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Meet Kitchen Manager, Ian Holland!

IMG_6875Ian Holland, Novo’s Kitchen Manager, grew up in Atascadero and moved to San Luis Obispo during high school. He quickly fell in love with cooking while working at various establishments, such as Firestone Grill and Big Sky Cafe. Though his appreciation for good cooking was established in his early years by watching his grandparents cook for the family. Ian’s grandfather was an avid hunter and fisherman and his grandmother turn wild game and seafood into incredible meals.

Ian was working at Big Sky when Novo first opened in 2003. He fell in love with “Mr. Robin’s” attention to detail and passion for quality ingredients. Soon after he came onboard as a nighttime sauté cook. Ian was with Novo for many years before pursuing other opportunities for a time. In February 2016, he returned to the team with more enthusiasm than ever. He learned everyone was their own way of doing things but he says “Mr. Robin” just does it better. Additionally, Ian enjoys working with Chef Ben and says, “Chef Ben is extremely professional in his approach but also compassionate and hands-on with his crew.”

If he had to pick a favorite, Ian finds a lot of enjoyment and excitement in cooking Latin cuisine. As a young man he fondly remembers spending time with family friends in Oaxaca, Mexico and learning that style of cooking. He has adventurously explored cuisine styles of different regions in Mexico and even central and southern parts of the US.

When not on the Novo line, Ian enjoys hiking and road biking on the various trails of the Central Coast with his dog and girlfriend. #nowyounovo

Pepper Creek Family Farm: Pushing the envelope of innovated farming on the Central Coast

IMG_6424The Pepper Creek Family Farm has been a fixture in the rural farming community of Arroyo Grande for over 25 years. Their grandfather, Jack VanOtterloo, found the property when it was used for raising grass-fed cattle. In 1990 his daughter in-law, Diane Boyd, transitioned the land from cattle to produce after the recession caused her husband, Mike Boyd, to lose his job as a mason. Thus began the family farm. In 2006 their daughter, Jessica Newell, joined the business full time, followed by her brothers, Eric and Morgan Boyd, in 2014 after the men were discharged from their military careers.


Eric and Morgan Boyd found great comfort in the family farm during their transitions back to civilian life. During this time Morgan attended Cal Poly to get his masters degree in public policy, focusing on sustainable agriculture policy and veterans affairs. His brother Eric received a degree in soil science and attended a program in San Diego called Archie’s Acres ( The program, which is highly focused on supporting military service members and veterans, provides training to those interested in learning more about the production and business behind sustainable agriculture. This provided Eric extensive training in hydro-organic technology and organic greenhouse operations.

Today each family member plays a vital role in operating and growing the family farm. Diane Boyd has been a fixture in the local farmers’ market seen for the last 20 years and is currently Farmers’ Market Association Manager. Morgan is in charge of Pepper Creek production and grows on about 8 acres of the land. Jessica, “the face of the farm,” is in charge of marketing, harvesting (she harvests right before market to ensure freshness and a true farm-to-table IMG_6409experience), as well as, distribution. There is no need for cold storage since on this farm! Eric built the farm’s long tunnel hydroponics system, which when fully operational, produces 1,500 pounds of leafy vegetables per week. Along with the large production capabilities, the family says it’s a major step towards operating a regenerative farm. The hydroponics system can save up to 90% of water usage (depending on the time of year), saves four times the space and is capable of having 5-6 crops cycles per year. This allows them to pull less from their shared aquifer and provides an opportunity to sell to larger customers, such as a store like Whole Foods Market.

From its inception the farm has always been transparent in their organic and sustainable farming practices.   They use zero pesticides, no GMOs, and operate on a drip irrigation system. Occasionally they resort to natural methods of spaying chrysanthemum oil and releasing lady bugs to battle aphids. This season they are tolerating a higher-than-average gopher problem, which they recognize as a mere side effect to operating a truly organic farm.IMG_6446

So what is the family growing these days? Early Girl tomatoes (and many other varieties), corn, green leafy vegetables, avocados, pomegranates, apples, apricots, zucchini, beans, grapes, onions, garlic, various varieties of peppers, Persian mulberries, boysenberries, carrots, beets, leeks, potatoes, lemons, guavas, …and well, it goes on and on. As Jessica puts it, “pretty much anything that grows in California with the exception of just a few things.”

