Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Celebrity

Chef Marcus Samuelsson talks about art, ethnicity

Marcus SamuelssonAt chef Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Red Rooster Harlem, diners can see art by the L.A. native Sanford Biggers. The men are friends and clearly feel an appreciation for each other’s art, which they discussed at the Hammer Museum in one of its series that pairs creative thinkers from various disciplines.

They became friends in the mid-1990s in New York, where they acknowledged they hit the party scene “pretty hard.” Samuelsson, born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, was chef at the Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit on the East Side of Manhattan.

Both men, Samuelsson said, share a love of art and of the craftsmanship involved in making it –- whether it's his food or Biggers’ sculptures. Samuelsson said he learned “pretty early on” that he had to leave Sweden to find the education he needed; he cooked in Japan, Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe as well as New York.

“To be an artist of any kind you have to be nimble, you have to be flexible,” said Biggers, whose work has been shown at the Tate in London, the Whitney in New York and many other places. His work includes installations, video and performance; he also is a professor at Columbia University.

The pair spoke to a full auditorium on Sunday, and afterward Samuelsson signed copies of his new memoir, “Yes, Chef.”

The men also talked about the effect of being young black men in worlds where many of their clients or customers are white. Samuelsson –- dressed in hip royal blue slacks rolled up to the shin and a pork pie hat -- joked that once his colleagues understood “I wasn’t dangerous, I wasn’t going to rob them,” his ethnicity wasn’t a factor. He was yelled at like any young cook in a high-end kitchen.

Biggers noted that artists of color have been prominent for some time. His work often involves African American themes. A huge lotus flower, for example, looks lacey and lovely from afar; up close, it’s clear that each petal is a diagram of a slave ship showing how people were packed into small spaces.

“In cooking, everyone knew black people cooked and served, they just didn’t have the title of chef,” Samuelsson observed. In many kitchens where he worked there were few women and no people of color as chefs.

“Black people had to work really hard to get out of the kitchen,” Samuelsson noted. “Now they have to work really hard to get back in.”

The staff at Rooster is diverse, including half female, and he said: “Most women are just better at cooking,” although the physical frenzy of line cooks “fits the young guys.”

Men and women approach cooking differently, he said. For men, it’s “I can get this tomato to look like a carrot and then like a sea urchin. When all you want on a Sunday was for a tomato to look like a tomato.”

Biggers praised Samuelsson’s influence on the Harlem neighborhood where Red Rooster opened, noting that he has helped to make the neighborhood more vital, more appealing for residents, workers and visitors.

Biggers and Samuelsson joked about their reaction to critics.

“I like to buy them a lot of drinks,” Biggers said.

“Oh. Same,” Samuelsson said.


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Photo: Marcus Samuelsson  Credit: Associated Press

Cee Lo, the 'Green' behind Ty Ku


Musician Cee Lo Green may be a judge on the singing competition show "The Voice," but a new business venture has him dipping into the world of spirits. Green has joined the likes of P. Diddy, Bruce Willis and Dan Aykroyd as a celebrity liquor purveyor. He recently became an owner of Ty Ku premium sake and Asian spirits.

"We formed an alliance of libations and lifestyles," said Green after a taping of "The Voice." He retired to his trailer area where he traded his red sequin jacket for a plain white T-shirt and sipped on Ty Ku soju. "We want to corner the market with consistency and quality."

Green will help promote all of the Ty Ku products, his favorite being the Ty Ku Citrus Liqueur, a blend of low-calorie soju, fruit, tea and botanicals. The bottle illuminates, giving off a distinct bright green glow, leading Cee Lo to nickname the liquor "The Cee Lo Green, or the Incredible Hulk." 

"It’s very accommodating, like a gentleman so to speak," Green explained with a smile. "It’s very suave and sophisticated, soft-spoken but serious."


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Photos: Ty Ku Citrus Liqueur, left; Cee Lo Green at the 2011 BET Awards. Credits: Ty Ku; Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Gene Simmons to open new rock 'n' roll restaurant

Dave, Gene, Mike4

KISS rocker Gene Simmons plans to bring the energy, excitement and music of a rock concert to your dinner table. Simmons has teamed up with restaurateur Michael Zislis (Rock'n Fish) and concert promoter Dave Furano to open Rock & Brews restaurant April 3 in El Segundo.

The idea behind Rock & Brews is to re-create the atmosphere of a live concert and backstage environment for the customer. The restaurant will feature picnic tables, concert lighting, rock posters, rock art and multiple flat-screen TVs that will play concert videos and live music recordings on repeat.

The menu items are categorized into "Opening Acts" appetizers, "VIP" salads and burgers, "Headliner" sandwiches, "Front Row" pizzas and "Encores" desserts. "Front Row" items include a barbecue chicken pizza, while purple rain chocolate drops (chocolate-filled beignets with raspberry sauce) headline the "Encores" desserts. Rock & Brews will also offer hundreds of beers with more than 40 selections on tap.

