Rather than labor through another dull press conference topped off by throwing some chefs in a food truck, this year dineLA Restaurant Week held a red carpet event at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. Unlike Bouchon’s similarly grand debut, it was our city’s chefs being snapped by flashbulbs as they made their way inside, and not actors who were once huge or looking to be. We caught Ciudad/Border Grill legend Mary Sue Milliken saying cheese for the cameras, before stumbling upon a lobby that was jam-packed with culinary greats.
In attendance were esteemed L.A. toques like Ludo Lefebvre with wife Krissy, Water Grill’s David “Seafood Geek” Lefebvre, John Sedlar Rivera, Jean Francois Meteigner, Wilshire’s Andrew Kirschner, Joaquim Splichal, Quinn and Karen Hatfield, and David Myers. While this does mean that none of the above were cooking in their kitchens, the chefs were working nonetheless, busying themselves with greeting each other and sampling provided pupusas and tacos, along with passed apps. Foundry chef Eric Greenspan seemed a big fan of the pork belly carving table, which was a divine touch. But with one bartender for a couple of hundred people, one thing few attendees were able to do was drink a glass of wine.
Where there’s a podium, a mike, and a crowd, there’s typically Council-Member Tom LaBonge, who joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in shouting silently over the din about how proud they were of L.A.’s restaurants, who indeed had an exciting year. The crowning moment at the mike came when dineLA unveiled the first ever L.A. Chef Family Tree, an intricate network of incestuous branches that reveal which among 20 restaurants bred which chefs and who has worked with or under one another.
It also has some choice nuggets like the fact that chef Nobu played a dude named Mr. Robato in Goldfinger.The tree is up on dineLA's website and is fully interactive with chef bios and lineages. While we imagine dineLA might go back to the more efficient press conference mold the next go-around, it was nice to see L.A.'s talented cooks get the star treatment that true artistry deserves and to discover the connections that unite them.