An entrepreneur, tastemaker, chef, founder and curator of all things Joan’s on Third, Joan McNamara has created an L.A. foodie institution.
The daughter of Czech immigrants, Joan grew up in New Jersey, in a hard-working, Catholic household where life revolved around the kitchen, studying at her mother’s apron strings, and absorbing countless secret recipes.
She moved to Manhattan in her early 20s and worked for industrial designer Paul McCobb, then with famed chef Dione Lucas, eventually running her cooking school. Inspired by French cuisine and culture, together they opened The Egg Basket, a gourmet omelet restaurant on 59th Street near Bloomingdale's, which Joan eventually bought and ran herself.
In the seventies, Joan moved to Los Angeles and started a family. While raising her two daughters, Carol and Susie, Joan’s passion for cooking reemerged as the heart of her home, echoing that of her mother’s, centered in the kitchen.
Entertaining has always been a joyous family affair. In the years leading up to the business, Joan, Carol and Susie hosted an annual New Year’s Day party at their home, working around the clock as it approached, excitedly designing, decorating and cooking together. On the day of the party, friends and family would arrive at noon and often stay into the night, relishing bountiful food and drink, festively celebrating. Each year, the party grew in size. When it reached more than five hundred guests, starting a catering business seemed like a natural progression.
Joan’s on Third opened in 1995, on then-sleepy Third Street in Los Angeles, quickly becoming one of LA’s most in-demand caterers. Set amidst the entertainment industry, word of mouth raves citing Joan’s outstanding cuisine, service and style attracted countless customers, from friends and neighbors to studio heads, wedding planners and corporations. Over the next few years, Carol and Susie joined the family business, and together they continued to expand her vision.
In 1998, an adjacent storefront became available offering the opportunity for Joan to realize a lifelong dream, creating a home where she could bring together family, friends and community, a gourmet marketplace and café. As the catering business continued to thrive, Joan’s cooking expertise, design talent and boundless passion for providing an exceptional customer experience gave rise to the Marketplace at Joan’s on Third.
An emerging success, Joan’s devoted customers, new and old, packed into the intimate space on Third Street, a dash of NYC in LA, to peruse the gourmet counter, brimming with delectable, crafted selections, freshly prepared sandwiches, salads and baked goods, shelves carefully fashioned with specialty foods and unique products.
In 2007, Joan’s on Third expanded again, tripling the size of the bustling marketplace, adding more café seating including a rustic, communal table, set amid an open kitchen, with stations for an abundant selection of seasonally inspired cuisine, grab-and-go and private label offerings, and a distinctive selection of cheeses, olives and gourmet retail items from around the world.
A vibrant gathering place, Joan’s on Third has evolved into a must-stop LA culinary emporium and destination. Customers stream in daily to eat in or take out. Joan is ever present, behind the counter or visiting table to table warmly greeting customers, her extended family of loyal and longtime staff circulating in tandem, mirroring her gracious spirit and devotion to excellence.
Joan is developing a cookbook and branded products to more readily share her favorite things. In the fall of 2014, she opened a second marketplace location in Studio City and has plans to open additional locations as well.