39-year-old Dave Muller is a wearer of many hats. Ten years ago he and his wife, Lana Porcello, opened Outerlands in the Outer Sunset district of San Francisco, a redwood-paneled eatery that specializes in locally-sourced, organic fare. The food is excellent, the vibe is cozy, and the spacious room bustles most days and nights. It’d be a lot to take on by any stretch, but Dave is also a musician (he plays guitar in the band Sandy’s), a visual artist (he paints, he draws), a surfer, and a father of two young children. And he knows in his bones that he needs to do all of these things to stay sane.
“If I knew what I was getting into beforehand I never would have thought I could pull it off, and I might not have agreed to do it,” he told me. “But it’s amazing to have created a fire underneath me that I have to keep going.”
I hung out with Dave at his restaurant, at his gig at Rickshaw Stop in Hayes Valley, at his home (a few blocks from Outerlands), and on the windy dunes that overlook his local wave. We talked about a lot of things, but mostly we talked about balancing a busy, engaged life. Here are some of the highlights—
On Family: “What are we aside from the love we share with others? The time I get to spend with my children and my wife, Lana, is indisputably the most valuable thing I have in this life. My amazing friends feel like family as well, and continually nurture my creative growth and sense of collective identity. As much as I try to prioritize spending time with family, it never feels like enough; balancing home life with work and personal creative growth is a constant juggle. Being a parent is also the most challenging thing I do. There’s no manual for it. I’m always second guessing myself, and trying to break the negative cycles of past generations. Nonetheless, the shimmering joy that children bring to life is worth every difficulty they present, no matter how brutal.”
On Work: “I got my first ‘real’ job at a big grocery chain when I was 14 and have worked with food in one form or another ever since. I found myself working at hippie health food stores and gradually moved my way to farmers markets, the farms that grew the food, and eventually restaurants. Throughout that process I developed an awareness of the importance for environmental responsibility, particularly with food. I made a decision early on to always strive to work in businesses that were aligned with my ethics.
When Lana and I opened Outerlands in 2009, we made an absolute commitment to support sustainable farms and producers, which we initially found harder than we had imagined on a shoestring budget. We have come a long way as a business since then and have maintained our pledge, working to build lasting relationships with the amazing farms and vendors that we are fortunate to have access to in the Bay Area. It’s still incredible to know the people who grow the food that we buy to prepare for our customers. We make everything we possibly can from start to finish with care and intention, so that our food honors all of the hard work of every hand and soil that brought it into being. We also realize how important it is to use our business as a symbol to our community, supporting the longevity of the planet we inhabit. These values are almost implicit in the company of great restaurants we keep in this city, but it’s more important than ever to emphasize them in the delicate time we live in now. Our goal is simple: offer our community a beautiful, positive place to meet, a place to gather, a place to fall in love, all while enjoying a meal they can feel wonderful about.”
On Music: “Music in some ways feels like the most selfish thing I do, even though I do it the least of anything these days. Playing music makes me feel better than almost anything; and I often feel desperate for it. I grew up playing music with my family. It’s a language that if I don’t get to hear or I don’t get to speak I start to feel like I’m dying. That’s a realization that has surfaced more and more as I’ve aged. I do it out of necessity. It feels like a way I can share the most intimate part of myself—with others and with myself. It’s an art that I try to constantly share with my family, and a tradition I want to carry on with my kids. Music is the greatest gift my parents gave to me.”
On Nature: “If I was forced to choose one way to be in nature, it would be surfing, and that’s often the case. Ocean Beach is three blocks from my house. It is instantly cleansing. Nothing can fix my brain the way that surfing can. Even a crappy onshore day can be amazing, and getting pounded just feels so good sometimes. These waves shake up all the stressful things that feel so important and give me a moment in time to reassess life as the pieces fall back into place. We have so much beautiful nature within a short distance of here, and it’s something I crave to immerse myself in as much as possible.”
On Spirituality: “I was raised in a very Christian home and community, but I have completely departed from religion in my life, and that was a huge challenge in my younger years. Personally redefining what spiritually is to me has been crucial for my survival and I have grown immensely through that pursuit. I hold it in a very private, sacred place within myself, but I find that nature, art-making, music, cooking, and surfing all fulfill me on a spiritual level.”
On Bread: “My friend Chad encouraged me to start baking bread ten years ago, and I’m forever grateful to him for that. The thing that I learned early on is how much focus it requires. It becomes clear why bread has shown up so frequently as a metaphor for life. It’s a daily process that you can’t take for granted because it’s never going to do the exact same thing twice. The way that we make bread at Outerlands has a lot to do with our immediate environment, so we’re always paying attention to the details of the weather and how it affects our dough. When everything comes together to make beautiful bread, there’s nothing quite like it, but it’s also so ephemeral. It comes and it goes; you make it, you bake it, you eat it, and then it’s gone. And then you have the next day to try and make it even better. Bread is something you can never perfect but you can be happy spending a whole life trying because the reward is so satisfying. It’s a very meditative and intuitive process that actually feels like magic sometimes.”
JAMIE BRISICK IS A WRITER, PHOTOGRAPHER, AND DIRECTOR. HE SURFED ON THE ASP WORLD TOUR FROM 1986 TO 1991. HE HAS SINCE DOCUMENTED SURF CULTURE EXTENSIVELY. HIS BOOKS INCLUDE BECOMING WESTERLY: SURF CHAMPION PETER DROUYN’S TRANSFORMATION INTO WESTERLY WINDINA, ROMAN & WILLIAMS: THINGS WE MADE, WE APPROACH OUR MARTINIS WITH SUCH HIGH EXPECTATIONS, HAVE BOARD, WILL TRAVEL: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF SURF, SKATE, AND SNOW, AND THE EIGHTIES AT ECHO BEACH. HIS WRITINGS AND PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE APPEARED IN THE SURFER’S JOURNAL, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AND THE GUARDIAN. HE WAS THE EDITOR OF SURFING MAGAZINE FROM 1998-2000, AND IS PRESENTLY THE GLOBAL EDITOR OF HUCK. IN 2008 HE WAS AWARDED A FULBRIGHT FELLOWSHIP. HE LIVES IN LOS ANGELES. FOR MORE OF HIS WORK CHECK OUT JAMIEBRISICK.COM & @JAMIEBRISICK