple days a week, and next thing I know, he offered me a job as a cook. Gavin was the first chef to give me a chance.
Q: What is your specialty pasta?
EM: My specialty is definitely corzetti. When I worked at Union in Pasadena that is where I learned pasta under a wonderful woman and she is the reason I am who I am today.
Q: As a woman in a competitive field, what is your key to success and how are you making a mark in the industry?
EM: I just put my head down and work as hard as humanly possible. I was raised by an extremely strong woman. My mother is a very strong woman, very feminist. She runs a business 50 percent with my father. So I always grew up in that there really is no difference. If you work hard, you get noticed through your hard work. I’ve been very lucky in my industry that the earliest kitchens that I went into there was a very strong female presence. My first pasta teacher was a female. Both my sous chefs were female. Some of the best people I have worked with in the kitchen have been female. I very rarely have come across supremely bad attitudes but there’s always a slight attitude that you have to prove yourself. But more often than not, I discovered that in the industry that there is a lot prone to respect the women starting to emerge right now because we’re there, we work just as hard. We’re in it to win it. So my key is that I just don’t stop. I make pasta 14-to-16 hours a day. I go home, I’m researching. I don’t have a life, I have a career. It’s my everything. I’ve done massive sacrifices for it, and it’s worth it every day I go to work.
Q: Your tattoos are sick. Can you tell me a little bit about them?
EM: Well, the most obvious ones I have are the ones on my arm. Before I got into the culinary industry, I did a lot of work with social media marketing and the wings on my arm are actually a logo from one of the toys that I helped develop, that I did a lot of writing for a social media campaign. On the inside of my left arm, that’s for my grandfather. I have one of his dinner spoons tattooed on my arm with one of my favorite quotes from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Because God help me, if I don’t have my coffee first thing in the morning.
Q: Where do you see your career going in the future?
EM: I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Keep pushing myself to learn new pastas. Right now I am working on a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to go to Sardinia to study pastas that have never, ever made it to an American restaurant. I feel like I want to start bringing that in and it’s going to be the start of a series of books I want to write. I want people to see that it’s not just spaghetti and not just rigatoni. When I first started doing pasta I had no idea what was out there. Every time I think I sort of have a grasp of what’s out there, I find something new, and that’s what part of what Sardinia is going to be. That’s going to lead to a trip to Tuscany, to Liguria and eventually I would love to have my own pasta lab with a restaurant attached and a really good chef to work with because I love collaborating. I would love my emphasis to be on pasta production, even outsourcing to other restaurants. I would love to be making pasta until the day I die.
888 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90017
This LA Pastaia Makes Handcrafting Pasta Noodles Look Easy