Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Condor Squadron Fly-Over

Today I attended a Memorial Day Program at Pierce Brothers Valhalla, North Hollywood honoring the fallen Veterans of all wars past and present.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st Studio City Community BBQ

I believe it's important to support local events that bring neighbors together.
This fundraiser sponsored by Studio City Residents Association to support Save the Los Angeles River Open Space and Studio City Beautification was surprisingly fun. Live music, line dancing, chow by Captain BBQ, and kids activities all held on the 2o+ acre Hirsh Ranch.

BBQ pulled pork, chicken and tri tip was mediocre, with rice, mac n' cheese, and cornbread. Saucy + greasy aren't my favorite style, however a nice Memorial Day get-together for a good cause with friends and neighbors. Pass the Tums please.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sour Taste and Vegas Dining Critics Faux Pas

My trip to Las Vegas exposed the insincere, rude, off-camera persona of two American TV chefs.I won't disclose the second encounter, Mr. Colicchlio of Top Chef-a-Rama!
How can these self-righteous tradespeople get away with disrespecting a fellow colleague whose craft (Food Styling) visually enhances their culinary creations? Guess they don't trust I'm (we're) on the same team, have the same goal. They take themselves WAY to serious!

NEXT: I want you all to read this revealing article linked below by John Curtas (local Vegas food clown, sorry, I mean critic) and Al Mancini (Vegas food writer of CityLife Magazine).

This article speaks for itself. Please remember these guys get national invitations for FREE fancy food happenings 24/7, are looked upon as honored, educated and respected food writers (journalists)!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Celeb Chef's Blackjack Tourney

MGM's Alex Gaudelet & Chef Robuchon

Chefs are ready to hit the blackjack tables

Paul Bartolotta, D. Boulud with hostess Elaine Wynn

Uncork'd Blackjack felt

My favorite part of Vegas Uncork'd 2009 was attending the Chef's Blackjack Tournament at Encore standing behind Chef Robuchon. Thanks to Emily Wolford for this perk. I served the important duty as official cheerleader and gave moral support to JR( this man has 25 Michelin Restaurant stars)! Alex Gaudelet, MGM's director of Food & Beverage, served as translator/coach. Chef told me that he was a novice blackjack player, however he knew when to bet, hit and hold.

After round 1 of 10 hands, Chef was ahead in chips. It was the 11th hand, doubling down on a pair of 8's that broke his bank. What an honor to stand behind my culinary mentor during the short tournament. Elaine Wynn, owner of Encore Las Vegas and event hostess graciously greeted players. I extended my hand to introduce myself as a loyal patron of the Wynn dynasty. Elaine welcomed me like I was a long lost friend. SO impressive.

Chef and I left the table after his elimination. He & Alex went to dine at Botero Steakhouse (Encore). I went into Casino Encore to find Goldberg hitting the machines. After an hour I returned to the exclusing outdoor pool area to get another glass of Perrier-Jouet Champagne and explore the chi-chi nightclub XS scene (I was doing research).

There was Chef Robuchon holding court on a comfy outdoor sofa with chilled Belvedere Vodka and Verve-Cliquot Champagne for his posse (Exec. Chef Eric Bouchenoire,GM Emmanuel Cornet, and resv. manager, Dara Pierce). What a host! He waved me over to sit next to him, enjoy more champagne with pulsing European disco and watch the parade of loosing tourney chefs. Too much fun. A lovely end to Vegas Uncorked.

How great to hang out with Robuchon & his A- team! Merci, Chef.

p.s. Chef Paul Bartolotta won the Tourney.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caesar's Palace Grand Tasting-Hated It!

Too crowded, a crushed feeding frenzy.

Photo shot very early in event, wished it had stayed this way!

It was 95 degrees with humidity (desert=dry), what's up with that? Where did all the people come from? OMG!! Last year was fabulous, 400 (or so) people in a roomy, air conditioned tent, with top quality ingredient laden samples, plenty of wine, Belgian Stella Artois' beer expert, Marc Stroobrandt generously pouring. My stunning review last year is why I returned with a guest. Not this year!

We (1000 people) had to wait over one hour in Caesar's crowded hallway (L.A. fire code would have shut that one down) while the PR Police shooed folks behind the line. "stay behind the rope". I was promised a press pass in writing weeks ahead to get in early, but after "checking in" I never got one! Grrrrr.........