The restaurant trio has several other locations in the works and plans to franchise the rock concert concept. Tickets are on sale now for the El Segundo location's grand opening event with Simmons on April 3 at 6 p.m.


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Photo: From left, Dave Furano, Gene Simmons and Michael Zislis. Credit: Rock & Brews.

'The Dead Celebrity Cookbook' and the history of fatty cooking

I had the pleasure of spending a weird afternoon with former "Daily Show" film critic and Sirius Radio talk show host Frank DeCaro recently while he cooked up a couple of dishes from his new book, "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook."

The first dish was Oscar-winner Greer Garson's capirotada (don't ask!) and the second was a delicious tray of Katharine Hepburn's brownies (they are kind of like flourless chocolate cake). Watching DeCaro fumble with the melted sugar water required of the former dish, in order to dump it over baked white bread and grated American cheese and raisins, I began to appreciate how far we've traveled when it comes to the kind of ingredients we cook with since Hollywood's Golden Age.

Imagine the calorie count in Humphrey Bogart's coconut Spanish cream; Rock Hudson's cannoli; Charlton Heston's cheese tuna puff; Johnny Cash's pan-fried okra; Elizabeth Taylor's chicken with avocado and mushrooms; Anthony Perkins' tuna salad; Buddy Hackett's Chinese chili; Billy De Wolfe's codfish balls; and Eartha Kitt's chicken wings.

Read all about your favorite stars and the foods they loved, which should come with defibrillators, here.


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Photo: Frank DeCaro takes Greer Garson's capirotada out of the oven. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Chefly awards, including a big one for Mr. Puck

GetprevNo, not the Oscars. The James Beard Foundation has announced that this year’s lifetime achievement award will go to none other than our own Mr. Puck. The award is “bestowed upon someone whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, and/or think about food in America.” You might have thought he would have won already, no?

In reference to Puck, Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, explains, “He is the only person to win Outstanding Chef twice. Wolfgang has not only demonstrated to the industry his incredible talent but he has helped shape the industry by revolutionizing how American chefs think about food.  What sets Wolfgang apart, however, is that his creativity takes him beyond our industry’s walls. As a former Humanitarian Award recipient, he has shown that the culinary industry can improve the lives of others and benefit society as a whole.”

He’ll receive the award Monday, May 7, at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. 

WebIn the world of chefly awards, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Bocuse d’Or. That’s the international competition held in Lyon, France (home of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse). The winner of the  2012 USA Bocuse d’Or -- the competition to represent the United States in the next year's big competition -- is Richard Rosendale of the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. This is no "Top Chef" kind of thing where the chef just wings it and hopes not to be humiliated. Rosendale trained for months for the competition. He and his commis (assistant) Corey Siegel will now begin an intensive, yearlong training under the wings of Bocuse d’Or USA’s board of directors, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse. Team USA’s coaches include Thousand Oaks native Gavin Kaysen (executive chef, Daniel in NYC), Grant Achatz (Alinea, Chicago) and Gabriel Kreuther (the Modern, NYC). First stop: The French Laundry in Napa Valley. Goal: winning the 2013 Bocuse d’Or competition.

In just 363 days, Rosendale will compete in Lyon against chefs from 24 Web-1 countries for the championship (and a gold statue of Paul Bocuse). I have my fingers crossed that someone will be live-tweeting the competition, as happened with the USA round. 

Rosendale wasn’t the only winner, though. Rose Weiss, a student at the International Culinary Center and extern at Gramercy Tavern in New York, won the first-ever Commis Competition. Her prize? A three-month paid apprenticeship at a three-starred Michelin restaurant in France. Her choice of any of the twenty-five who have received the Michelin’s highest honor. Tristan Aitchison from Providence in Los Angeles placed third. Impressive.


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Photos: Top: Wolfgang Puck at the Oscars. Credit. Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times. Middle: Chef Richard Rosendale, left, and commis Corey Siegel at the 2012 Bocuse d’Or USA. Credit: Courtesy of Bocuse d'Or USA Bottom: Rose Weiss competing in the new Commis Competition at the 2012 Bocuse d’Or USA. Credit: Courtesy of Bocuse d’Or USA.


Andrew Zimmern from 'Bizarre Foods' to stop by Royal/T in January

Andrew Zimmern On Jan. 13, Royal/T Cafe and Andrew Zimmern, the TV personality behind the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods," will team up for a pop-up dinner themed "California Dreaming."

The pop-art-inspired exhibition space in Culver City is hosting the culinary event, which will reflect Zimmern's take on California cuisine while introducing Angelenos to innovative ideas and out-of-the-ordinary foods.