Today the farm is busier than ever with many exciting plans in the works. Morgan has been developing a program through Cal Poly, called FEED: Farmer Experiential & Education Development. It’s a 12-week certificate program that trains veterans and under-served members of the community on sustainable agriculture. Heavily business focused, the program will train students in creating business plans and farm plans in three primary areas of sustainable agriculture: protected systems (hydroponics, high tunnels), conventional row cropping and orchards, and free range farming & permaculture design. Morgan is the program director and this summer will be finalizing the IMG_6431curriculum with help from the College of Agriculture, Center for Sustainability and the Department of Extended Education. Students will receive morning classroom instruction with afternoon hands-on experience at the Pepper Creek family farm. With extra hands on the farm the goal for the next year will be to incorporate permaculture design principles, nudging the farm closer to being much more efficient and regenerative.


In addition to selling at many of the Farmer’s Markets in San Luis Obispo County, the farm also distributes directly to local restaurants. Pepper Creek products can be found on plates at Novo Restaurant, Luna Red, IMG_6389Robin’s Restaurant, Thomas Hill Organics, Ember, Artisan, The Spoon Trade, Foremost, Marisol, Lido and more.

You can find Pepper Creek Family Farm almost every day of the week at one of our local farmers’ markets. Tuesday at the SLO grange, Wednesday morning in Arroyo Grande, Thursday in Morro Bay and in downtown SLO in the evening and on Saturday in the Village of Arroyo Grande and Templeton.

For more information follow on Pepper Creek Family Farms on Facebook and Instagram. Website coming soon…

Featured Team Member: Christopher Acord

IMG_4994Chris Acord first got his start behind the bar 14 years ago while working at a restaurant & bar in Visalia, Mr. Gables, after the previous bartender walked out during his shift. His manager asked if Chris could take over and it was a natural fit for his personality and interests. Community is an important word in Chris’s world. Whether he’s participating in community theater, building a life SLO (a community he never wants to leave) or tending bar and working in the service industry, it’s important to Chris that he is giving back to his community.

Chris most enjoys making cocktails when a guest can tell him what they like and he can spontaneously craft a unique drink just for them. And when it’s the “best drink they’ve ever tasted”….well, that’s instant gratification. Chris never considered bartending as a career until a time in his life when he realized he really enjoyed it, he was good at it and had acquired great knowledge of wine and spirits. He likes working at Novo as he sees the bar and kitchen starting to become more holistic in their cross-utilization of products. His experience working in a high-volume restaurant serves him well and he enjoys the sense of family and community among staff and patrons.

In his free time Chris enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and 8 year-old daughter, who he boasts is becoming tri-lingual and has recently acquired her second belt in Kung Fu. He is also a self-professed cinephile and Sci-Fi aficionado. This Father’s Day, Chris plans to spend the day away from his Novo family to go camping with his daughter.

May News


IMG_5167Featured Dish: Pork Belly

A must-try item from our Spring menus is the Pork Belly. This Snake River Kurobuta Pork is slow roasted for four hours then sliced over sautéed greens, oyster and shiitake mushrooms and shallots with crispy somen noodles. It’s finished with a mouth-watering ginger citrus reduction. Topped with beet sprouts. Pair with Roar Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2014 or Schramsberg blanc de blanc wine to complete your meal.



IMG_6259Featured Team Member: Kelly Anderson

In the early morning, below a quiet Higuera Street, in Novo’s cellar kitchen a soup is bubbling and aromas are already filling the restaurant. Prep cook Kelly Anderson is preparing Novo’s fresh soups and sauces and butchering proteins for the day. The cellar kitchen is an unusually relaxed space for a cook and Kelly enjoys a low stress environment with her prep partner, Nate. A SLO native, Kelly first discovered her calling years ago while doing catering work. She loved it so much she enrolled in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. Upon graduating she interned at Gary Danko, a Michelin rated restaurant and James Beard award winner.

Kelly eventually made her way back to SLO where she worked at Lido Restaurant as the lead line cook and assistant pastry chef (which she discovered a fondness for). After that she joined the team of our sister restaurant, Luna Red, in it’s early days and helped the culinary team transition to a new location on Chorro Street. Shortly after, Kelly suffered a severe injury to her right eye while chopping firewood. Her career was put on hold as she went through multiple surgeries and a lengthily recovery process. With clearance from her doctors a year ago Kelly came back to work at Novo.

