CSULB alumna shares thrill of earning a Michelin star for Long Beach's Heritage restaurant
When Heritage earned a coveted Michelin Star in July 2023, the owners – one of them a Cal State Long Beach alumna – saw their restaurant business triple overnight. They went from having to close early on occasion, because of the lack of customers, to having reservations booked solid for months.
The Long Beach fine-dining establishment is co-owned by Lauren Pretty, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from CSULB in 2017. For Pretty and her older brother/executive chef Philip, receiving the Michelin star has been life changing.
“Before the Michelin star, we were only serving a few tables a night,” Lauren Pretty said. “We were getting nervous – when was business going to pick up? It wasn’t the numbers we needed to make it work. The Michelin star completely changed that. Now we’re functioning and paying bills. We actually doubled our staff since we won the star. It’s been exciting and hard work.”
The Michelin star – awarded to restaurants worldwide using top-quality ingredients and maintaining high preparation standards – is the first and only one for Long Beach, and the only new Michelin star this past year for Los Angeles County. Heritage had previously earned a Michelin Plate, which recognizes quality food, but not the prestigious red star.
Michelin, the French tire company that also publishes travel and restaurant guides, also awarded Heritage a green star, recognizing the restaurant’s sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
“We use sustainable meat and seafood,” Pretty said. “All of our to-go containers are biodegradable, not plastic or polystyrene. We have a farm about a mile away and farm organically, with no pesticides. We go to the Santa Monica farmers market weekly, to get other produce. We cultivate relationships with farmers. Forming relationships with farmers takes years, so we can get the best products available to us in Southern California.”
When she was a student at The Beach, Pretty studied with Professors Pamela Kreiser and Christina Derme, and credits them for providing mental and emotional support, as well as a firm foundation in communication styles and studies.
“I loved Cal State Long Beach. I was so happy during my time there,” she said. “I just felt very supported in my goal to receive my bachelor’s degree. I just felt like they reached out to me; they were trying to help me graduate. I was never confused about what classes I needed to take to get to that point.”
While a communications student at The Beach, Pretty obtained a certificate in mediation, following Kreiser’s encouragement. It still helps her to this day at Heritage, which can get hectic and stressful at times, as chefs and servers work side by side in a rather tight space.
“If my staff are having problems within themselves, I’m very comfortable to sit down with my manager, steer the conversation in a way that becomes productive, because of my training in mediation. It was fun to make up these real-world problems that people might encounter. And it was a great experience to learn all the skills from that class too.”
Pretty also values the semester she spent studying in Italy, which was part of CSULB’s Study Abroad Program. Her communications professors Kreiser and Derme were also on the program in Italy with her.
“There is this sort of aloneness when you’re studying abroad,” Pretty said. “You learn to have a little more backbone. You are going to be home late at night in a different country. You can’t just go home. You learn how to be aware, safe, by yourself, self-sufficient.”
Heritage serves a set tasting menu of six courses that includes kanpachi crudo, grilled diver scallops with razor clam, Iberico pork shoulder, blackberry frozen yogurt and burnt sage honey cake (subject to change).
All dishes are elegantly prepared in farm-to-table fashion. Wine pairings and a pescatarian option are available, but the restaurant politely declines other modifications.
While most people are happy for her and the restaurant, Pretty said she witnessed a tiny bit of controversy surrounding the new Michelin star.
“People wonder why did we get it? We’re in Long Beach, in Rose Park. We’re not in a $2 million building. It used to be a house, and it’s in Long Beach? We’re just like here, doing our thing. It’s small, it’s intimate. It’s not this immaculate building. Some people walk in and judge that immediately, which has been difficult.
“But most people see what we’re doing. I think they understand what we are doing, which is all we can hope for.”
And what does the future hold for Heritage?
“Another restaurant for sure,” Pretty said. “In the coming year, another restaurant. Chef (Philip) throws out crazy ideas. He’s been talking about an ice cream truck.
“I’d like to make the farm more successful. I think it’s a really cool venue in Long Beach to get married at. But we can only fit 65 seated.
“A bar would be great – we’ve got a great last name to utilize.” Pretty has also received training as a bartender.
No matter what happens, nothing can take away the sense of accomplishment and gratitude for what Long Beach – and her alma mater – have given her.
“I’m from Long Beach, so there’s a huge sense of pride. I feel lucky to have been born here. I love the people and the culture. It’s one of the best feelings to win a star for Long Beach.”