Fred and Max Guerrero, Co-Founders of Burgerlords + Slow Culture
If sibling rivalry is real, Fred and Max Guerrero have found the antidote. As the Co-Founders of the cult-favorite gallery Slow Culture and the Tumblr-turned-restaurant Burgerlords, the duo shows us they can do it all—together.
An Interview: What It's Really Like Working With Your Brother
WORDS BY: ZARNA SURTI | PHOTOS BY: TAYLOR RAINBOLT
You’d think two guys who grew up in the restaurant business would want a slew of fancy Los Angeles restaurants, but Fred and Max Guerrero are looking to cultivate something new, something authentic. They’re not pretentious, they’re not aggressive, and they’re not unseasoned—what they are is hard working, passionate brothers, delivering genuine experiences—all with really, really good taste. With innovative concepts like Slow Culture and Burgerlords, these are the two guys that always have you coming back for more.
First things first, what’s it like working with your brother?
Max: Honestly for me personally it’s actually really easy. We’re pretty much on the same page with everything that we do—it’s like one mind. It’s easy having someone you trust because the more you’re out there, the more people you meet, and the more difficult it gets to know what people’s intentions are sometimes. So, it’s nice having a foundation.
When did you guys decide you wanted to start working together? Was it Slow Culture’s first location in Highland Park?
Fred: Our family owns restaurants, so we worked the family business together. We were always on the same page and when we had the opportunity to do the gallery, we were like, “Okay, we’re gonna do it together.” I’m not gonna leave him and he’s not gonna leave me. I’ve actually never worked a job without him.
How did you guys get into art? Is that something you were always interested in?
Fred: Yeah, I think growing up in Los Angeles, it’s such a big melting pot and you have access to everything. So whether it’s skateboarding or music, I was more into music—you’re obsessed with album covers or tees or whatever; and you’re finding out about artists. It’s just something that’s always been there.
Max: Our mom paints and she’s into water color. Our dad actually studied art at UCLA and then became a chef afterwards, so I think it’s in our DNA already. Growing up they were always very conscious of making sure that like we got to go to Olvera Street, or to this museum, or this gallery—just to be exposed to everything and to experience it because we have it’s right here.
So what was the first show at Slow Culture? Did you start with a specific artist?
Fred: In August 2013, we started with our friend Rick Rodney. Rick was our first show because he was a good friend of ours and a good friend to the community. He had never had a photography show, so we thought that was a good jumping off point for us.
What was that moment like right before you opened up the first show? Was it terrifying or were you really calm?
Fred: Oh yeah, it was nerve-racking.
Max: Also, the neighborhood wasn’t what it is now. So there weren’t as many restaurants and bars and things like that—we had no idea what was going to happen.
Fred: But it was great reception—the whole place was packed. Again, I think because we had so many people championing us and carrying over from the other gallery—our friends crossed over and Rick’s friends crossed over. That’s how it is to this day, people are really good about supporting us.
Many people find galleries really intimidating. They walk in and think, “How do I find my first piece of art? How does this even work?” What advice do you have for people who are just starting to collect?
Fred: The number one thing is that you have to like it. You have to feel passionate about it and you have to live with it everyday. It’s definitely a big investment and it could be scary and intimidating, but it’s not that scary if you love it. We pride ourselves on being a place that’s not intimidating for people—anyone can walk in, anyone can come to an opening, it’s all ages, and it’s late at night. That’s the biggest misconception is people asking, “HGow much does it cost to get in?” It’s free to come—just look at it, be a part of it.
Max: I don’t think it matters. It doesn’t matter how you can talk about it or who relates to it; it’s how it makes you feel—how you connect to it.
When did you guys move Slow Culture to Chinatown?
Max: We knew we were ready to move from Highland Park and we were building Burgerlords, our restaurant, out at the same time. This space just became available. So we slowly transitioned out of the Highland Park location, had our last shows there, opened the restaurant, and moved our things over here. We were actually moving out of our home at the same time—it was the most hectic three months of my entire life.
Why did you guys want to get back into the restaurant industry? Was that something you always wanted to do?