Today Kelly is a true comeback story! She is still careful to not re-injure her eye but is easing back into hiking, traveling and gardening. So the next time you enjoy our delicious soup of the day you’ll know who to thank. #nowyounovo


IMG_6300Featured Cocktail: Wilbur’s Maple Sour

Hailing from Vermont, Whistle Pig 10 Year Rye Whiskey is one of the only estate-grown premium rye whiskeys on the market. Completely seed-to-bottle, Master Distiller Dave Pickrell has mastered the combination of proof, purity, and age. Coupled with real Vermont Maple Syrup from Whistle Pig distilleries, fresh lemon juice, and a dash of egg white, Wilbur’s Maple Sour strives to bring out the wonderful complexity this 10 Year Rye has to offer. A wonderful frothy texture, a classic rye flavor, and a new American tradition culminate in a delightful libation. Come get yours today!

Featured Artist: Keith Ogren

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Keith is a digital media artist, painter, furniture designer and fabricator who was raised in Olympia, Washington. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Electronic Media from The Evergreen State College in 2001. He began his art career at the age of five compulsively drawing buses. 

Keith spent the last 13 years in Los Angeles working for network television as a motion graphic artist, producer, graphic designer, creative lead, and art director.  His current work reflects his love of the outdoors, the natural world, beach culture, and life in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Bautista Farms: A Family Affair

IMG_4259At Novo Restaurant much of the ingredients you’ll find on our menu are sourced from local farms here in our own back yard on the Central Coast. Our produce buyer, Matt Kubat, shops at local farmers’ markets five days a week to provide the freshest produce to Chef Ben (and sister restaurants, Luna Red and Robin’s.) We recently had the opportunity to talk with third generation farmer, Jacinto Bautista, son of farm owners, Manuel and Apolonia.

Manuel came to the US at fifteen years old. He arrived in Chicago and made his way to California where he found work pruning grape vineyards. He soon was able to buy his own plot of land where he originally grew peas, commercially. His wife, Apolonia, found opportunity in selling them at local farmers’ markets; something she enjoyed but also found lucrative.   As their farming business grew and new crops were added, the couple decided to transition out of commercial sales. They started focusing on selling privately to local restaurants and at farmers’ markets. This decision allowed them to pick as they grew without waste and provided steady money flow for the business.IMG_4276

Today they grow (seasonally) carrots, kale, chard, parsley, cilantro, spinach, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar peas, English peas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and green beans. The farm is now 25 years old and family run with an additional 10 workers on the team. Jacinto handles all of the orders, the planting, growing and cultivating. They practice conventional farming, meaning they only use pesticides as a last resort and plan to be completely organic within the next 5 to 10 years. And you can bet on the freshness of any Bautista product! Most crops are harvested and sold on the same day, which gives them a much longer shelf life than grocery store-bought produce.

IMG_4314As Jacinto takes on more responsibility for the family farm, along with his two sisters, he is focusing on getting as much information out of his father’s head as possible and down on paper. “He’s been doing this for 25 years and all of his knowledge is up here,” says Jacinto. Using technology to assist the day-to-day fieldwork is clearly a tool for Jacinto’s generation of farmers. Systemizing their processes is going to allow the farm to work smarter, not harder, in the future.

And what does Jacinto speculate about the future of farming in our area? He says he’s optimistic. He believes his generation (the mid-30 something’s) care about what they eat and where their food comes from. He says with Cal Poly being so agriculturally based and with our community being especially environmentally and health conscious, farming will continue to grow in this region. As long as there IMG_4252_1continues to be a demand, local small farms will thrive.
So how can you support Bautista Farms? Take a bit of extra time to see which farmers’ markets are near your area and shop local. For excellent tasting produce, buy what’s in season. You can find Bautista Farms at 13 different farmers’ markets from Vandenburg to Paso Robles.