Grabbed a plastic wine glass (we were in the pool area) and started to search for the wine and beer (I needed a drink to lower my blood pressure). Restaurant facade serving stations were overwhelmed plating teeny-tiny soup samples, mini burgers, overcooked tuna sliders, cold saucy pasta, greasy lamb, rubbery pork, a few desserts.

Blaring music, blinding lights, sweaty chefs, 10-15 people lined up to get a micro mouthful. I saw food spilled on guests while being crushed in the feeding frenzy! Skimpy wine selection (one-ounce pours, pa-leeze), no beer to speak of, chefs running out of food. I paid $180 x 2=$360, including s&h fees for this! Did Bon Appetit forget to give the chefs a headcount? I left hungry, thirsty, & ripped-off. The bottom line: Hated it!

None of the food was memorable. Last year Richard Wing of Wing Lei (@WynnLV ) served delicious peking duck and that sample is what got me in his restaurant. That's what these "tastings" are for: to promote a future restaurant visit = $$$. Cha-Ching!!

There was one memorable Vegas Uncork'd moment when I asked a "celebrity" TV Food Network Chef, Bobby Flay if he used a Food Stylist for his cookbooks and TV appearances. Rudely and with an enraged voice said "absolutely never"! "I never, ever let one of "those people" touch my food, ever"!

Wow! I'm one of those people (a Food Stylist). He went on and on insulting my profession ( like a hair/makeup stylist to an actor, a food stylist's job is to make the chef's dish look stunningly appetizing for photography, still or moving). He continued to belittle and question me in disbelief that I am also on The Food Network (I'm a reoccurring, on-camera judge for Food Network Challenge, airing this coming July 12).

I politely backed off, asked if I can quote what he said, wished him a good evening, and left rather shook up. I have never encountered this kind of treatment from a chef (French or American) before. When I returned home to L.A. I did view his cookbooks. His money saving, amateurish attempt to self-style his dishes look novice & unappetizing. This incident shall be discussed at the Boston Univ. Int'l Food Stylist/Photography Conference where I'm speaking June 13, 2009.

Suggestion to Bon Appetit for next year: Obtain a beer, wine and vodka/gin sponsor. Have the event in an air conditioned ballroom, organize the drink/alcohol area, coordinate in advance what chefs serve ( let's not have everyone bring the soup or easiest, cheapest bites). Don't over promise or assume we all are culinary uneducated, rich, fast-foodies impressed with conceited TV cooks (don't get me started)! Quality over mediocrity, please!!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

French Chef Panel Discussion

F.& G. Savoy, F. Payard, D. Boulud, A. Ducasse, David Werly, B. Fairchild, A. Rickman

Friday morning in the Fontana Lounge @ Bellagio Hotel assembled a gathering of world-class recognized French chefs all with restaurants in strip hotels. Where was Joel Robuchon in this mix? After last night's fabulous Theatre at L'Atelier, did Chef Joel want to give Alain Ducasse a turn on stage? JR was the missing link that morning.
Moderator was Bon Appetit Editor, B. Fairchild. A sampling of appetizers were served compliments of David Werly @ Le Cirque.

Discussion of who arrived first in Vegas and why. In mid 90'sVegas now becoming a world class tourist landing it made sense educated travelers were accustomed to and knew authentic French food. The customer $$$ was here, a designer room built, celeb chef & cuisine followed. "Build a field (kitchen) and they shall come".

A "friendly" banter of which chef arrived first in LasVegas with no definite answer. " I was here first"," "no I was here first"! My comment: Jean-Louis Palladin was the first nationally recognized French chef to open in Las Vegas with Napa @ The Rio Hotel in 1997. He served a multi-course tasting menu, however sadly passed away in 2001.

Has style and heaviness of classic French cuisine changed? All chefs agreed that the foundation (rules) of classical French cuisine hasn't changed. A lighter interpretation using local fresh and organic ingredients replaces rich, heavy sauces served 20+ years ago. Butter and fat are still a necessity, no substitute, eaten in moderate portions.

