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Teenage Chef That Cooked For Oprah Hosts Vegan Pop-up on Melrose

The 17-year-old chef has been cooking since age 10

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Kai Kani, foreground
Kai Kani
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

A 17-year-old chef is bringing a vegan diner pop-up to Melrose on Friday, January 26. Billed the Vegan Diner Pop-up Experience, Kai Kani will take over the former Johnny Rockets space on Melrose with an entirely vegan menu of burgers, milkshakes, and fries.

Kani’s career started in 2013, while interning at Bruce Kalman’s Union Restaurant. Kalman brought Kani along as sous chef when he cooked at the James Beard House in New York. Soon after, Kani launched Kai, her first pop-up restaurant in 2014. After a series of Los Angeles pop-ups, Kani also interned at Studio City’s French-vegan spot, the Gadarene Swine.

In case you were starting to feel slightly less accomplished, Kani started her first business at the age of 10, Kai’s Kakery. This helped Kani land a number of high-profile private gigs, including preparing food for the Oprah Winfrey Network, LL Cool J, and Kyle Richards from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Kani also cooked for nonprofit organizations, including the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and Meals on Wheels.

Friday’s event is a vegan pop-up, but Kani also creates seasonal meals together for omnivores, while selling vegan and butter-filled cookie dough online. The Vegan Diner Pop-up Experience is from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m., or until the goods are gone. Walk-ins only.

Vegan Diner Pop-up Experience
7505 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA

Union Restaurant

37 Union Street, , CA 91103 (626) 795-5841 Visit Website

The Gadarene Swine

11266 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604 (818) 508-5500 Visit Website


7505 Melrose Avenue, , CA 90046 (323) 782-1023 Visit Website