How Swedish Native Helene Henderson Went From Model to Restaurateur

By F&W Editors Posted October 12, 2015

Helene Henderson always loved cooking—but opening a restaurant wasn’t a career move she anticipated. Here, read the story on how she went from model to restaurateur.

Helene Henderson always loved cooking—but opening a restaurant wasn’t a career move she anticipated. Henderson, who left Sweden for New York City at the age of 17, started out as a model, booking gigs in the U.S. and Europe with famed designers like Betsey Johnson. After three years, looking for an escape route from the fashion industry, she set off for Los Angeles after a friend promised her three things: a car, a job and a boyfriend (a blind date with film director John Stockwell proved successful; he became her husband).

She was working as a graphic designer out in Los Angeles when a friend asked Henderson to help cook for a dinner party. The event was such a success that soon other people were calling to ask her for help. Before long, she was hosting farm-to-table dinners in her backyard and running her own company, Lavender Farms Catering. With celebrities like Madonna and Barbara Streisand enjoying her famous Swedish lamb chops, Henderson's schedule was packed.

Still, Henderson hadn't even considered opening anything resembling a restaurant. When the farm dinners became so popular that her husband suggested she move them to Malibu, California’s 780-foot-long pier, Henderson was skeptical: “They’re farm dinners,” she said. But she agreed to try the restaurant as a pop-up, and took over a vacant café at the tip of the pier. She ripped out the red vinyl booths, tossed the deep fryer and opened Malibu Farm. Today, the pop-up has turned permanent and Henderson's passion for food shines with incredible dishes like persimmon-and-burrata salad with sesame and orecchiette with bacon, black-eyed peas and spinach.

Related: Malibu Garden Party
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