What kind of food do celebrities ask you to prepare?
It depends on the event. If it’s a gathering of family and friends, it is usually more comfort food. Many celebrities attend so many lunches and dinners that they just want to put their feet up in their own home and eat what they enjoy. That could go from meatloaf or fried chicken for a family-style dinner to burgers or pizza for a casual movie night.
Formal gatherings with celebrities are definitely more challenging. My clients want to impress their guests with upscale hospitality, and Los Angeles has a very international composition which needs to be taken into consideration when entertaining. One day, I may make a Mexican buffet and then the next day maybe a three-course Middle Eastern dinner.
What experiences have you had with any celebrity that might be funny to share with readers?
I remember one event where the celebrity was a strict vegan and wanted only vegan food served at the event. There is plenty of vegan food that tastes great, but the invited guests were not really a “Hollywood” crowd so they weren’t expecting specialty food. What they got were vegan “cheeseburgers” and “chicken skewers with peanut sauce.” I still remember the look on people’s faces. It may not have been what they were expecting but it far exceeded expectations for vegan food. They were pleasantly surprised and had their palates opened to a new food experience.
When you were a pastry chef at Delano hotel on South Beach, you made birthday cakes for celebrities. Are there any fun stories can you tell?
For Queen Latifah, I remember being in the kitchen finishing up her cake as the restaurant manager came to pick it up. I made a joke that I would only give it to her in person. He left and came back minutes later saying that she was waiting outside the kitchen door. I walked out, wished her a happy birthday and gave her the cake. We ended up talking for a few minutes; she was lovely.
George Clooney use to have the nickname “Pepe Le Pew”, though I’m not sure why. I talked to his representatives for a few minutes about the cake and decided to put the cartoon character on it in dark chocolate. I went online and found an image of Pepe I liked; then designed it on the cake. I thought it looked great.
What can you say about Los Angeles hosts impressing their guests with food choices?
I think the key to any event is to make your guests feel welcomed.
Serving food that the host is excited to offer to their guests is a great start. The guests will feel the joy and excitement of the event. Hiring a chef like me to make fancy food is fine, but it is your event and I’d rather have the event reflect your style. Finally, don’t overdo it. “Simple” can go a long way.