They said American chefs (unless trained in French theory) have a questionable culinary foundation. What is American Cuisine? The Hot Dog, The Hamburger, Fast Food? Daniel Boulud said "Fusion Cuisine is "confusion", makes no sense, too many mixed up flavors, very confusing". Lots of ego in the room. A very nice morning with reining kings of French cuisine, minus Chef Robuchon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Theater at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

MGM Grand KA Cirque de Soleil artist & Chef Joel Robuchon

Robuchon Chefs Eric Bouchenoire, Tomonori Danzaki, Yuichiro Watanabe

Chef Claude Le Tohic (carves Jamon Iberico)

May 7, evening: After the chef's photo op, Goldberg and I are tired and hungry. I am parched, however there is bubbly refreshment, sumptuous repast and cheerful friends at my "culinary home away from home", L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

A quick history: I began my discovery of this culinary mecca when L'Atelier and Joel Robuchon at the Mansion @ MGM Grand opened in 2005. I established my culinary friendship with Chef Joel, yes the real one, Chef of the Century Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. I loved his simple refined flavors, and artistic plate presentations; his sensibility. He respected my French culinary education, strict training, artistic style and 30+ year career dedication (aka work ethic). It wasn't insincere like most chef-to-customer requested table visit. Oh no, we spoke the same food language, cooked by the rules, integrity, creativity, perfection and most important, culinary PASSION! I found my mentor, my professeur, my friend Joel Robuchon!

L'Atelier/MGM Grand, 7pm: We are greeted by general manager and dear friend, Emmanuel Cornet. The champagne (Bruno Paillard) flows. Off topic: Mr. Robuchon has never forgotten when I drove to Las Vegas from Los Angeles same day just to have dinner with him (3 hours L.A. to Vegas + I received a speeding ticket). He always remembers that story and reminds me to "slow down".

Anyway, Chef Steve Benjamin creates something special for us to nibble on (while I decompress). Chef Joel arrives on the scene to oversee and greet customers. Like long-lost culinary soul mates we connect like there has been no gap in between visits. With his limited English and my rusty French we always understand each other, and it's joyous! I'm home at L'Atelier and craving comfort cuisine after the contrived photo shoot. The Hanger Steak with Chef's famous Pommes Puree is deliciously perfect to calm me down. Vin rouge, please.

We are then greeted by Mr. Robuchon's cadre of celebrated chefs: Eric Bouchenoire, Claude Le Tohic, Tomonori Danzaki, Yuichiro Watanabe and pastry chefs, Kamel Guechida + Francois Benot. They are dedicated, intense chefs, yet confident gentlemen; no drama-queen attitude allowed in Robuchon's kitchen! They stop their jobs to say hello and visit. How wonderful, and impressive. These are my friends. Chefs enjoy serving an educated colleague and respectful alumna. It's a family at Chez Robuchon and I feel so proud to be part of it! How lucky am I. Goldberg says, "you deserve it, you earned it".

GM Emmanuel tells us that we're guests of Chef Joel tonight for "Theatre in the Kitchen" from 11:30pm-1:30am with a special performance from MGM Grand's KA by Cirque du Soleil. Imaginative appetizers and drinks are in order so don't fill up on dessert. After Illy brand pressed coffee, several handmade Robuchon chocolates, and a little slot machine ding-ding-ding, we arrive back at L'Atelier for another culinary adventure and a show! Everyone attending received a personalized copy of Mr. Robuchon's new cookbook. One of the best events, absolutely marvelous! Merci Chef et Cie.

Vegas Uncork'd Champagne Toast

Chefs and Mayor Oscar Goodman

Rick Moonan, Hubert Keller, Daniel Boulud, Kerry Simon, Mayor Oscar G.

Chefs Laurent Tourondel, D. Boulud, H. Keller, K. Simon

Just returned home from an enlightening 3rd Annual Las Vegas Vegas Uncork'd 3-day Event.

Las Vegas R & R Public Relations Group, Emily Wolford was very gracious granting me attendance as a food blogger /food writer and TV Food Network Expert Judge, however I decided to pay real $$$ for tickets giving me an honorable, non compromised platform to voice my opinion .

May 7, I drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with my culinary companion, Goldberg. I was emailed an invitation to the 5pm ceremonial Champagne Toast "opening" held at Pure nightclub (Ceasar's Palace) with various chefs and Mayor Oscar G.(pix above).