Fred: We would have weekly manager meetings at our dad’s restaurant, just brainstorming and coming up with ideas, and Max came up with the name “Burgerlords,” which I thought was really funny. So I just thought, “I’ll make this Tumblr with all this stuff I’m finding and call it Burgerlords.” After about a month or two of doing that, Tumblr found it and told us they loved it and wanted to feature it in their directory. They would spotlight it across all the prime spaces on the site and it grew to over 200,000 followers.
That’s awesome. What was the process of actually opening up Burgerlords?
Fred: The first month we were working in the restaurant, we were there all the time. It was just so many friends coming through—word of mouth, our friends coming, telling their friends—it just built organically that way.
Max: Major support system. It’s like the gallery—the first show everyone was waiting, so by the time it opened it was just a mad house.
Max: We wanna do more restaurants.
Fred: I think now that it’s been a year at Burgerlords, we can start looking ahead to more locations. But I think between that and the gallery—even though those are the two core projects—there’s a lot of other collaborations we work on. So whether we’re curating some off-site exhibit or if we’re doing a burger collaboration or trying to do pop-ups in other places, there are different extensions.
Last one, have you guys always known that you wanted to be entrepreneurs?
Fred: Yeah. I think it’s finding a balance, but that’s in our heritage. Our grandparents immigrated from the Philippines and started with nothing. So the family business was our path. But our parents are very open and we were free to do whatever we wanted. So growing up it was like, “You wanna play in a band? Fine. If you mess that up, that’s on YOU. If you’re not gonna go to school that’s on you. We’re not gonna pick up the pieces.”
Max: I think it was just in our DNA—being around it so much growing up, that’s all we knew and that was our work ethic. We were always in the restaurant all the time and didn’t take vacations. You have to set an example for your employees, so you should be working harder than everybody else. That stuck with us and we live that lifestyle.
The Burgerlords Review: Your Favorite Burger Has Arrived. And Two Vegetarians Made It.
REVIEW BY: ARIELA KOZIN + ANISA SUDRA | PHOTOS BY: TAYLOR RAINBOLT
Tucked away in LA’s China Town plaza is an unexpected food option – burgers and fries from Burgerlords. Instead of chopsticks, Burgerlords serves up the American staple meal in an open cardboard box that makes it easy to devour with your bare hands. We promise if you opt for Burgerlords, you will hardly miss the chow mein offered next door.
The Classic Burger
In-N-Out step aside, let me tell you about the goodness that is Burgerlords. When we headed to Burgerlords, the summertime nostalgia kicked in as the aroma of a burger fresh off the grill came my way. When it arrived I held a beautifully crisp bun filled with a juicy patty and its perfectly fresh counterparts. The ingredients work together in some magical way to produce the perfect bite, from first to last. Fresh, crisp, and juicy, Burgerlords takes the classic cheeseburger to pure perfection.
The Vegan Burger
The bun’s toasted, the lettuce is crisp, the sauce is zesty, the onions are just cooked enough, the tomato is juicy, and the patty is juicier. Now, let me preface that I LOVE meat, so it’s a huge deal for me to say I wasn’t mad about the absence of beef . Like what is layered on top, the vegan patty is nothing fancy. The reason why it is so delectable is because the mish-mash of veggies melts in your mouth. You can see the fresh assortment of veggies before they touch your lips, so you’d anticipate the mushrooms taste like mushrooms, but each ingredient joins together to make one amazing flavor that’ll surely satisfy your taste buds.
Oh, the fries! It’s hard to mess up fries, but it’s even harder to make each and every one delicious. Burgerlord’s look like most fries: skinny, salted, and browned. Then I took my first nibble and what was fluffy on the inside was crunchy on the outside. It was a big pile and – despite my full stomach – I would’ve gladly scarfed down another serving.
Listen In: A Podcast
New Rules: Fred + Max Guerrero
The Gallery: Now Playing At Slow Culture
WORDS BY: ARIELA KOZIN
At Slow Culture, the possibilities are infinite, quite literally. The current exhibit Infinite Earths, is a vivid exploration of details by Jerry Hsu, Jason Nocito, and Nate Walton. The photographers come together to pose the question, “What is the relationship between our inner and outer worlds?” Where Jason’s work plays with reflections, Jerry captures the beauty in the ordinary, and Nate tests just how intimate a portrait can feel.