The five-course dinner menu will feature sea urchin and yellow-tomato-vegetable aspic; linguine; a veal tongue tartare and chile-braised lambs tongue quesadilla; a grilled Broken Arrow Ranch venison chop and a cioccolato orrare da gustare for dessert.

Tickets to the event are $150 per person and can be purchased online.
8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 559-6300, royal-t.org.


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Photo: Andrew Zimmern. Credit: Stuart Freedman / Travel Channel

Food bloggers descend on Santa Monica to meet, eat -- and tweet

Michael_MooreAsk chef Michael Moore what he plans to serve Saturday night at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Santa Monica and you are likely to get a cagey answer.

The Aussie celebrity chef with restaurants in New York, London and Sydney says something about "a salad with cheese" and a beef dish, and seasonal fruits with vanilla. If it sounds like he's being vague, he is. He wants flexibility to change the menu up until the very last minute, depending upon the produce he finds while trolling local farmers markets this week, including the famed Santa Monica Farmers Market.

After all, he has a room full of foodies to win over, and he wants to use every advantage he's got.

"I know they are going to be tweeting and photographing and making comments on the food before the main course hits the table," Moore said. "It really has to be a reflection of what is really in season right now.... I want it to be reactive to what is in California at the moment."

Although some chefs still hold bloggers at arm's length, sneering at their ability to pass judgment with the swipe of a smartphone, Moore said he embraces them. "There's a lot of resistance among some chefs, but I'm not anti-food blogger. They report what they see and experience and that has its own integrity." He asks only that bloggers be fair -- not snarky -- because a restaurant's livelihood could be at stake.

Continue reading »

Kyle MacLachlan will pour his wine at Wally's on Saturday

Kyle MacLachlan, the actor who made a name for himself in David Lynch's wild, weird and beloved cult TV series, "Twin Peaks," and went on to steal hearts in "Sex & the City" and "Desperate Housewives," is also an oenophile.

Since 2005 he has been producing Pursued by Bear wine in a collaboration with Eric Dunham of Dunham Cellars in Walla Walla, Wash. His first vintage (a 2005 Bordeaux-inspired Cabernet) received a 91 rating from Wine Spectator.

On Saturday, MacLachlan will celebrate the soon-to-be-released 2008 vintage of Pursued by Bear by pouring it in person at Wally's Wine & Spirits on Westwood Boulevard from 2 to 4 p.m. He will also pour his first Syrah, called Baby Bear, which is named for his son Callum.

It'll be one of those rare opportunities when fans can both get an autograph and enjoy a glass of wine with an actor they admire without being creepy.

Wally's Wine & Spirits, 2107 Westwood Blvd., L.A. (310) 475-0606; www.wallywine.com.


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Photo: Kyle MacLachlan, right,  and Eric Dunham. Credit: Pursued by Bear



Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival Oct. 13-16


The first Los Angeles Food & Wine festival will take place Oct. 13-16. The event will feature 100 celebrity chefs, 300 wines and more than 70 events.

From a clam bake to sampling caviar, a myriad of events are planned, with tickets priced from $100 to $500.  There will be cooking demos, lunches, dinners and after-parties.  The event will kick off with a red carpet premiere at the Nokia Plaza, where Hollywood celebrities and celebrity chefs will come together to taste 200 different wines.  The festival culminates with Wolfgang Puck's brunch and charity auction on Oct. 16.

You can expect to see L.A. chefs such as Sang Yoon, Nancy Silverton and Josiah Citrin. Other notable chefs that will be attending include Daniel Boulud, Masaharu Morimoto and  Tom Colicchio.

A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the Los Angeles chapter of Meals on Wheels.  Tickets can be purchased online.

Update: An earlier version of this post said Ludo Lefebvre and Thomas Keller would be attending the festival however this does not reflect the current list of events.


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Photo: Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival

Tamasin Day-Lewis on jewels and radishes

Hemmerle CORNHemmerle STEAK 

Tamasin Day-Lewis — English chef, food writer and sister of "There Will Be Blood" star Daniel Day-Lewis — and the design house of Hemmerle have collaborated to conceive "Delicious Jewels," a book that simultaneously explores the tastes, textures, shapes and bold colors of both jewelry making and cooking, two different but equally eminent art forms. [Updated 11 a.m. July 18: An earlier version of this post described Hemmerle as a publishing house.]

"Both rely on technique, long experience and tradition, purism and originality without pretentiousness," says Day-Lewis. She adds, "Elegant simplicity at best, both are beautiful to the eye and a joy to the senses."

In celebration of summer and its agricultural offerings, we've asked Day-Lewis to share her thoughts on the recently released book, her favorite California eats, and what she's cooking up this season:

Continue reading »

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.