Arriving on time, receiving no press kit or schedule and a polite " hello" I was ushered to a 2nd story outdoor patio above The Strip. I waited for a program or something. After 30 minutes of 90+degree humid heat, I politely asked for a water. I observed chefs arriving and "mincing" words with each other . Not a lot of love in the room! Chefs have better things to do, like get prepped for the dinner service!

No welcome, no program, no love, no champagne (atleast for us), just a photo opportunity, a publicity shot promoting next year's 2010 event. I left rather annoyed. My friend Claude Le Tohic (chef @ Joel Robuchon) had to pay $8 for a Fiji water. Waste of my time. This is just the beginning...........

Monday, May 4, 2009

Paul Bartolotta 2009 James Beard Foundation Winner

Bravo to Italian seafood superstar chef, Paul Bartolotta, chef-owner of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare for Best Southwest Chef 2009, James Beard Foundation Award. I experienced his bill of fare when he opened at the Wynn Las Vegas in 2005. I still remember a spectacular feast of delightful appetizers and perfectly grilled Italian fresh fish served with rustic, tasty sauces. Served in an elegant setting, I fell in love that moment with Chef Bartolotta's skill and repertoire. A charming, talented and delightful man, as well. Can't wait to congratulate him in person when I visit Vegas this week. I highly recommend. Reservations for dinner, a must!

Bartolotta Ristorante de Mare
Wynn Las Vegas
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109

All-Star Chefs at Three Square Food Bank

Las Vegas’ top chefs, along with Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton, will head out to the Three Square Food Bank on Thursday, May 7 to show their support for the fight to end hunger by assisting with the charity’s “BackPack for Kids” weekend feeding program. Decked out in their chef whites, the culinary all-stars will be stuffing backpacks for Three Square to send to children at schools across the valley.

The event highlights the importance of giving back to the community by helping feed those struggling with hunger and will serve as an unofficial kick-off to the 3rd Annual Vegas Uncork’d presented by Bon Appétit.

Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton and more than 20 culinary all-stars including:
· Anthony Amoroso, MICHAEL MINA at Bellagio
· Akira Back, Yellowtail Sushi Restaurant & Bar at Bellagio
· Paul Bartolotta, BARTOLOTTA Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas
· Carlos Buscaglia, FiAMMA at MGM Grand
· Cat Cora, Bon Appétit Executive Chef and Iron Chef
· Rene Lenger, The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas
· Rick Moonen, RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay
· Bradley Ogden, Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace
· Carla Pellegrino, Rao’s at Caesars Palace
· Megan Romano, Aureole at Mandalay Bay

When & Where: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Thursday, May 7
Three Square Food Bank
4190 N. Pecos Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89115

The Real Deal: Alice Hart's Le Cordon Bleu Grande Diplome, Paris 1975

This week Las Vegas hosts the deliciously decadent culinary celebration, Vegas Uncork'd sponsored by Bon Appetit. Plus, the new movie Julie & Julia begins media hype (about my alumna Julia Child).

Am I the culinary expert to indulge and critique these famed chefs and local cooks putting their best plates forward to a band of food writers, posers and self-proclaimed pundits?

Question: Do I have the credentials? Am I the real deal?

Finally after 30+ years (being behind the scenes and media invisible) as a respected Los Angeles professional food stylist, working with restaurant chefs, teaching French cuisine in the early 70's, Lawry's Foods research & development whiz-kid, IACP charter member since 1978, food & restaurant writer, conference speaker, and current TV Food Network Challenge Judge. It's time--- I'M COMING OUT !!

And to make it visually official (and yes, my credentials have been challenged), the above photo is my most cherished credential: Le Cordon Bleu Grande Diplome, signed by both chefs (F. Tric and A. Jorant) + owner Elizabeth Brassart, dated Juin (June) 15 1975. My final grade written in faded French ink is "tres bien". It's the Real Deal, from the Real School (24, rue du Champs de Mars, Paris 75007). In 1984 Andre Cointreau bought the rights & logo trademark, "Le Cordon Bleu" and ended a culinary era, creating a franchised, culinary trade-school program worldwide.

Answer to my question, Absolutely!! Las Vegas here I come, tickets for events still available at:
Vegas Uncork'd