The following schedule is where you can find them throughout the week:


February News

Beef EmpanadasIMG_3727
Warm up your winter with our new menu addition, Beef Empanadas. With a crisp, flakey outer shell, the middle is filled with a mixture of ground beef, roasted pasilla chilies and queso fresco, with just kick of spice to complete each savory bite. Enjoy with two different dipping sauces, a chipotle aioli or citrus cilantro sauce. The perfect appetizer or happy hour small plate, you won’t be able eat just one!

Featured Team Member: Pedro AndradeIMG_3954
If you’ve enjoyed any of our fresh and flavorful dinner salads, chances are Pedro Andrade prepared it for you. Originally from Aguascalientes, MX, Pedro moved to the U.S. 15 years ago and joined the Novo team shortly after in 2003. Along with his second job at Eureka Burger, Pedro is also on the Sunday Novo brunch crew. He’s an asset in the kitchen with versatile skills and always ready to jump onto other stations, such as the grill or sandwich station, when needed. In his free time Pedro enjoys going to the park with his one and a half year-old daughter and wife. He’s also an avid runner, which helps him get through his 15-hour workdays. The next time you visit Novo, Pedro recommends you try his personal favorite, the Salmon Salad. #nowyounovo




January News

IMG_3576Featured Team Member – Sam Cowitz

Sam Cowitz started his first restaurant industry job at Novo over 4 years ago.  A long time friend of the Covey family, he was grateful for the opportunity to get his foot in the door as a busser, promoted to food run and serve. After bar backing at Novo, he finally found his niche as food expo.  Throughout the years Sam has many fond memories of seeing long time friends and other SLO locals enjoying meals at Novo.  He’s proud to be a part of the Novo team, mostly because he gets to be himself.  He accredits Robin Covey’s philosophy of letting people’s individual personalities shine, that makes for a great work environment and fun co-worker relationships.  Currently Sam is in school at Cuesta as a political science/history major with possible plans to attend Cal Poly, gaining a teaching credential.  When not in class you’ll find him hiking, backpacking, fishing or shooting some hoops.  In 2016 Sam turns 23.  He’s “got some mixed feelings about this” but acknowledges there’s certainly a lot to look forward to.

IMG_3606Featured Cocktail – The Latin Linen


With muddled cucumber and Serrano chilies, the Latin Linen packs all the heat you need to stay warm during January at Novo Restaurant + Lounge. Consider this your winter coat- wrap yourself up in the smooth flavor of Casamigos Blanco tequila, St. Germain Elderflower liquor, and club soda, all brought together under a smokey float of Xicaru Mezcal.




1 3/4 oz Casamigos Blanco Tequila

3/4 oz St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

1 slice cucumber

2 slices Serrano chili

Soda Water

Splash Xicaru Mezcal

Splash Agave Syrup

Muddle cucumber and chili in mixing tin. Add tequila, agave, and liquer with ice and shake. Pour into glass rimmed with Black Salt and fill with soda water. Add splash of mezcal and enjoy!

December News

IMG_3287Featured Dish – Farmers’ Market Ahi Nachos

Available exclusively at our walk up street booth every Thursday night at Farmers’ Market, Novo’s Ahi Nachos are a must.  Savory, crispy wonton chips covered in chunks of fresh ahi tuna and sriracha sauce, you won’t be able to eat just one.  (only $10)


IMG_3356Featured Employee – Juan Montero

Juan Montero has been supplying a splash of creativity to our Novo family for almost 3 years. A part of the kitchen staff, he has worked his way around the back of house from a dishwasher on up to the prep line. You can see his artistic touches on the menu in our daily specials. Juan personally develops and curates each dish according to seasonal flavors, Novo tastes, and his own imagination. “It just kinda comes to me,” he says, of his daily creations.

 But his creative influence doesn’t stop at the food, Juan also is a tattoo apprentice, developing his artistic craft to eventually one day become a tattoo artist. His tattoo art can even be found on some of his fellow Novo co-workers. According to Juan, it started with one tattoo on a fellow employee and has since snowballed to several sporting his illustrations. He enjoys working at Novo because of the camaraderie. He says the environment and the people make it a great place to work. His favorite dish, though? He loves eating “Chef Ben’s family meal,” a non-menu staple for all restaurant employees, cooked especially for hungry workers at the beginning of a busy shift.

 When not on the clock you can catch him perfecting his boxing skills as a Muay Thai fighter or chasing after his son who turns two this December!