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If chefs really like you, they really, really like you: Celebrating the ultimate patrons at Melisse

January 19, 2010 |  1:36 pm


For Tinseltown, Sunday may have been all about the Golden Globe Awards, but for 20 of L.A.’s most prominent chefs and restaurateurs it was about the surprise party they had been planning for months in honor of two extraordinary patrons.

Neal Fraser of Grace, Joe Miller of Joe’s, Mako Tanaka of Mako and David Le Fevre of the Water Grill were among the dozen chefs preparing hors d’ oeuvres for the event at Mélisse in Santa Monica. Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Walter Manzke of Church & State and  Alain Giraud of Anisette would join four other chefs to prepare the five entrees. This was to be the dinner of all dinners -- “a big thank you from the Los Angeles restaurant community” is how Donato Poto, maitre d' of Providence, explained the gathering in honor of Leo and Ivy Chu.

“I call them godmother and godfather of L.A. restaurants,” says Spago pastry chef Sherry Yard, who made their favorite dessert, kaiserschmarrn. Poto has nicknamed them “Divine Diners.” They’re not investors but simply supportive friends, say many chefs. “Its not only because they’re good patrons who dine out nightly and fill several tables with their friends and business associates,” says Yard. “They have a way of bringing people together that somehow makes them feel like part of a family. Sometimes we’ll go to a Japanese barbecue or a hole in the wall with other chefs.”

In the 30 years the Shanghai-born couple have lived in L.A., the dinner table has been their medium for connecting people. “Before LinkedIn, there was Ivy and Leo,” quipped one party attendee. Whether it’s finding specialists and funding sources for the Huntington Library’s opulent Chinese Garden project, Flowing Fragrance, or helping to organize exploratory trips to China (and its restaurants) for a group of USC students and trustees or acting as a host to speakers from Chinese universities to lecture on the history of Shanghai Jews, entertaining at the table for the Chus is about forging links.



The idea for the event was hatched at the weekly post-farmers market kaffeeklatsch at which several chefs meet. “Everyone I talked to immediately said ‘I’m in’ without thinking twice,” said co-organizer Poto. Each chef was to prepare the Chu’s favorite dishes from their restaurant. Joe Miller carved a whole jamón ibérico, the Pinks set up a chili dog table next to Spago’s foie gras mousse on brioche topped with quail egg and the Kobe beef dim sum from Claude Segal.

Two chef’s jackets were brought in to be autographed by the chefs and presented to the Chus. As dessert came to the tables, people stepped up to the mike to share affectionate remembrances. “We go back decades,” Piero Selvaggio told the group, recounting how the Chus' friends started showing up after a few of their visits; how name dropping Ivy Chu got him to the head of the line at a packed dim sum restaurant and how the Chus outbid many restaurateurs at a forager-donated truffle auction to benefit orphans. The winning fungi were sent to Spago, where they were incorporated into a truffle dinner. Selvaggio and about a dozen friends were invited.

Thanking everyone, Leo Chu reiterated a philosophy familiar to most in the room: The best discussions happen after a meal together when everybody is relaxed and open to sharing ideas. For that, L.A.’s restaurants are undeniable beneficiaries.


Leo & Ivy Chu Chef’s Appreciation Party Jan. 17, 2010


Foie Gras Mousse, Pear and Golden Raisin Tartlet, Quail Egg and Brioche “Toad in the Hole,” White Truffles / Thomas Boyce, Spago

Arancini / Giacomino Drago, Via Alloro

Sonoma Duck Breast, Sweet and Sour Cherries / Neal Fraser, Grace

Blackberry Point Oyster, Katsuo Dashi Gelée / David LeFevre, Water Grill

Jamón Ibérico / Joe Miller, Joe’s

Pink's Hot Dogs / Richard Pink and Tom West, Pink’s

Smoked Tongue,   King Crab Gelée / Kaz Oyama, Totoraku

USDA Prime Steak Tartare, Tuscan Olive Oil, Black Truffles / Ari Rosensen, Cut Beverly Hills

Cappuccino of Lobster and Langoustine with Truffle Infusion Dim Sum of Kobe Beef Cheeks / Claude Segal

Marinated Sayori, Uni Mousse, Confit Yuzu / Ken Takayama and Josiah Citrin, Mélisse

Wagyu Beef Meatballs / Mako Tanaka, Mako


First Course: Kelp-Marinated Tai Mitsuba, Pomegranate / David Myers, Sona

Second Course: Black Truffle Risotto / Gino Angelini, Angelini Osteria

Dungeness Crab Linguini, Light Spicy Tomato Sauce / Tanino Drago, Via Allorra

Third Course: Maine Lobster, English Peas, Daikon Radish, Bonito Butter / Michael Cimarusti, Providence

Fourth Course: Potato Wrapped Ahi Tuna, Seared Foie Gras, Smoked Sierra Gold Potato, Mushroom Sauce / Raphael Lunetta, JiRaffe

Fifth Course: Braised Pork Belly and Cheeks, White Cap Beans, Winter Carrots, Big Sur Chanterelles, Black Pepper Sauce / Alain Giraud and Walter Manzke, Anisette and Church & State

Dessert: Kaiserschmarrn, Bellweather Farms Crème Frâiche, Souffléd Pancake with Sautéed McGrath Farms Strawberries / Sherry Yard, Spago

Petits Fours: Cannoli alla Siciliana / Davide Giova, Valentino

-- Linda Burum

Photos by David Guilburt