With Her Restaurant Pomet, Farmer Aomboon Deasy Centers the Family Farm
Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
March 31, 2022
While many Bay Area chefs rely on local farms to inspire their menus, farmers who become restaurateurs are fewer and farther between. Second-generation farmer Aomboon Deasy of K&J Orchards is bringing new meaning to farm-to-table with her new restaurant in Oakland. At Pomet, diners are invited into a city haven where they can enjoy a farm-fresh menu driven by the seasonality of California and sourced from her family farm, K&J Orchards, and other small, sustainable farms in the region.
A Family (Fruit) Tree Takes Root
In 1982, K&J Orchards was brought to life by wife-and-husband team Kalayada and James Beutal. Having grown up on an avocado orchard in Orange, James studied fruit and their cultivation as a pomologist for the University of California, while Kalayada, an immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, worked as a registered nurse. Both of them shared a deep love for stone fruit.
They started growing Asian pears and peaches in Yolo County, and eventually diversified into citrus and other fruit and nuts, growing more than 100 varieties. They now grow upwards of 20 pear varieties alone. Since 1993, K&J Orchards has sold directly to customers at farmers markets, while building relationships with local chefs and restaurants.
Today, the farm occupies 65 acres in Winters, California, and continues to be run by the family. James has passed away in 2016, but Kalayada continues to maintain the farm operations and business with her two daughters, Onanong and Aomboon, known to many farmers market shoppers simply as “Boonie.” (Boonie also serves on Foodwise’s Board of Directors.) Her husband and business partner, Tim, also helps with daily responsibilities on the farm and sales at farmers markets.
Discovering a Meaningful Name and Menu
The momentum to start a restaurant grew through Boonie’s connections with local chefs and her ambitious “why not?” attitude. For years, K&J Orchards has been frequently name-dropped on restaurant menus, in large part due to the high quality of their tree-ripened fruit and steady cultivation of chef relationships at the farmers market.
The opportunity to open a dining spot of their own arose when Oakland restaurant Homestead closed its doors in June 2021. “It kind of landed in our lap,” Boonie says. After getting Chef Alan Hsu, previously from the restaurant Benu, on board, she was on track to opening a new restaurant.
She still needed a name. After going through her pomologist father James’ old paperwork, she stumbled on a word that seemed to fit perfectly. The name Pomet pays homage to James, who studied and cultivated fruit and founded the farm where everything began.
Pomet, the Romanian word for “orchard,” also reflects Boonie’s intention for the restaurant to be a dining experience centered around the farm. “I want people to leave with the essence that they’ve been on the farm,” she says. Pomet’s menu will change based on what’s available at K&J Orchards and other California farms, many of them familiar names from K&J’s connections at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
“I am going to patronize my fellow farmers to make these dishes,” says Boonie. The restaurant’s opening menu features Brokaw Ranch Company’s avocados, Star Route Farms’ carrots, Zuckerman’s Farm’s potatoes, and more locally sourced ingredients, along with K&J Orchards’ beloved Asian pears.
Honoring the Farm’s Harvests
“We’ve always strived to bring the best of our bounty to the farmers markets and to restaurants,” says Boonie. K&J Orchards’ patrons enjoy nearly perfect fruit, but what happens to the fruit that doesn’t make it to the market?
As a creative solution to minimizing food waste, K&J Orchards crafts value-added products including dried fruits, preserves, and fresh pomegranate juice. The restaurant will be another outlet for the family farm’s deep appreciation of the fruit, and the land, labor, and love put into it.
“We don’t want to waste all that food that doesn’t get sold, so the restaurant will be trying to find ways to use all that we have,” says Boonie.
One of the menu items Deasy is most excited about features an innovative use of Shinko pears that are less aesthetically pleasing, overripe, or otherwise less likely to be sold at the farmers market. The pears are juiced, strained, and frozen to create a dessert of pear “snow” served with shiso.
Looking forward, Boonie sees more growth in K&J Orchards’ future. “The focus of the farm is expanding our citrus assortment, and I’m going off on a different channel for us by opening a restaurant,” she says. “We took quite a bit on our plates this year, and we’re hoping for it to be fruitful—pun intended. It’s exciting.”
K&J Orchards is at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Tuesday and Saturday and Mission Community Market on Thursday. Pomet is located at 4029 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.