Los Angeles is a foodie’s dream city, offering some of the most culturally and ethnically diverse dining and social scenes across the nation. Helping the City of Angels rival that of New York City and Chicago is My 2 Cents, founded by James Beard Award semifinalist Chef Alisa Reynolds in 2013.

With only pennies in her pocket, this self-proclaimed Angeleno through and through brought My 2 Cents to Mid-City as a gift to her beloved city. My 2 Cents is a reflection of Reynolds’s upbringing, growing up in a home where the family ate together every night, her taste buds experiencing delicious flavors. Hoping to recreate that sense of community and coziness, the chef stated that, “I wanted to create a restaurant that felt like a hug. We welcome you when you come in, we thank you when you leave, we dance when it’s your first time. It’s my little piece of heaven in LA.” 

Reynolds eventually moved to New York to train under David Burke, a culinary pioneer who has been honored with a U.S. patent award for his unique process of using pink Himalayan salt to dry-age his steaks for up to 100 days. 

While classically trained in French Cuisine, this Los Angeles native chef chose to also honor her American roots, stirring up dishes that she describes as “Evolve Nostalgia,” which Reynolds states is conscious comfort food. Reynolds Southern soul classics have been updated with modern techniques and healthier ingredients, demonstrating her mastery in taking comfort food to a decadence. 

Many of her menu selections are dishes you may have grown up with, but with healthier ingredients and options. Reynolds incorporates vegan and gluten-free options to help ensure there is something for everybody at My 2 Cents. My 2 Cents invites guests to dive into reimaginings of American classics like macaroni and cheese, BBQ fried chicken with vegan braised collard greens, and a salad with croutons made of grits instead of bread (10/10 recommend). 

But the restaurant is best known for its elevated Shrimp and Grits culinary masterpiece, featuring big, flavorful shrimp atop the fluffiest of grits – the kind of grits that become the star of the dish and will have you coming back for more. And if you really want to satisfy those salt and sweet cravings at once, order up a plate of fried catfish with a sweet potato pecan crumble. 

While Reynolds is a current James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Best Chef, climbing to the top was not always easy for the Black female chef who entered the game over 25 years ago with the odds stacked against her. But driven by a desire to honor her Southern roots with a healthy twist, Reynolds stayed dedicated and worked hard to reach the top without compromising on her mission. 

“It’s like stepping into a hug or stepping into your grandmother’s house in a modern way. The food speaks for itself. I put my love into the menu,” said Reynolds. “Being a woman, being an African American, Black woman, you don’t see often, you don’t see thousands and millions of Black restaurants.” Now, the chef hopes her journey can be an inspiration to others, motivating them to go after the things in life they are passionate about. Reynolds followed her dreams and her heart, and things seemed to work out quite well for this creative culinary mind.