It took master woodworker Ryan Silverman of Gardena’s The Wooden Palate an entire day to extract the giant, dying walnut tree from the Torrance site where it had lived for 250 years.
“That tree shouldn’t have survived so long. An eastern black walnut normally needs hard winters, but there it was. Literally, it must have been a Spanish missionary with a walnut,” says Silverman, who, along with wife and co-founder Eileen O’Dea, launched the company—dedicated to crafting bespoke pieces for the kitchen and home—shortly after their first date in 2012.
Two massive cranes were involved in the takeout, plus skilled crane operators and woodcutters who scaled the tree—and a mobile slabbing mill. As they worked, Silverman was able to call out cuts he wanted. From the massive 15,000-pound trunk, he cut 13 thick 5-by-10-foot slabs. Weighing about 1,000 pounds, each was a struggle for eight guys to move.
“The only opportunity I have to play with wood that I long for and admire is to do urban logging and take down an old tree,” says Silverman. The couple also seek out workable reclaimed woods for their designs, as well as sustainable, plantation-grown woods like white oak and black walnut.
“The wood has to dry a couple of years before he’ll turn it into tables, benches, chairs. Smaller pieces will go into cutting boards, rolling pins, muddlers and even jewelry,” adds O’Dea. Thomas Keller uses their bespoke grain boards in The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon, while Jean-Georges Vongerichten employs the heavyweight Mini boards as butter dishes. Up next: a line of steak boards designed in collaboration with chef Michael Voltaggio for a new project, as well as a modest custom furniture line, dubbed Studio E & R. 310-866‑3116. thewoodenpalate.com