“Nothing great has ever been achieved without challenges.” These are words that Ian Mafnas lives by, and they have taken on new meaning as he and his wife Qiana Mafnas fight to bring their signature style of smoky Texas barbecue to Long Beach in the face of confusing regulatory challenges.
Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats and BBQ is already a popular pop-up that appears weekly at the Lakewood YMCA, but it’s been a long road to this point.
Ian and Qiana have known each other for over 11 years. When they first met, neither was in the right place.
“We were both drug addicts,” Qiana Mafnas said. “We had problems with the law. We know the wrong way.
She says the couple separated to work on themselves, and when they got together they were both determined to do things the right way for themselves and their children.
The couple married in October 2021 and Ian started smoking meat for his family. Qiana says she had no idea Ian could make such good food and immediately wanted the family to open a restaurant.
Ian was hesitant, unconvinced that the public would love his food as much as his family, but after strong persuasion from Qiana, he agreed to launch Axiom Kitchen as a pop-up.
The savory meats – slow-cooked over charcoal, pecans, oak and applewood – have been a huge hit, but Ian and Qiana say they’ve yet to reach their ultimate goal, which has always been to open a full-fledged restaurant in Long Plage that would serve as a tribute to Qiana’s son, Noah Sekona, who died in 2018 at age 18.
“He wanted us to be able to live our happy lives and not have to work so much for others,” Qiana Mafnas said. “He wanted me to be home more and I worked a lot of hours.”
Realizing this dream has been difficult and confusing at times. The couple say the city told them they couldn’t get a restaurant license for their offset smoker – which uses charcoal and wood to indirectly heat meat – because of California’s food quality law. the air that regulates emissions.
Long Beach Health Department staff said it was complicated to allow a restaurant to use an offbeat smoker, with no clear yes or no answer. Supervisor Monica Cardenas says she needs more information from Axiom Kitchen to determine if using the offset smoker is allowed.
After the Long Beach Post contacted the health department, Ian and Qiana said health officials contacted them to try to resolve the issue.
Despite the confusion, Ian says he doesn’t mind Long Beach. He said the strict regulations have helped make it “a wonderful city” that values the environment.
In the meantime, Ian and Qiana say they won’t cut corners on how they prepare their food and will continue to work to bring Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats and BBQ to a permanent location because, they say, “Long Beach deserves a authentic smoked Texas style barbecue”. .”
The Axiom Kitchen pop-up is open every Friday from 1-8 p.m. at the YMCA located at 5835 Carson Street in Lakewood. They will also be at Wine Country in Signal Hill this Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information about Axiom Kitchen online or on their Instagram page.
Things to do in Long Beach this weekend, including… Oktoberfest and festivals galore